Take a journey through the fascinating history and dynamic environment of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Listen or download these audible adventures featuring interviews with Park Rangers and an array of subject matter experts.
Place Names of Hawaiʻi
In many places, efforts are being made to find and restore the original place names given. This is no easy task as even among indigenous peoples, multiple tribes speaking different languages have laid claim to the same land at different times. These names can actually help to preserve a language and restore a culture. Guest speaker, park ranger and visual information specialist, Michael Newman talks about bringing some of the original Hawaiian place names to our park maps, apps and signs.
Dean: Aloha and welcome to the podcast. I’m ranger Dean Gallagher and today, we
continue our celebration of May as Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage
Month. Since the first humans could speak, we have been ascribing names to places. Whether
used to provide directions, meeting spots, or context for a specific location, these place names
eventually evolve into common usage. As humans migrated and cultures and languages evolved,
place names may also change in more than one language. In many places, efforts are being made
to find and restore the original place names given. This is no easy task as even among indigenous
peoples, multiple tribes speaking different languages have laid claim to the same land at different
times. So why is it important to find the earliest possible names? Well as we celebrate Pacific
heritage we acknowledge names can be more than just a description of place. These names can
actually help to preserve a language and restore a culture. My guest today is park ranger and
visual information specialist, Michael Newman who is working to bring some of the original
Hawaiian place names to our park maps, apps and signs. Michael, I’m so glad you could join us
Michael: Aloha. Hauʻoli wau e kamaʻilio pū me ʻoe i kēia lā. I’m really excited to talk to you
today about the preservation of our culture and the restoration of traditional place names at
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Dean: Yeah, I think that is so nice to be able to hear the Hawaiian language it is such a beautiful
and melodic language. This could really be a daunting project, but obviously it's well worth the
effort. So why do you think it's so important for us to try to find these early as possible place
names and put them on the map.
Michael: Names are incredibly important part of our identity. They carry deep personal, cultural,
historical ancestral connections. Our names give us a sense of who we really are in the
communities in which we belong and our place in the world. Native Hawaiians have always had
strong ties to their ancestral lands and have their own names for important places and landmarks.
Unfortunately, during the late 18th and early 19th century, traditional place names were ignored
or erased by colonization. Today, many indigenous people around the world are reclaiming their
original place names and returning them back to the maps. This process is aiding in the
preservation and protection of cultural heritage.
Dean: Yeah, we should probably go and mention at this point that this has been a collaborative
effort with assistance from folks like Bobby Camara or formal visual information specialist
Andrew LaValle, who worked on this project as the park was looking to replace outdated and
damaged signs. So where can the park visitors see some of the new signs with their Hawaiian
place names restored?
Michael: Park visitors can find these signs along the caldera rim at a number of viewing areas of
Kaluapele, or the Kīlauea caldera. [laugh] In fact, you will even notice traditional place names on
the map you receive once you enter the National Park. I really recommend downloading the NPS
application on your smartphone. This will help you respectfully visit some of these revered
Dean: So just go ahead and give us a few examples of place names that people may already be
familiar with. And then the original Hawaiian names for that same location.
Michael: Well, to name a few, there's Kīlauea Caldera, or Kaluapele. Many people know the
Jagger Museum where we had an eruption in 2018. This place is traditionally known as
Uēkahuna or the weeping priest. And we have Waldron Ledge or Kūpinaʻi Pali, which is the
Dean: That's great. I was also trying to memorize that what we call Sulphur Banks is
Haʻakulamanu, gathering place of the birds. So as we look more closely into some of these place
names, it is apparent the names do carry deeper meaning behind them. Sometimes the names are
descriptive of that location, but others may be acknowledging an event or a person. Can you give
us an example of a Hawaiian place name and then that meaning behind the name?
Michael: Well, just to name a few. I would like to share this in a story. So in 1996, reprint of
Hawaiian legends of Volcanoes by Westervelt, we learn about Pele and Kahawali. In this story,
Kahawali is a chief of Puna. And Pele is a Hawaiian volcanic deity and they both compete in a
sledding race, called hōlua sledding. The chief obviously loses the contest against Pele and he
retreats back to the island of Kauaʻi where he gathers a company of the most powerful priests to
return to the island of Hawaiʻi for the destruction of Pele. The priests make their positions near
Kīlauea and challenge Pele. This inevitably leads to their own demise. The priests Kaʻauea, the
fiery current, and Uēkahuna, the weeping priest and Halemaʻumaʻu, the house of ferns, were the
only ones who left their names to localities along the rim Kīlauea.
Dean: I think that is amazing because you've been able to share the Hawaiian story behind those
place names. And I think that's just great change for the better when people are gathered on the
rim, and they get familiar with those stories. I've, as you heard in the introduction, I was
mentioning that we were celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage
Month. These place names really provide that deeper story of migration of the Polynesian and
the Pacific Islander people. So where does the Hawaiian language originate from?
Michael: The Hawaiian language along with 1200 or so languages can be traced to the
Austronesian language family. Hawaiians closely related to other Polynesian language such as
Samoan, Marquesan, Tahitian, Māori, Rapa Nui, and Tongan. And the Marquesan first
colonized the one archipelago and was later followed by waves and waves of immigration from
the society islands in Samoa, Tonga. Their languages over time became the Hawaiian language
that we see and speak today.
Dean: I think that's really interesting the way that as people migrated to these different islands,
they're separated from where they came from, the languages begin to evolve over distances and
time, you can see how the language can morph and change but still share similar words or
sentence structure providing clues to their origins. And that's how they've identified this
Austronesian language family, which I should point out is very, very diverse. So what are some
of the challenges that you're facing when you're trying to trace these early place names?
Michael: Well, we're very fortunate the knowledge that we're sharing with you is the product of
the collaborative effort of our kūpuna, which is our elders and ancestors, kumu, or teachers,
cultural practitioners, academics of Hawaiiana studies, and the many people in organizations
have implemented these changes over a long period of time. These names you know, that were
once passed down through a ritual, tradition and process can now even be traced to early maps,
books, deeds and legal descriptions. Right now we are at the brink of change. And it's just a
matter of going through these old maps and books and deeds to learn more about the place names
Dean: This is, really a positive thing for the park, but also for park visitors because it increases
that depth and authenticity. I know you and I have both worked as Rangers leading programs.
And we both noticed that folks can have very much difficulty pronouncing Hawaiian place
names. This can be really frustrating, but it's obviously important. So what advice would you
give to the people who are having difficulty pronouncing Hawaiian?
Michael: The most important thing is to keep trying to speak the Hawaiian language and keeping
it alive. It is important to take time to pronounce these words correctly. And really feel the
meaning of these words as you say them, so you need to understand them as well. The Hawaiian
alphabet has 13 letters, five vowels a, e, i, o, u, ā, ē, ī, ō, ū, and eight consonants h k l m n, p, w,
ʻokina, or he, ke, la, mu, nu, pi, we. This includes a glottal stop called the ʻokina, which is often
a short pause between vowels. But more than anything, just keep practicing. The more we hear
something, the more familiar it will become to our ears.
Dean: And that is so true. I think anybody who's ever moved to Hawaii and lives here for a
while, because they hear these things over and over again, it starts to feel very, very natural. I
don't think many people realize even back on the US mainland that places like Topeka, Seattle,
Milwaukee, Syracuse, those are all Native American names from diverse tribes and nations. But
today, they're spoken and woven into the daily American lexicon. Do you see the same thing
happening here in Hawaii?
Michael: Well, believe it or not, it's already happening here as we speak, Ranger Dean, and it's
happening here at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We use these names almost on a daily basis
because we are the stewards of our Hawaiian heritage. We share these places that have existed
longer than any other because it is important for others to understand the stories of these sites. I
definitely see that it will be woven into the daily American lexicon.
Dean: And that is all the time we have for this program. But I do want to thank our guests,
ranger and visual information specialist Michael Newman for his ongoing work to restore
Hawaiian place names to many locations throughout the National Park. If you would like to start
connecting to these sacred landscapes and special places, check out some of the new signs within
the park. They're right on the rim of the caldera behind Volcano House up at Kīlauea overlook,
and then keep updated by downloading the new NPS Park app. And we'll keep updating the app.
Until next time, this is Ranger Dean and Ranger Michael wishing you a hui hou.
The Underground World of Hawaii and the Implications for Life on Other Planets
Today, researchers around the world are surveying some of the harshest environments on the planet searching for “extremophiles” and finding life in the most unlikely of places. Researcher Dr. Diana Northup explains how life found a way in these extreme conditions.
Aloha, I’m ranger Dean with Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and you’re joining us for a podcast. There was a time, not that long ago, when scientists around the world believed that there was no way for life, as we know it, to exist in the deepest parts of the ocean. Crushing pressure and a lack of sunlight would permit only the tiniest of organisms to survive. Then in 1977, researchers studying hydrothermal vents on the floor of the Pacific Ocean uncovered a wonderland ecosystem thriving around the volcanic vents. Later expeditions would reveal mysterious fish, never-before seen crustaceans, and even giant tubeworms. Somehow, in these extreme conditions, life found a way. Today, researchers around the world are surveying some of the harshest environments on the planet searching for “extremophiles” and finding life in the most unlikely of places. One such researcher is my guest today, Dr. Diana Northup, visiting Associate Professor, Biology and Professor Emerita, University of New Mexico. Welcome to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I am so glad you could join us for the podcast today:
It’s a real pleasure to be here and talk with you, Dean, today. I love sharing my passion for lava caves and the mysterious life within them. It mimics, in a way, what you just talked about and it reveals how this featureless environment, where it looks like there’s nothing to eat, is actually a paradise.
Ranger Dean: Yeah, that’s so amazing. I first met you and your husband…uh several years. You were getting permits to survey some of the most remote and beautiful lava caves in Hawai'i. Ah..your husband Kenneth, I should point out is an amazing photographer whose pictures have appeared all over – bringing these strange underground worlds to people who would not otherwise get to visit them. So, what made you want to start searching lava caves for these extremophile organisms?
Something you may not know, is New Mexico, where I also live, is actually the Volcano State in the west. We can’t compete with Hawai'i but it still has lots of volcanoes, and..um, my husband was getting tired of the drive to Carlsbad Caverns National Park six hours away from our home which is where I did a lot of my research. He said, “Let’s go explore the volcanic caves over at El Malpais National Monument.” Only an hour from our house I might point out. So, that started a decades long passion for lava caves, starting with cave invertebrates which I studied for my master’s degree, and then microorganisms.
Ranger Dean: I’m glad you pointed that out because know that for years, biologists studying cave fauna focused primarily on vertebrate and invertebrate species. What drew you to take a closer look at the microbes?
Diana: So, in 1989, I, just for the fun of it, took a course on Microbial Ecology from Dr. Cliff Dahm at the University of New Mexico. During the course, Cliff handed me these little vials and said, “Why don’t you get some water samples from Lechuguilla where you’re doing your research and let’s see what’s in them.” So, we examined those using scanning electron microscopy, which can magnify things 1000s of times. I saw this tiny organism that was 1/100th of the width of one of my hairs and it looked like a braided rope and there were all kinds of other amazing shapes in water, in a cave, hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface. It was like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice’s Wonderland and I never looked back. I immediately began to shift my research to microbes and pursued a Ph.D. in how microbes eat rock.
Ranger Dean: The first time I saw one of these microbial communities, I actually thought someone had sprayed white paint onto the ceiling of the lava cave, but a second look had me scratching my head in disbelief. These microbial mats were actually millions upon millions of living organisms thriving in complete darkness – but how?
Diana: Actually, billions and billions to quote Carl Sagan. That very question you asked, drew me to this research and my first view of the white microbial mats on the walls that had beads of water all over them really captivated me. I learned that they were called “cave silver” which is actually a very apt title. And I also discovered the amazing world of what we call chemolithotrophy. Big word which basically means the microbes are getting energy and electrons, something you may not think of when you have lunch, from various things in the lava like sulfur, manganese, nitrogen, iron, and many other sources to power their metabolism. So, you might have eaten a hamburger or a tofu burger for lunch – they are actually eating pieces of the rock. Scanning through the literature revealed that very few scientists had studied microbes in lava caves, which left a wonderful gap to fill.
Ranger Dean: Having these microbial colonies thriving in such impossible conditions, it’s like you turned Biology 101 on its head. We opened the podcast talking about this life that was found around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor where it was discovered that instead of relying on photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into organic carbon, the bacteria are actually using chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide to drive their metabolic process. You found something similar when you were doing global sampling in these lava caves. Where did you get your samples from?
Diana: That started with our attending an International Symposium on Vulcanospleology. So, the study of caves in volcanic environments, and it took place in the Azores, islands that are volcanic islands 1600 kilometers from the Portuguese coast out in the middle of nowhere. And I formed a partnership with the Azorean scientists who helped sponsor this meeting and our goal was to explore the microbial communities of the caves on the islands through a grant from the Portuguese government. Other conferences led to research opportunities in Australia, which is really cool. One with really high carbon dioxide that you could only be in for an hour, and also Iceland. And then a cave researcher colleague at the University of Hawai'i -Hilo, Dr. Fred Stone, introduced me to Hawaiian caves, and that was a true love affair with the Hawaiian lava caves. So, we returned in 2008 to do research in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other caves on the Big Island. That provided the first more in-depth look at the microbes of Hawaiian lava caves, using genetic sequences just like you might do with your saliva to learn more about genetic background, but also cultures – growing them, geochemistry, what’s in that rock to eat? And scanning electron microscopy – where we could look at them closely.
Ranger Dean: So, let’s talk a little about how you and your fellow researchers went about this. In addition to the microbial mats, you identified secondary mineral deposits such as a weakly crystalline copper-silicate deposit right here in Hawai‘i. It was blue-green in color and it contained reticulated and fuzzy filaments. And we’re going to try to get a photo of this uploaded to the podcast webpage. This is where the story starts to get really interesting. These secondary type deposits weren’t the same as the microbial mats and they weren’t just a rock formation – but the spooky world of something in-between. What are these things, Dr. Northup?
Diana: So they were a real revelation, umm.. but it makes sense if you think about it. So, many microbes facilitate the precipitation of mineral deposits – their specialty. Thanks to my colleagues Dr. Penny Boston and Mr. Mike Spilde, we started looking at what we called “microbes that masquerade as minerals” to see how extensive the microbial presence is in these secondary mineral deposits. It turned out, it’s quite substantial. So that blue-green mineral you mentioned um… contains a lot of toxic copper. And one of Kenneth’s photos of it actually made the cover of Astrobiology where we published an article. So, why would those organisms be in there if it’s toxic? Because the deposits are teeming with microbial life. We were attracted to these because of their color, but we started looking at all the other types of secondary mineral deposits and we’re finding evidence across all those sample types that microbes cycle nitrogen – which is a key element for life and the other life in lava caves. We also find that some of the microorganisms may use sulfur, or iron, or manganese as energy sources. There much better at expanding what they can eat. So, there’s a lot of diversity to this and many of them are organisms that we don’t yet really understand what they eat and what they do.
Ranger Dean: This is really an amazing story as it unfolds. So, in my profession of conservation biology, molecular biology and genetics just rewrote the book for us. We started to see what things were related to – even if they didn’t look like each other. So, you were using a combination of scanning electron microscopy and molecular analysis, and you dove deeper to reveal something amazing. Both the microbial mats and the secondary mineral deposits were teeming with life – it just wasn’t life as we normally know it. So, I was reading about this last night and it just blew me away. Tell me a little bit about the diversity of these novel species.
Diana: That’s truly amazing and it has changed over the years as we went from, I’m going to call them primitive molecular sequencing techniques, to really advanced. So, I went from getting a hundred at most, genetic sequences out of a sample to getting sixty-thousand sequences. And what that is telling me is who are the dominant organisms that are there. One of the ones I’m most intrigued by is what’s called the Archaea. And so, this is one of the domains of life. We used to call them just the “extremophiles.” And they are now being explored for who they are – and a whole bunch of them have newly been named in the last ten years. In the lava caves, were finding a lot of them. It’s like your peeling back the curtain over the microbial world. And in caves, we’re finding that there are many organisms that help maintain the rest of the cave ecosystem—so this is a new area of study because we’ve just sort of said, “Okay, microbes are there. What are they doing?” We don’t really know but some of them are what are called autotrophs. Instead of getting their carbon from organic matter – like what you may have had for lunch or dinner or breakfast, they are fixing (i.e. sort of a converting) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to organic carbon, and that can become the basis of energy for other organisms in the cave.
Ranger Dean: So, I know we’re going to have a lot of interest in this just because these things really haven’t been studied to this depth before. So, what we’re going to try to do is put up some of the scanning electron microscopy photos of these incredible life-forms up on this same page with the podcast. And you knew we couldn’t do this podcast without bringing your research and findings to the implications for life on other planets. It’s appropriate that we’re recording this podcast just a few days after Perseverance has made a successful landing on the surface of Mars.
Ranger Dean: I was reading your article in Astrobiology and I can see why researchers draw so many parallels between Mars and parts of Hawaii. NASA has tested their Mars rovers on both Mauna Loa and Kīlauea volcanoes because of the phenomenal similarity of landscapes. So, the big question, does Mars have lava caves and just what are the implications for finding life, or at least a record of life there?
Diana: To me, this is a really exciting area of study. We’ve known for a while that there are lava caves on Mars, in fact there was a study by Glen Cushing that published… was published in 2007, where he documented some of the findings just a few years before from one of the Mars expeditions. There’s also evidence on other extraterrestrial bodies in our solar system that there are lava caves on these bodies. So, there’s are some great images of these on the web, that if people want to look at them you can see. Also, my colleague Dr. Penny Boston, proposed way back in 1992 in an article, that the subsurface environments on Mars would be a really good place to search for evidence of past life. We had a conference last year in New Mexico where we discussed the possibilities of life on Mars and how to explore for it. And, we think that lava caves provide a protected environment in which early life on Mars could have survived, or left evidence that they were there. And that provides a motivation for exploring our lava caves in Hawai`i to identify the best candidates for a rover to sample on Mars and elsewhere. In fact, I’ve actually been part of a ground truthing experiment where I identified, on the wall of a lava cave, what I thought were good targets for the rover and then they would come along later to have the rover see if it detected the same target. So, it’s a great thing to explore.
Ranger Dean: This is great! It’s really right there on the edge of the frontier of discovery. I want to thank our guest today, Dr. Diana Northup, visiting Associate Professor, Biology and Professor Emerita, University of New Mexico. I know she was really busy. She was doing samples underground today. She’s doing the podcast now and she flies out tomorrow for other commitments but I’m so glad you took the time to talk with us today.
Diana: Dean, it’s really been a pleasure and I hope that this can excite other people about how cool life in a lava cave could be. They can look at them differently and think about what’s living on the walls of those caves and enjoy the possibilities.
Ranger Dean: This is great. It also shows how our national parks and the resources within them can be such an amazing source of research and discovery. Also, I want to go..uh..a little bit off script here today to say, I know for the permits you guys got, you were very careful to make sure the resource was completely protected and was left in a pristine state as you left. I know, we went back in later. So, really, really a good way to care for the resource AND continue to learn. If you’d like to see the underground world of lava caves within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where some of this research was done. Kenneth has actually allowed us to post an incredible photo underground. We’re also going to post some of the scanning electron microscopy photos, so that you can meet some of these cool life-forms up close. Until next time, I’m Ranger Dean wishing you a safe visit to your national parks.
Scientists use a SEM (scanning electron microscope) to capture views like this one of life within a lava tube. This image was taken in a lava tube from a Kīlauea flow near Mountain View, Hawaiʻi (Click to view large). Photo courtesy of Mike Spilde and Diana Northup.
Buffalo Soldiers and the 1915 Mauna Loa Trail
Ranger Dean Gallagher talks to National Park Service Archeologist Summer Roper about the precursor to today's Mauna Loa Trail, first constructed in 1915 by the men of the 25th Infantry, known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
DEAN: ( 00:01 )
Aloha, I'm Ranger Dean Gallagher with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Thanks for joining us on a special podcast as we celebrate Black History Month, February 2021. And it's a perfect time for us to tip our flat hats in honor of some amazing men that both literally and figuratively helped shape the National Park Service, including this park. Of course, I'm talking about the Buffalo soldiers. Uh, they were functioning as Park Rangers even before the park service had been established as an agency. I'll be joined today by a very special guest, Park Archeologist, Summer Roper Todd. Summer has worked as an Archeologist for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for 15 years and she's been instrumental in bringing many of Hawaii's untold stories to life. She was the technical representative on a recent project contracted by the park service with International Archeology to accomplish an archeological survey of the Buffalo soldiers trail, which is the precursor to modern day Mauna Loa Trail. The resulting paper is entitled, With 12-pound Hammers and Gunny Sacks: Buffalo Soldiers and the 1915 Trail to the Mauna Loa Summit. Aloha Summer! I am so glad you could join us today for the podcast.
SUMMER: ( 01:29 )
Thanks Dean for having me.
DEAN: ( 01:32 )
I'm so excited about today's podcast because when you hear the term Buffalo
soldier, many of us just automatically hear the song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, but
not as many people know the men that actually inspired the song. So just who were the Buffalo soldiers and how did they come about?
SUMMER: ( 01:50 )
Yeah, it's so true, growing up I would hear that song and I loved that song and I
did not know the true story behind these incredible men, the Buffalo soldiers, and
learning more about this fascinating history and the contributions they've made to our
nation is, is truly incredible. Um, so the Buffalo soldiers, they were African American
soldiers who mainly served in the Western frontier after the civil war. So, during the civil
war, black soldiers served, however, there weren't true regiments until 1866. And this
is when Congress authorized all African American regiments and they broke them out
into the 9th and 10th Calvary and the 24th and 25th Infantries. And initially it was
made up about 5,000 men. And so overall in the army about 10% of the soldiers
were of African American descent at this time, but they were concentrated in the
Western frontier. So, about one in five soldiers in the West were of African American
descent. Um, and during this time period, they were heavily discriminated against,
there was a lot of racial prejudice and injustice from the army itself. And, you know,
from the towns they served in, but you know, they persevered and they overcame
these challenges that it presented to them and they had, they made just so many
distinguished contributions to our nation, um, throughout the time period. And, um, the
army remained segregated until 1948. And this is when President Harry Truman
ordered desegregation of the armed forces and ended it by an executive order.
DEAN: ( 03:23 )
Yeah, it's amazing. As I was looking at part of this in the paper, so these were
African American regiments but they had all white officers. So, at the time you could
sort of see how the army actually had built in racism. But this is incredible because
they excelled so much. What were some of the Buffalo soldier’s duties?
SUMMER: ( 03:41 )
So, their principle mission was to control the Indians of the plains and the Southwest,
but they did so many other things. So, they built and repaired military posts, they built
roads and telegraph lines, they fought fires, they protected settlers out West.
Um, they escorted and protected stagecoaches and wagon trains and also the railroad
crews along the Western front. Um, I just, it just brings up these images of a Western
movie when I, when I think of some of their duties and it also included capturing cattle
rustlers and illegal traders who sold guns and liquors to Indians. Um, and they also
participated in fighting Wars such as the Indian Wars and the Spanish American war
and the Philippine American war.
DEAN: ( 04:24 )
It's, it's just amazing. Yeah. I was the same way. I can almost picture them
doing these jobs and because it was Calvary, they were expert horseman. And then of
course there's an amazing connection to the National Park Service.
SUMMER: ( 04:35 )
Yeah. So, in addition to these duties, um, they had key roles in the development
of the national park system at such places like Sequoia, General Grant, and Yosemite National Parks. Um, they would do things like patrol the backcountry, build trails,
stop poaching, and basically do things that were later roles by the Park Rangers that
once the parks were established. And so, Hawai’i Volcanoes is actually one of six NPS
park units that have direct historical associations with the Buffalo soldiers.
DEAN: ( 05:06 )
I, that is just so cool. Um, yeah, they're kind of the ghost in the machine. That's
why we all tip our flat hats to these men. And I'm sure many listeners are asking, “How
did they get the name Buffalo soldiers?”
SUMMER: ( 05:17 )
So, the name was given to them by Native Americans and there's a couple of
different, different theories. One of the stories is in 1871 in a campaign against the
Comanches, this name was given because of their rugged and tireless marching like
strong like the Buffalo. Another story says that they were named that from the
black hair that the Calvary men had resembled the hair of the Buffalo. And then
another story says, the name came about from the coats they wore because they were
made out of Buffalo hide in the winter to keep them warm. But regardless of where the
name came from, the name stuck, um, and it was a sign of respect, um, because the
Native Americans held great reverence for the Buffalo by giving the men these names, it was respectable and they respected the men because they were like the Buffalo, even with wounds and arrows, they continued to fight and were ferocious and battle.
DEAN: ( 06:09 )
Yeah, I understand that was their reputation that the Native Americans had given
them. In fact, this was so honored that even the 10th Calvary adopted the Buffalo as
part of their uniform, is that right?
SUMMER: ( 06:20 )
Yeah. So, they have the, um, Buffalo as part of their regimental crest.
DEAN: ( 06:24 )
That's incredible. So, um, I found Buffalo soldiers had often been supplied with
secondhand horses, deteriorating equipment, and even inadequate ammunition for
battles. So, it would be easy to kind of see them as a ragtag group of army misfits, but
that isn't true at all. Can you tell us about that?
SUMMER: ( 06:42 )
Sure. Yeah. So, it was quite the opposite. These men were noted for their great
courage and discipline. They were known for their fighting abilities and like you
mentioned earlier, this exceptionable horsemanship just quite, you know, impressive. They had a higher retention rate because this is post civil war era in America when slavery was abolished and these men really did not have other opportunities available to them at the time. So, unlike their counter, the white soldier counterparts, they would stay enlisted in the army, which enabled them to obtain this high level of skill because they had the time to work on their skills as they serve longer. And then the
army offered them steady employment, education, some degree of opportunity for
advancement. And so, you know, this created this opportunity for them to really excel
and offered them a career when they really had few options.
DEAN: ( 07:31 )
Yeah. And I understand that the army recognized this as well, right? They, they
were award winners.
SUMMER: ( 07:37 )
Yeah. So, 18 Buffalo soldiers were awarded medals of honor and this is the
Army's highest award for bravery.
DEAN: ( 07:44 )
Yeah, that's see, that's incredible. Let's just go ahead and shift out to Hawai’i
because Hawai’i has an amazing connection with the Buffalo soldiers and specifically, I
was hoping we could take a look at the 25th infantry regiment.
SUMMER: ( 07:57 )
Okay. So, the 25th infantry was originally stationed in Louisiana and they moved,
um, throughout the West and places like Texas, the Dakota territory, Montana,
Minnesota, Seattle, and other places. Um, this is starting in 1870, um, and it wasn't
until 1913 that they made their way to Hawai’i. So, in January, a newly established
installation in Hawai’i came about called Schofield barracks and the 25th infantry
moved to Schofield barracks at the time. And that was made of 45 officers and about
800 enlisted men. And so eventually this would increase to around 2300 enlisted men
and they just had regular duties while they were there; garrison duties, target practice,
training marches, combined unit exercises, but they also would participate in local
events at carnivals and parades and baseball tournaments and other sporting events.
Then it wasn't until 1915 when company E of the 25th infantry made their way to Hawai’i Island. And this was to build the Buffalo soldiers trail, which is the precursor to the modern-day Mauna Loa trail that we see today. And so, this was even before it became a National Park.
DEAN: ( 09:07 )
I think that's amazing because what that means is some of the actual park
infrastructure that's still in place today was built by the Buffalo soldiers.
SUMMER: ( 09:15 )
Exactly. Yeah. And this story is not really widely known that they put in some of
the first infrastructure there. And so, this trail was first conceptualized by a Honolulu
businessman named Lorrin Thurston and a famous scientist that was studying the
volcanoes named Thomas Jaggar. And so, they really wanted to install this trail for
multiple reasons. Jaggar had the scientific interest. So, he wanted to be able to have
an easy access up to the Mauna Loa summit, so he could study when it erupted also
they wanted to increase tourism. So, they thought the trail would be good boost for
tourism. And they also were looking at it to make a cross-island road, um, to connect
to the other side of the island.
DEAN: ( 09:56 )
I, and I understand their first idea was to use County prisoners.
SUMMER: ( 10:00 )
Yeah. So that was their first idea until two officers from the 25th infantry came
over, they were visiting the Island and they said, Hey, wait a minute. Why don't we
have the company E build the trail? And so that's when the seed was planted and then
everything just kind of fell into place. One thing after the other and between October
18th and November 25th of 1915, the company E of the 25th infantry came to the
Island and built a 30-mile-long trail that would connect Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
DEAN: ( 10:29 )
I got to say, looking at the map in this report, this trail is a major undertaking.
These men would have been working at high elevations, rough terrain, swinging heavy
hammers. Could you talk a little bit about what trail building entails?
SUMMER: ( 10:44 )
Yeah, Sure. Yeah. Like you said, this was rugged terrain. So, their task was to lay
on a 30-mile trail in between the summit of Kilauea, which is at 4,000 feet in
elevation stretching all the way up to the summit of Mauna Loa, which is over 13,000
feet. So, um, yeah, it's not an easy task and it fell into place so quickly. And so, in
October of 1915 trail planning was underway and the men arrived. They came over on
the steamships from Honolulu. They came into Hilo, made their way up to Volcano.
And then on October 18th, the trail construction began. So, it was pretty amazing how
fast they got this plan set up. They establish a base camp near the Volcano House and
that was called Camp Philoon. And so, the men would stay in the camp. Half the men at
a time would go to work on the trail and the other half would stay back. And because
it's such a long trail, it’s 30 miles, they had some, um, spike camps set up. So, one at
about 6,500 feet in elevation, another one set up at about 10,000 feet. And so, some
men could stay out there and work the trail sections from those areas.
DEAN: ( 11:50 )
Yeah, it must not have been easy because I've been up there and those lava
flows, everywhere you step as another ankle twister. We have the benefit of course, of
the trail today, but this was rough terrain.
SUMMER: ( 12:01 )
It was, it is, it's very rough. So, they would carry these 12-pound hammers and
they would break down the a'a lava flows, pounded down and crush it down. And
then they'd also have to, um, break down the pahoehoe lava blisters, which was even
harder with these heavy hammers. They would pack the rocks in these gunny sacks on
their backs, sometimes having to hike them like a quarter mile to make trail markers
and to line the trail to, yeah, it was, it was backbreaking work. Um, there were, you
know, in high elevation, cold temperatures, and actually during the time they were
there, there was record rainfall. So, they were like in the freezing cold rain and the trial
committee really tried to provide for their comfort, but just the conditions it's just
primitive and yeah, they didn't have the help of horses or mules and it was definitely a
DEAN: ( 12:49 )
I think it's just amazing that we can still see the remnants of that trail and it's
such a great archeological site, but I understand it wasn't all work. The men of the 25th
regiment also knew how to take a little R&R, including baseball of all things. I came
across a fabulous picture of the 25th infantry regiment playing baseball. Uh, what
SUMMER: ( 13:10 )
Yeah. So, these guys, they just excelled in sports. I'm in track and field. And in
baseball, like you mentioned, um, they competed in games with other regiments and
they had a team. Their team was called The Wreckers. Um, if you do a search in the
Honolulu newspapers at the time, there's tons of articles about their team. Um, they
had the admiration and respect of the City of Honolulu and thousands of people would
come out to watch their games. Several team members even later joined the Negro
League and there was one member Wilber Rogan, and he was actually inducted into
the Baseball Hall of Fame, so these guys were good. So, they also participated in
parades and they had a band that participated in carnivals and two of the members
were even billed as champion ‘Buck and Wing’ tap dancers. And if you don't know
what that is, I suggest a quick Google search, it's interesting. It's the precursor to tap
dancing as we know it today, which was brought over by African slaves. Super
DEAN: ( 14:04 )
It is, it's fascinating. Um, so this is a very diverse group of men because they
came from many different locations and I know there's a lot of different stories,
individual stories. But this year, the 2021 theme for Black History Month is The Black
Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. And I can't think of a better way to
celebrate this theme than to look at the life of just one of the soldiers. As I was reading
the paper, I was amazed at the story of Linold Chappell. Um, what can you tell us about
this remarkable man?
SUMMER: ( 14:35 )
So, doing the research, it was quite difficult to track down specific soldiers who
worked on the Mauna Loa trail. It was easy to find information about the officers, but
the actual soldiers was a little bit more challenging, but a few were identified including
Linold Chappell, um, is also interesting because his great grandson was found and he
was able to participate in an interview and gave us some information about their, their
really um, rich family, military history. So, Linold Chappell himself, he served as a private with the 25th infantry regiment. He was born on November 18th, 1889, in a small
community in Southeastern Kentucky. So, he enlisted in the army in 1913 and he joined the regiment at Schofield barracks shortly after. So, it was his stint at Scholfield when he came over to Hawai’i Island and worked, um, to help construct the Mauna Loa trail.
DEAN: ( 15:27 )
Yeah. And I understand he was actually discharged from the army, but then he
re-enlists the following day.
SUMMER: ( 15:34 )
Yeah. So, he was discharged in 1919 and reenlisted the following day, like you
said, and this is kind of what I was speaking to earlier, how they had a high retention
rate. And, um, he ended up joining the 24th infantry regiment at Southern New Mexico.
And then in 1920, he retired from the service as a Mess Sergeant in the machine gun
company, 24th infantry regiment. So, it turns out after speaking, you know, researching
with um, the great grandson, Brian Chappell, he was not only one of the
family members to serve in the U S Army. Linold Chappell’s grandfathers were
enslaved and later fought in the civil war as members of the 12th and 124th US
Colored Troops and his sons, Ray and Billy were Tuskegee Airman in World War II. And
they're featured in a book called Freedom Flyers about Tuskegee Airmen by J. Todd
DEAN: ( 16:26 )
And then, and then Brian himself, right?
SUMMER: ( 16:28 )
Brian himself also served active duty for 26 years in the Air Force. So, what a rich
military history his family has and just a big thank you to the many generations of the
Chappells that have bravely served our country.
DEAN: ( 16:40 )
I Just… That is such a beautiful way to end our program, uh, to see how that's been
woven into the fabric of American history and culture. Thank you so much for being
with us today Summer. I want to thank our guests today, park archeologist, Summer
Roper Todd, for discussing with us a recently completed study, With 12-pound
Hammers and Gunny Sacks: Buffalo Soldiers and the 1915 Trail to Mauna Loa Summit.
Uh, that's been the information where we gathered for the podcast. If you want to learn
more about the Buffalo soldiers in Hawai’i, we have uploaded some great pictures to
the park’s website. You can even see one of Linold Chappell and his fellow soldiers.
Thank you for joining us today.
Linold Chappell was a private with Company E of the 25th Infantry Regiment. He joined the regiment at Schofield Barracks shortly after enlisting in the Army in 1913, one of 45 new recruits assigned to Company E. (Click photo to view large)