Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sacred Sites in Hawai'i-In the Beginning

In my research for Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai'i, I learned a great deal about the significance of the numerous sacred sites scattered throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Some are well known, but others remain in relative obscurity. This post is the first of a series spotlighting historical sites with an explaination of why they are held sacred by Hawaiians.
In The Beginning:
There is controversy over when the earliest Polynesian voyagers landed on the shores of Hawai’i. It is generally accepted that they sailed in double hulled canoes from the Marquesas bringing dogs, chickens, pigs, breadfruit, taro and stow away rats with them.

Ka Lae-the southern most point of the Big Island, making it the southern most point in the nation, was the first landing place of early voyagers. Although not pretty to look at, and windy most of the time, it holds a very special place in Hawaiian history. South Point is the site of some of the oldest artifacts yet discovered in Hawaii (as early as 300AD) While it is said to be the first place the Polynesians came ashore, archaeologists believe it was a temporary fishing camp not a full-fledged village.
In nearby Pu’u Ali’i Sand Dune on Pinao Bay thousands of artifacts-that include over 2,000 fishhooks lead archeologists to believe that this was a re-current settlement for fishermen. Deep waters here provide rich fishing grounds, but currents are dangerous. The solution was to carve holes in the rocks where ropes were tied to secure drifting canoes enabling Hawaiians to catch big game fish. Some of those holes are still visible near the boat hoists at the cliffs. The cliffs with the boat hoists are not South Point. The real South Point is past the light beacon to the left of a place where a rock wall trails down to the sea. Next to the beacon is Kalaea Heiau, or temple, where offerings to the gods were placed to ensure good fishing.

Taro is the older brother that cared for all Hawaiians
Image of South Point courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority   
Image of Taro (HTA)/Tor Johnson

 Research for Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i became a beautiful obsession that called for numerous trips to the Islands. I visited sacred sites, interviewed elders, spent nights in Waipio Valley where the bones of ancient chiefs are hidden in caves in steep walls framing the canyon.

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