speaking of ahupuaa: Hawaii reference material

altar image for ahupuaa border

The popularity of a previous post on ahupua`a as a model for future sustainability prompts me to fill in a few blanks for those new to this concept.

One of the best sources on ahupua`a is Kamehameha Schools, where all students are taught this integral concept in the hope they will "strive to be responsible, ethical, contributing leaders of their diverse communities, and prepared to practice and perpetuate the Hawaiian values and traditions."

For example, Kamehameha offers this marvelous hour-long video of a class on the ahupua`a.

The word ahupua`a is made from "ahu," which means altar, and "pua`a" which means pig.

People built an altar of stones where the ahupuaʻa boundary intersected, or crossed, the main trail circling the island. That altar was dedicated to Lono, the spirit of fertility, peace and rain.

An image of a pig's head, carved out of kukui wood and stained with `alaea, red dirt, was placed upon the altar. (Try rotating the above image counter-clickwise.) Lono was believed to reside within this image.

The Kamehameha publication called "From the Mountains to the Sea - Early Hawaiian Life" is also available from their Hawaiian Digital Library. Chapter 3 spells out how the early Hawaiians divided their islands into ahupua`a.

The Kingdom of Hawaii website is the source for the classic description of the land division process, first published by W.D. Alexander, the Superintendent of Government Survey in 1891.

A prominent cultural expert on the ahupua`a, our friend Kepa Maly, also maintains a practice and website at Kumu Pono Associates.

Oh, and if you happen to be on Kauai this July 7th, I'll be speaking on ahupua`a research at the Kauai Museum.

My focus will be on what we're learning about the ahupua`a boundaries, based on information in the State Archives (especially the reports of the Hawaiian Boundary Commission), as well as interviews with knowledgable kupuna.

I'll be making copies available of my maps of the ahupua`a on each major Hawaiian island.

Published by Ken on June 4th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific


2 Responses to “speaking of ahupuaa: Hawaii reference material”

  1. dbrauer Says:

    Aloha Ken,

    Are you still working on the Ahupua`a Maps. Are they available for download?

    I'm working on a "Virtual Auhpua`a" project. Can you give me your direct contact information?

  2. Ken Says:

    Aloha back!
    Yup, my research on the ahupua`a boundaries continues, and the current version for each island is available here: http://www.zazzle.com/kauaianken

    You saw our original "virtual taro patch" site, too, yeah?
    http:kauaian.net/VTP