A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island
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Site Histories, Resource Descriptions, and Management Recommendations


C. Social and Political Structure of the Prehistoric Community

The number of recreational and ceremonial structures that remain in the park, especially in the vicinity of 'Ai'makapa Fishpond, suggest intensive use of the area by ali'i. Reportedly the armies of Kamehameha, who housed his court a short distance south in Kailua, rested and refreshed themselves at Kaloko-Honokohau during long marches. [30]

Archeologist Ross Cordy has formulated some interesting societal data in his studies of prehistoric social change, postulating that two social rank echelons were present at Kaloko. Only commoners resided there between A. D. 1050-1100 and 1400-1450, with an overlord probably living elsewhere in the district. The upper (high chief) echelon was present sometime between A.D. 1450-1500 and 1600-1650. Cordy also believes that Kaloko was a discrete community with identifiable boundary features, including unoccupied buffer zones to the south and north between it and the houses of neighboring settlements. A religious cairn site ("Queen's Bath" area) marked its southern border. He believes that other features, such as an internal trail network between permanent sites and the presence of a major temple and a cemetery, also indicate a community entity at Kaloko. [31]

Two researchers recording the oral traditional and social history of the Kaloko-Honokohau area under the auspices of the Bishop Museum gathered information on the kahuna hierarchy that ruled there during ancient times. According to that information, the high priest Pa'ao brought in a king named Pili to set up a new regime to replace the chaotic one Pa'ao found on the island. This was the beginning of the religious hierarchy that characterized Kaloko-Honokahau. Establishing his residence on a hill overlooking Kawaihae, Pili ruled Kohala and Kona through chiefs stationed at Kawaihae, Honokohau, and Palemano Point, Ke'ei. Communication in times of danger or conflict consisted of signal fires that could be seen over long distances. These chiefs governed activities in their respective areas and maintained communications with their high chief.

Makakilo, the chief at Honokohau, ruled North Kona from his base of operations at Pu'uoina Heiau. He also directed fishing operations. His home was reported to be on the first terrace of the heiau, closest to the ocean. A connection between the heiau and fishtrap is suggested by the fact that, in connection with his supervision of fishing activities, he reportedly held fish in the pool prior to distribution. Mano succeeded Makakilo, establishing his residence on the second terrace of Pu'uoina. The next kahuna chief, Kaumanamana, lived on the top level of the heiau. Kanaka-leo nui his successor, set up his base at Keauhou and commuted to Honokohau to direct activities there from the bluff above 'Aimakapa. Another famous ruling chief was Kekuaokalani, the highest-ranking kahuna on Hawai'i at the time of Kamehameha's birth, and the same person who, left as guardian of Ku-ka'ili-moku by Kamehameha, lost his life opposing Liholiho's abolition of the kapu system. [32]

map of Honokohau Settlement area
Illustration 95. Map showing boundaries of Honokohau Settlement area from National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination form, 1970.

D. Relationship of Prehistoric Kaloko with Neighboring Ahupua'a

Robert Renger explored the relationship that might have existed between Kaloko and the neighboring ahupua'a of Honokahau and Kohanaiki. He concluded that because the distribution of archaeological sites between the three areas was not continuous, there was probably not much interaction between them. This might have been because in early times usually only ali'i had much mobility across ahupua'a, although numerous trails between the coast and uplands signify considerable interaction within the ahupua'a by the common people. Renger theorized that only with increasing population decline in the Kaloko area was there more interaction along the coast between Kaloko and Kailua. [33]

In consonance with this line of thought, another report suggests that the name Honokohau Settlement on the national historic landmark form is misleading. Its writer points out that although strong social and kinship ties existed between people in the same ahupu'a' living on the coast, inland, or between these two areas, social ties were much weaker between people living in different ahupua'a, even if they were located next to one another on the coast. Because the area of Honokohau Settlement National Historic Landmark included the coastal sections of three separate ahupua'a — Kaloko, Honokohau, and Kealakehe — it would not have comprised a single integrated settlement, but three habitation areas that constituted the coastal portions of inland-coastal cultural complexes. And within these, there probably would have been closer social ties between the makai-mauka people within the same ahupua'a than between the coastal people of the different ahupua'a. [34]

E. Summary of Prehistoric Development

Briefly then, research suggests that although originally established as an outlier settlement of another community, Kaloko possibly had become a unified community after A.D. 1200-1300. The coastal village was composed of several residential groups, within which one household was probably dominant in certain activities, such as religious observances. In addition to this low-level, horizontal division of authority, a hierarchial pattern of authority existed in the form of a chief who exercised control over the political and religious functions of the community. Prior to and after A.D. 1490-1610, this chief lived elsewhere in the district; during that time period, however, he apparently resided in Kaloko. No exact population figures for the settlement are available, but it probably supported from 60 to 100 people. In Kaloko, as in other ahupua'a, agricultural activities took place in the uplands while marine exploitation supplemented by the artificial raising of fish occurred along the shore. In other areas, these pond fish were intended only for chiefly consumption; it is uncertain if this was the case at Kaloko. Drinking water was available in brackish pools near the settlement, which were linked to the households by a trail system. [35] These same generalities probably hold true for the Honokohau coastal settlement area as well.

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001