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


G. Description of Resources (continued)

1. Fishponds (continued)

     a) Kaloko Fishpond

Kaloko is one of the largest surviving Hawaiian fishponds and is thought to have been, if not a major source of food, at least a dependable source of fish for the community in times of need. Robert Renger's analysis of data on Hawaiian fishpond utilization has convinced him that this pond did not play a major role in the prehistoric subsistence economy of the area, but was important as an indicator of social status. [49] The present pond was originally a natural embayment that was cut off from the sea by means of a manmade seawall. The entire pond covers about eleven acres. Secondary walls in the pond form three separate areas in which fingerlings were raised or in which different species of fish were segregated. [50]

Kaloko's smaller secondary pond walls are still well preserved. Although several sections of the original Hawaiian seawall have either been destroyed or modified, enough segments of the main wall and its foundations remain to provide some indication of the original fishpond construction. [51] This pond and its seawall are considered an excellent example of the high degree of engineering skill attained by the ancient Hawaiians. Kaloko possesses the largest and thickest manmade seawall on Hawai'i and is the island's best and most impressive example of a loko kuapa type pond. [52]

map of Kaloko Fishpond
Illustration 98. Map of Kaloko Fishpond, showing subdivisions. Figure 9 in Kelly, Historical Survey of Kaloko, p. 19.

map of Kaloko Fishpond
Illustration 99. Map of Kaloko Fishpond, showing placement and progression of fishnets for harvesting. Figure 35 in Kikuchi, "Hawaiian Aqualcultural System," p. 132.

The Hawaiian word kaloko means "the pond." Although most fishponds had their own specific names, as do 'Aimakapa and 'Ai'opio Fishtrap, Kaloko Fishpond has always been referred to by this generic term that also refers to the ahupua'a in which it is located, which may indicate its antiquity and importance. Kikuchi and Belshe suggest that Kaloko was constructed after 'Aimakapa because its more massive construction would have required a well-established social and labor organization. It has a much less significant cultural assemblage associated with it, the habitation sites found near the coast and inland from this pond and the canoe shed sites at the edge of the pond suggesting a small population primarily tending to maintenance of the pond and harvesting of its products. [53]

Evidently from the time of the Great Mahele through its ownership by King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani, Kaloko Fishpond's caretaker served as an agent of the ruling chief of the ahupua'a. By 1860, fish from the pond were being sold for cash, perhaps supplementing the overlord's coffers. Later the Huehue Ranch leased the pond to caretakers. [54]

In her historical study of the Kaloko area, Marion Kelly traced the chronology of a continuing succession of Kaloko Fishpond caretakers and lessees through the early 1960s and also provided information on how the pond was fished and the experience of living near it. These residents periodically performed repair work on the walls of the pond and were responsible for developing some of the house sites surrounding it. In fact, many of these sites can be attributed to specific individuals or families. [55]

fishpond wall construction
Illustration 100. Techniques of ancient Hawaiian fishpond wall construction. Figure 27 in Kikuchi, "Hawaiian Aquacultral System," p. 53.

Kaloko Fishpond is highly respected by the Hawaiians as the burial place of Kamehameha's remains, which were interred during a ritual ceremony conducted in the traditional secret manner. It is also revered as the burial place of other high ali'i as well as of deceased respected ancestors. In addition, religious activities of the kahuna hierarchy that ruled here have long been associated with the area. These religious and cultural ties are very sacred to native Hawaiians. As the reputed burial place of the greatest of all Hawaiians — the king whose life and achievements still influence modern thoughts, attitudes, and emotions — the pond has overriding historical and cultural significance to Hawaiians. [56]

Some native Hawaiians think the pond is kapu because of a mo'o (lizard) or spirit guardian that protects it and its resources from abuse. It is thought that if the pond is treated badly, its mo'o will be angered and shower bad luck on those responsible. If the pond is well cared for, the mo'o will be benign and cooperate in fishing activities. [57] Kelly's informants have told her the mo'o is female, one person having reported seeing a "mermaid"-like figure sitting on a rock in the pond. [58]

map of Kaloko-Honokohau-Kealakehe area
Illustration 101. Emory and Soehren map of Kaloko-Honokohau-Kealakehe area with additional notations by NPS Western Regional Archeologist Roger Kelly. One of the concrete tombs near the holua is dated "1924"; the other is inscribed "W.P. Kahale, born Dec. 3, 1857, died Oct. 15, 1915." There are several other grave depressions nearby. From figure 1 in Archaeological and Historical Survey, Honokohau Area, p. 2.
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

map of Kaloko-Honokohau-Kealakehe coastal area
Illustration 102. Archeological sites along the Kaloko-Honokohau-Kealakehe coastal area. Figure 1 in Emory and Soehren, Archaeological and Historical Survey, Honokohau Area, p. 2.
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

map of Kaloko coast
Illustration 103. Detail of archeological sites along Kaloko coast. Figure 11 in Kelly, Historical Survey of Kaloko, p. 26.

map of Kaloko Fishpond
map of Kaloko Fishpond
Illustration 104. Archeological sites around Kaloko Fishpond. Top: Figure 40 in Kikuchi, "Hawaiian Aquacultural System," p. 178. Bottom: Figure 12 in Cordy, A Study of Prehistoric Social Change, p. 129.

near Kaloko Fishpond
Illustration 105. Habitation site east of Kaloko Fishpond. NPS phot, 1989.

'Queen's Bath'
Illustration 106. "Queen's Bath." NPS photo, 1989.

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001