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


F. Historical Associations

1. Earliest Reference to Kaloko-Honokohau Area

Samuel Kamakau presents the earliest traditional reference to this region when recounting a secret trip made by a spy of the chief of Maui to investigate the west coast of Hawai'i. When asked where he had gone and what he had seen, the spy reported, among other things, visiting "large inland ponds" at Kaloko and Honokahau. [36] According to genealogical calculations by Marion Kelly, this probably occurred in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, testifying to the antiquity of these fishponds. [37] Historically Kaloko's closest ties were to the Kona chiefs and particularly to Kamehameha's court at Kamakahonu in Kailua-Kona, a village that was probably dependent on the pond for supplemental food and on which the later caretakers of the pond depended for cash sales of fish. [38]

2. Use as Burial Ground for Ali'i

The Kaloko-Honokohau settlement area contains burial places for the dead. It is also characterized by a number of secret caves and lava tubes that figured prominently in early Hawaiian folklore as the burial place of high-ranking ali'i. As described in an earlier section of this report, funeral rites connected with the death of ruling chiefs of Hawai'i involved complex initial ceremonies that prepared the body for afterlife, followed by secret burial of the bones. These were entrusted to loyal followers whom the deceased had previously designated. Burial took place at night to prevent disclosure of the hiding place and desecration of the remains, which might result in transference of the deceased's mana to an enemy.

3. Traditional Burial Site of Bones of Kamehameha

An early traditional reference to the area in the late eighteenth century mentions the burial in a hidden cave at Kaloko of Kahekili, the ruler of Maui. However, the most significant burial ceremony traditionally reported to have taken place there is that of Kamehameha, although there is no firm proof of this event. His bones were supposedly transported by canoe from Kailua to Kaloko, where the bearers of the royal remains met the man in charge of the secret burial cave, and together they placed the bones in the same depository used for Kahekili. [39] Kamakau presents a description of this burial place, relating:

Kaloko [pond] is another famous burial pit; it is at Kaloko, in Kekaha, Hawaii. [In a cave that opens into the side of the pond] were laid Kahekili, the ruler of Maui, his sister Kalola, and her daughter, Keku'iapoiwa Liliha, the grandmother of Kamehameha III. This is the burial cave, ana huna, where Kame'eiamoku and Hoapili hid the bones of Kamehameha I so that they would never be found. [40]

Kamehameha's burial place has been a subject of long conjecture, and will probably never be identified beyond doubt. On the basis of traditional sources, however, and on the basis of a lack of any solid evidence for an alternative site, it is thought to be at Kaloko.

In 1887 King Kalakaua designated a man named Kapalu, who had guided him to a burial cave at Kaloko in which he supposedly beheld Kamehameha's bones, as overseer and keeper of the "Royal Burial Ground" at Kaloko. A year later Kalakaua wrote that he ordered Kapalu to retrieve the bones, which the king took to Honolulu and deposited in the Royal Mausoleum in Nu'uanu Valley. [41] There is some question as to whether the bones were authentic and differing accounts exist as to what happened to them in later years. Barrère, in commenting on the Kamehameha burial question, states:

it is obvious that conflicting stories were given by informants named and unnamed since the early 1820s. The earliest stories were no doubt purposely misleading; the later ones are mainly versions of the earlier, with the embellishments to be expected in the retelling of oral traditions. If, despite vehement denials, the bones Kalakaua obtained at Kaloko and deposited in the Mausoleum in Nuuanu were indeed those of Kamehameha, they were spirited away from there before March of 1918, and this story too becomes but another version of the tale of the bones.

Let those who will, profess knowledge of the hiding place of the bones of Kamehameha — "The morning star alone knows. . . ." [42]

4. Association with Kamehameha II

Another early reference to the Kaloko area states that after Liholiho's meeting with the ali'i at Kawaihae shortly after his father's death, when discussions were held to resolve political and economic issues plaguing the kingdom, the young heir went to Honokohau to consecrate a heiau. Because he was intoxicated, however, the ritual was considered imperfect. It was immediately after this incident that he returned to Kailua and abolished the kapu system. [43]

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001