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


I. Threats to Resources

1. Sea Action

The ocean is immediately next to the pu'uhonua and its related features, constantly hammering them with high surf, carving the shore, rolling in huge basalt boulders, creating tidal pools, and forming beaches. Several tidal waves have been recorded in historic times that have wrought various changes in the pu'uhonua area. In addition, the low-lying lava flats at the head of the bay and along its south side are often covered at high tide and very susceptible to sweeping tidal wave action during storms. Tidal waves have been held responsible for destruction of the "Old Heiau" platform, the northwest corner of the 'Ale'ale'a platform, and the west end of the south Great Wall; for filling in fishponds, springs, and pools; for destruction of the Hale-o-Keawe foundation; and for breaking down the northern end of the Great Wall.

Elderly Hawaiians who spoke to Stokes referred to the Kai mimiki o Naihe (tidal wave of Naihe) that wreaked great havoc on this area. Although Naihe was the ruling chief of South Kona and guardian of the pu'uhonua until his death in 1831, most of the pu'uhonua destruction appears to have occurred after 1846, none of it being suggested in Chester Lyman's drawing. Emory believed the tidal waves were associated with Naihe because of an ancient surfing chant that mentions him in connection with "great waves." Stokes found that two destructive tidal waves (tsunami) hit the island of Hawai'i after 1846, one in 1868 and the other in 1877. The latter was especially severe, causing great damage all over the islands. Emory believed that both these tidal waves did the damage ascribed to the "tidal wave of Naihe." Another tidal wave in 1946 broke down part of the Hale-o-Keawe platform and nearby walls. [264]

2. Exotic Vegetation and Animals

Other problems for park management involve the control of exotics, both plants and animals. The 1991 Statement for Management says that the NPS objective is "to restore and maintain the historic scene of the Pu'uhonua, Palace Grounds, and house complexes in the park to the year 1819." To further that goal, there have been efforts to kill the heavy vegetation that comprises mostly imported, exotic varieties. This nonnative flora needs little moisture and thrives on barren land in fertile, humus-filled cracks and flats in the pahoehoe outcrops. In order to return the area to its early condition as a barren landscape supporting only a few endemic plants, shrubs, and trees, the NPS must continue to remove exotics. Some clearing of these has been carried out in the past in Keokea and Ki'ilae, resulting in the extermination of a tangle of exotic trees, shrubs, vines, and grasses. In the course of this work, numerous archeological features have been exposed. This clearing work is a continuing battle, but an important management activity. Vegetation tends to break down fragile resources in addition to hiding important ones from view.

3. Visitor Recreational Activities

The refuge and the nearby heiau are sacred to many present-day Hawaiians. The NPS must have sensitivity to the conflicts between public use, the sanctity of sites, and respect for Hawaiian beliefs. The NPS has committed to allowing fishing, swimming, and picknicking to continue, the only uses in the park not related to its historical qualities. A threat potential does exist from these activities to living things in the bay, including the coral. The same is true of visitor use of Honaunau Bay. Boats anchoring there not only affect the historic scene but destroy coral beds. No state or federal control exists concerning the anchoring of boats in Honaunau Bay. Therefore, they sometimes anchor in the midst of the coral gardens and destroy pieces of this fragile resource. Resultant garbage and sewage also pose a problem.

Traditional religious practices will be ensured (via compliance with the Native American Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1991. The NPS should increase visitor awareness of these values related to certain structures.

4. Unprotected Related Resources

The original setting aside of land for the park did not include sufficient area to protect all cultural resources associated with the refuge and surrounding ancient land uses. Resources outside the present park boundary, such as the top of the long holua, are threatened by natural deterioration and by commercial development unless cooperative preservation agreements can be worked out with landowners. The important archeological sites around Honaunau Bay, which are closely tied to the refuge's history, are also constantly threatened by development.

5. Park Development

Any type of park development affects its resources. When the area at the park entrance was being cleared for a parking lot in the 1960s, for instance, about thirty graves were found, dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition, numerous petroglyphs had to be avoided.

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001