The idea with these two stories is to situate ourselves in a Hawaiian understanding of place. Hawaiian land divisions reveal an intimate knowledge of resources. One key concept is that of the ahupua‘a, a pie shaped wedge of land with its point on a mountain top, widening down to the seashore. Ahupua‘a acknowledge the link between land and sea, and make the resources of both available to those who dwell within it.
Hawai‘i Governor David Ige mentioned Kalihi in his latest State of the State address, saying he’s setting his sights on redevelopment there. Near the ocean, Kalihi is a large, primarily low income, light industrial part of Honolulu populated by auto body shops, construction base yards, housing projects, and a prison, among other things. Toward the mountains, houses begin to peter out and green takes over. Gods and men in epic adventures make up Kalihi’s cultural history, and stories enliven just about every natural feature of this amazingly verdant ahupua‘a.
Waterfalls still lace the valley walls after a rain, and the water still makes its way, now under a freeway and miles of concrete, to the ocean where in former days, fishponds lined the shore. There, on tiny offshore islands, Hawaiian ali‘i (royalty) had summer homes and raced hammerheads for sport.
Here, we begin a look at Kalihi ahupua‘a, starting with the two peaks at the back of Kalihi valley.