Thursday, June 5, 2014


Traditions on the island of Oʻahu note Mā’ilikūkahi was a ruling chief around 1500 (about the time Columbus crossed the Atlantic.) Māʻilikūkahi is said to have enacted a code of laws in which theft from the people by chiefs was forbidden.

A son of Mā’ilikūkahi was Kalona-nui, who in turn had a son called Kalamakua. Kalamakua is said to have been responsible for developing a large system of taro planting across the Waikīkī-Kapahulu-Mōʻiliʻili-Mānoa area. The extensive loʻi kalo were irrigated by water drawn from the Mānoa and Pālolo Valley streams and large springs in the area.

In 1792, Captain George Vancouver described Mānoa Valley on a hike from Waikīkī in search of drinking water: “We found the land in a high state of cultivation, mostly under immediate crops of taro; and abounding with a variety of wild fowl chiefly of the duck kind …”

“The sides of the hills, which were in some distance, seemed rocky and barren; the intermediate vallies, which were all inhabited, produced some large trees and made a pleasing appearance. The plains, however, if we may judge from the labour bestowed on their cultivation, seem to afford the principal proportion of the different vegetable productions …” (Edinburgh Gazetteer)

One century later, before it was urbanized, Mānoa Valley was described by Thrum (1892:)  “Manoa is both broad and low, with towering hills on both sides that join the forest clad mountain range at the head, whose summits are often hid in cloud land, gathering moisture there from to feed the springs in the various recesses that in turn supply the streams winding through the valley, or watering the vast fields of growing taro, to which industry the valley is devoted. The higher portions and foot hills also give pasturage to the stock of more than one dairy enterprise.”

Handy (in his book Hawaiian Planter) writes that in ancient days, all of the level land in upper Mānoa was developed into taro flats and was well-watered, level land that was better adapted to terracing than neighboring Nuʻuanu.  The entire floor of Mānoa Valley was a “checkerboard of taro patches.”  “The terraces extended along Manoa Stream as far as there is a suitable land for irrigating.”

The well-watered, fertile and relatively level lands of Mānoa Valley supported extensive wet taro cultivation well into the twentieth century. Handy and Handy estimated that in 1931 “there were still about 100 terraces in which wet taro was planted, although these represented less than a tenth of the area that was once planted by Hawaiians.” (Cultural Surveys)

Mānoa Valley was a favored spot of the Ali‘i, including Kamehameha I, Chief Boki (Governor of O‘ahu), Haʻalilio (an advisor to King Kamehameha III,) Princess Victoria, Kanaʻina (father of King Lunalilo), Lunalilo, Keʻelikōlani (half-sister of Kamehameha IV) and Queen Lili‘uokalani.  The chiefs lived on the west side, the commoners on the east.

Queen Kaʻahumanu lived there; her home was called Pukaʻōmaʻomaʻo (Green Gateway.)  It was situated deep in the valley (lit., green opening; referring to its green painted doors and blinds - It is alternatively referred to as Pukaʻōmaʻo.)

“Her residence is beautifully situated and the selection of the spot quite in taste. The house … stands on the height of a gently swelling knoll, commanding, in front, an open and extensive view of all the rich plantations of the valley; of the mountain streams meandering through them … of the district of Waititi; and of Diamond Hill, and a considerable part of the plain, with the ocean far beyond.” (Stewart; Sterling & Summers)

It was doubtless the same sort of grass house which was in general use, although probably more spacious and elaborate as befitted a queen. The dimension in one direction was 60 feet. The place name of the area was known as Kahoiwai, or "Returning Waters."

“Immediately behind the house, and partially flanking it on either side, is a delightful grove of the dark leaved and crimson blossomed ʻŌhia, so thick and so shady … filled with cool and retired walks and natural retreats, and echoing to the cheerful notes of the little songsters, who find security in its shades to build their nests and lay their young.”

“The view of the head of the valley inland, from the clumps and single trees edging this copse, is very rich and beautiful; presenting a circuit of two or three miles delightfully variegated by hill and dale, wood and lawn, and enclosed in a sweep of splendid mountains, one of which in the centre rises to a height of three thousand feet.”

“In one edge of this grove, a few rods from the house, stands a little cottage built by Kaahumanu, for the accommodation of the missionaries who visit her when at this residence. … (It) is very frequently occupied a day or two at a time, by one and another of the families most enervated by the heat and dust, the toil, and various exhausting cares of the establishment at the sea-shore.“  (Stewart; Sterling & Summers)

“Not far makai … High Chief Kalanimōku, had very early allotted to the Mission the use of farm plots thus noted in its journal of June, 1823: "On Monday the 2d, Krimakoo and the king's mother granted to the brethren three small pieces of land cultivated with taro, potatoes, bananas, melons, &c. and containing nineteen bread-fruit trees, from which they may derive no small portion of the fruit and vegetables needed by the family.”  (Damon)

Then, in mid-1832, Kaʻahumanu became ill and was taken to her house in Mānoa, where a bed of maile and leaves of ginger was prepared.   “Her strength failed daily.  She was gentle as a lamb, and treated her attendants with great tenderness.  She would say to her waiting women, 'Do sit down; you are very tired; I make you weary.’”  (Bingham)

“The king, his sister, other members of the aliʻi and many retainers had already arrived at Pukaomaomao and had dressed the large grass house for the dying queen's last homecoming. The walls of the main room had been hung with ropes of sweet maile and decorated with lehua blossoms and great stalks of fragrant mountain ginger.”

“The couch upon which Kaahumanu was to rest had been prepared with loving care. Spread first with sweet-scented made and ginger leaves, it was then covered with a golden velvet coverlet. At the head and foot stood towering leather kahilis. Over a chair nearby was draped the Kamehameha feather cloak which had been worn by Kaahumanu since the monarch's death.”  (Mellon; Sterling & Summers)

“The slow and solemn tolling of the bell struck on the pained ear as it had never done before in the Sandwich Islands. In other bereavements, after the Gospel took effect, we had not only had the care and promise of our heavenly Father, but a queen-mother remaining, whose force, integrity, and kindness, could be relied on still.”

“But words can but feebly express the emotions that struggled in the bosoms of some who counted themselves mourners in those solemn hours; while memory glanced back through her most singular history, and faith followed her course onward, far into the future.”  (Hiram Bingham)

Her death took place at ten minutes past 3 o’clock on the morning of June 5, 1832, “after an illness of about 3 weeks in which she exhibited her unabated attachment to the Christian teachers and reliance on Christ, her Saviour.”  (Hiram Bingham)

The image shows Kaʻahumanu (drawn by Herb Kane.)  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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