Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ke Awa Lau O Puʻuloa

During ancient times, various land divisions were used to divide and identify areas of control.  Islands were divided into moku; moku were divided into ahupuaʻa.  A common feature in each ahupuaʻa was water, typically in the form of a stream or spring.

The Island of O’ahu had six Moku: Kona, Koʻolaupoko, Koʻolauloa Waialua, Waiʻanae and ʻEwa.

ʻEwa was comprised of twelve ahupuaʻa.  Some stories, when first recorded in the 19th- Century, refer to ʻEwa as the first area populated on Oʻahu by the immigrant Polynesians.

Puʻuloa or Ke Awa Lau O Puʻuloa (the many harbored-sea of Puʻuloa) is situated here.

All water sources in each of the twelve ahupuaʻa of ʻEwa met in Puʻuloa.  This was the only moku in all the islands where all waters from its ahupuaʻa did this.

Puʻuloa and Ke Awa Lau O Puʻuloa are just a couple of its traditional names.  It was also known as Awawalei (“garland (lei) of harbors,”) Awalau (“leaf-shaped lagoon”) and Huhui na ʻōpua i Awalau (The clouds met at Awalau.)

Today, we generally call this place Pearl Harbor.

The name Pearl Harbor is one of the few English place names in Hawaiʻi that is a close translation of another of its traditional Hawaiian names, Wai Momi (“Pearl Water.”)

Some of the traditional themes associated with this area include connections with Kahiki (Tahiti,) the traditional homeland of Hawaiians.

Legend tells that Kanekuaʻana (a moʻo, or water lizard) came from Kahiki and brought with her the pipi, or pearl oyster.  The harbor was teeming with pearl-producing oysters until the late-1800s.  (The general belief is that runoff sedimentation eventually smothered the oyster habitat.)

The pipi was called the "iʻa hamau leo" or "fish with a silenced voice." It was not the pipi that was silent but the people who gathered them (if they spoke, wind would ripple the water and the oysters would vanish.)

There are several versions of the chief Kahaʻi leaving from Kalaeloa (Barber's Point) for a trip to Kahiki; on his return to the Hawaiian Islands, he brought back the first breadfruit and planted it at Puʻuloa.

Traditional accounts indicate several of the fishponds in the Puʻuloa area were believed to have been constructed by Kāne and Kanaloa.  Directing the menehune, they made the pond Kapākule (aka Pākule,) which they stocked with all manner of fish.

Puʻuloa Salt Works (property of JI Dowsett) “are at the west side of the entrance to Pearl River, and the windmill is a prominent object in the landscape as we enter. It is also one of the guides in steeling vessels inward.  On the eastern side and opposite to the Puʻuloa buildings, is the fishery, where are a number of buildings inhabited by Chinamen.”  (Daily Bulletin, January 6, 1889)

Puʻuloa was originally an extensive, shallow embayment.  Keaunui, the head of the powerful and celebrated ʻEwa chiefs, is attributed for having cut a navigable channel near the Puʻuloa saltworks, by which the great estuary, known as "Pearl River," was for the first time rendered accessible to navigation.

Puʻuloa was regarded as the home of the shark goddess Kaʻahupahau and her brother Kahiʻuka in Hawaiian legends.  They were said to live in a cave at the entrance to Puʻuloa and guarded the waters against man-eating sharks.

“There is ample evidence that the lonely scenes, upon which we now gaze with wondering curiosity, were once thickly peopled; and at that period the gospel had not reached Pearl River.  Among the objects of their heathen worship was the shark, whoso numbers at Pearl River in those days were very abundant.”  (Daily Bulletin, January 6, 1889)

Moku‘ume‘ume (meaning “island of strife”) is a small island located in Pearl Harbor on the Island of Oʻahu.  It is entirely surrounded by water deep enough to accommodate deep draft ocean-going vessels.  We now call it Ford Island.

The first known foreigner to enter the channel of the Pearl Harbor area, Captain George Vancouver, started to explore the area, but stopped when he realized that the entrance was not deep enough for large ships to pass through.

“If the water upon the bar should be deepened, which I doubt not can be effected, it would afford the best and most capacious harbor in the Pacific.” (Commodore Charles Wilkes, 1840)

In the nineteenth century, the peninsula between Middle Loch and East Loch (part of the Mānana ahupuaʻa) had numerous fishponds, some rice fields, pasture land at the tip, and oyster beds offshore.

As a means of solidifying a site in the central Pacific, the US negotiated an amendment to the Treaty of Reciprocity in 1887.  King Kalākaua in his speech before the opening session of the 1887 Hawaiian Legislature stated (November 3, 1887:)
"I take great pleasure in informing you that the Treaty of Reciprocity with the United States of America has been definitely extended for seven years upon the same terms as those in the original treaty, with the addition of a clause granting to national vessels of the United States the exclusive privilege of entering Pearl River Harbor and establishing there a coaling and repair station. This has been done after mature deliberation and the interchange between my Government and that of the United States of an interpretation of the said clause whereby it is agreed and understood that it does not cede any territory or part with or impair any right of sovereignty or jurisdiction on the part of the Hawaiian Kingdom and that such privilege is coterminous with the treaty.”

“I regard this as one of the most important events of my reign, and I sincerely believe that it will re-establish the commercial progress and prosperity which began with the Reciprocity Treaty."  (Kalākaua)

In 1890 some of the Mānana lands became the first planned subdivision outside of urban Honolulu (Pearl City, named in a contest and developed by Benjamin F Dillingham as a way to increase passenger traffic on his Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L) trains.)

The image shows an 1873 map of Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor.)  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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  1. I really enjoyed this entry about Pearl Harbor. All of your entries seem to be well thought out and great points of conversation. Specifically about this entry, I feel I learned bits about this place otherwise difficult to find information on--in my personal experience. Mahalo for this and mahalo for sharing.

  2. The interpretation of "awa lau" as "leaf-shaped harbor" is erroneous, though it has appeared in print in a number of places. The word "lau" not only refers to "leaf" but to a large number (roughly 400). The Parker Hawaiian Dictionary states it well:

    Awalau (ā-wă-lă'u), n.
    [Literally, many channels.]
    1. A channel or harbor with many inlets.
    2. Hawaiian name for Pearl Harbor.