Kānekuaʻana: The Guardian of ʻEwa from Hālawa to Honouliuli


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There is a famous saying of ʻEwa that goes, “Accustomed are the people of Puʻuloa to the travels of Kaʻahupāhau.” Kaʻahupāhau was the shark queen and guardian of the waters of Puʻuloa. Hālāwa to Honouliuli was her domain. Her law was that all men who entered the waters of Puʻuloa  would be protected. Once, a group of man-eating sharks entered into the lochs of Puʻuloa whereby Kaʻapāhau turned into a net to block the harbor entrance so that the evil sharks could not escape. Her older brother, Kahiʻukā (a thresher shark) struck and beat them with his tail so that they landed and died out of water. That is another  story for later.

Let us look, oh reader, to another guardian of ʻEwa. Kānekuaʻana was her name. She was from Nuʻumealani and was one of the moʻo (reptile like ancestor) that came to Oʻahu with Kamoʻoinanea. This Kānekuaʻana was the one who brought the oysters to Puʻuloa.

Ka loko i‘a ‘o Pāpio‘ula ma Hālawa, Pu‘uloa. Na Dampier, – Ki‘i: Bishop Museum 95665

The people of ʻEwa trusted Kānekuaʻana as their guardian because she was the one who provided them during times when there was lack of food. When the land was in distress for the lack of food, the descendants of Kānekuaʻana erected waihau, temples for moʻo spirits. The waihau was a kind of heiau for various sacrifices like hogs, coconuts, bananas, but not human beings where fires were lit to cook the sacrifices and secure the blessings for the people. It was said that the bonfires could be seen from Hālawa to Honouliuli (all of ʻEwa district). What were these blessings? They were the oysters. Historian S.M. Kamakau (1870) wrote:

The pipi (pearl oyster)—strung along from Namakaohalawa to the cliffs of Honouliuli, from the kuapa fishponds of inland ʻEwa clear out to Kapakule [near mouth of harbor]. That was the oyster that came in from the deep water to the mussel beds near shore, from the channel entrance of Puʻuloa to the rocks along the edges of the fishponds. They grew right on the nahawele mussels, and thus was the iʻa obtained.Not six month after the hau branches [that placed a kapu on these waters until the pipi should come in] were set up, the pipi were found in abundance—enough for all ʻEwa—and fat with flesh. Within the oyster was a jewel (daimana) called a pearl (momi), beautiful as the eyeball of a fish, white and shining; white as a cuttlefish, and shining with the colors of the rainbow—reds and yellows and blues, and some pinkish white, ranging in size from small to large. They were of great bargaining value (he waiwai kukukuʻi nui) in the ancient days, but were just “rubbish” in ʻEwa. (Kamakau, 1964, p. 83).

The oyster was not the only blessing from Kānekuaʻana but also the transparent shrimp (ʻōpae huna), and the spiked shrimp (ʻōpae kākala), that came from the sea into the kuapā and puʻuone fishponds. In the times of old there were many fishponds in Puʻuloa (see map). Today there are but a few left.

The native residents of ʻEwa said, “A sea that blows up nehu, blows them up in rows, is ʻEwa, until they rest in the calm of ʻEwa-of-Laʻakona.” The nehu or anchovy was another food provided by Kānekuaʻana. The nehu pala and nehu maoli filled the lochs from the entrance to the interior of ʻEwa filling all the lochs. Therefore, in the olden days the people of ʻEwa benefitted from the benevolence of Kānekuaʻana.