My Visit to Naholowaʻa
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Aloha mai kākou,
My name is Michelle Eugenia Lokelani Kahananui Makalua-Yee. I live in Maunalua, Oʻahu and I am a mahiʻai. My dad’s side comes from Koʻolauloa, Laie and Hauʻula. My mom’s side comes from Koʻolaupoko, Kahaluʻu.
Today I’d like to tell you the story of my visit to the Naholowaʻa ʻāina (LCA 6118 a.1) on July 24, 2020.
“Eli eli kau mai kau ke au a wai ku a ku papa ku.”
Deepen the revelation, in this time stand together hand in hand and flow as water.
- Pua Kanaka'ole Kanahele
This ʻōlelo rings true in the deepest parts of me. Every day I am amazed by the ancestral memories and knowledge that are accessible to me. I am blessed to live near Pahua Heiau so that I can go there every day to pule and ground myself. I hear whispers of my kūpuna in the wind, reminding me that I am surrounded by their deep love, affection, and protection.
A few weeks ago, my kūpuna directed me to visit Naholowaʻa to pule and offer hoʻokupu. The instruction came to me clearly: “Go and be present for the iwi kūpuna in Hakipuʻu, you are called to go there now, moʻo.” So I hopped in the car with three hoaloha (Kalena, Malia & Lilli) and started the 30-minute drive north. We prepared a simple hoʻokupu in the form of ʻawa and oli designed to acknowledge the presence of pure spiritual power.
I am grateful for the ability to huakaʻi to a sacred space with the intent to align with the brilliant energy of my kūpuna and ʻaumakua. Creating a time to briefly glance into wao akua is always humbling. I could feel at this moment that I was walking at the pace of pono. How does walking at the pace of pono feel? As Uncle Halealoha Ayau, a champion of iwi kūpuna, tells us, “In my limited human experience thus far, it feels amazing and terrifying all at the same time.” So well said! That’s exactly what I felt as I drove down Johnson Road and arrived at Naholowaʻa.
As we arrive in Hakipuʻu and begin to settle in, we are met with a surprise. Tūtū Kulia (who is now in her 90’s), Auntie Elsie, and Auntie Wendy drive down the road towards us. Tūtū Kulia and her daughters are moʻopuna of ʻohana Naholowaʻa. I am one of many moʻopuna of ʻohana Puhi (LCA 5939B ap.2). These two families (and many others) are original LCA awardees in Hakipuʻu. It is known that many of our kūpuna had direct ties to Molokaʻi and regularly maintained homes and kuleana on both islands. When I was a child, my grandparents would remind me that puhi are my aumakua–but that is another story!
After a joyful reunion, Tūtū Kulia takes us onto the Naholowaʻa ʻāina and she begins to share stories about her ʻohana who lived on the site. She shares how many burials are there and that it is good to once again visit the ʻāina. While we are all basking in nostalgia, there is also a deep sadness among us for the iwi kūpuna who were violently removed when Kualoa Ranch workers excavated the area.
Tūtū Kulia tells us the story of her mother, Daisy, who had 18 children. Out of those 18, 12 of her children passed away before the age of 3 and all 12 were buried at Naholowaʻa. Kulia's siblings are buried there. The graves of her siblings, who passed away as babies, were desecrated. As a mother, I would be deeply offended and hurt if the iwi of my children were disturbed. This is a sacred space. You don’t mess with burials.
We want to give hoʻokupu to the iwi that remain and to the iwi that were desecrated, to apologize for the harm that we were unable to stop. Kalena and I tearfully offer our oli as we walk slowly towards the piko of the ʻāina. While we chant, I am overcome with emotion, so I struggle to keep my voice steady. As we pour ʻawa onto papa, we chant, “Kapu ka hā loa, Kū ma ka peʻa, Kanu iā Hāloa, Ulu hāhā loa, ʻO ka lau o Hāloa, I ke ao la...puka.” In response, a gentle breeze kisses our tear-stained cheeks, reassuring us that our offering has been accepted. A truly beautiful moment. We were so lucky to be able to commune with the kūpuna in that space. Everyone in the group felt the power of the moment that we all experienced together, as a collective. The kūpuna acknowledged us.
It was empowering to meet together as nā hoaʻāina in a focused effort to heal from the repeated emotional and spiritual trauma at Hakipu’u. This experience has renewed our energy and determination to continue to tell the mo’olelo of our kūpuna as seen through a Kanaka Maoli lens. After hoʻokupu, we gathered together again and had time to hear from Tūtū Kulia all of her amazing–and sometimes hilarious–stories of her life and her family. She really is a force to be reckoned with! She could have kept us there for two more hours with all her great stories!
Later that week Ian Masterson (Hakipuʻu resident) texted me a video of a large white puhi, the aumakua of my family, happily swimming near Moliʻi fishpond.
“Iwi o ku’u iwi
Koko o ku’u koko
Pili ka mo’o a mau loa”
Bones of my bones
Blood of my blood
Our stories are one forever & ever
I know these words to be true.
And so it is!
Mahalo e nā kūpuna!
A hui hou e mālama pono,