E Hoʻi Ka Piko: Returning to Piko

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Photo: Bronson Azama

By Bronson Azama

It is in the stories of our kūpuna that we are reminded that our people were, and still are, true visionaries. Holding within us ideas that can shape the future of our islands, and arguably the world, for the better.

I frequently traverse up Haʻikū Valley, located in the ahupuaʻa of Heʻeia. There remain a handful of individuals working to bring about new life to a place that has faced detriment from the military during World War II, and thereafter during the construction of the H-3.

After our workday clearing Kānehe-kili heiau, myself and fellow volunteers gathered to eat lunch. We immediately began to satiate ourselves with ʻai and as we ate, we were fed by Aunty Mahealani Cypher, a living treasure in our community, with intimate place-based knowledge.

During this ʻaha ʻāina she shares how i ka wā kahiko (in old times), the valley was once the “hospital” of the Koʻolau, where healing plants were abundant. With each story she shares about the valley, it is as if that story becomes a strand that is eloquently braided into a lei of place-based ʻike.

The final strand is then braided in as she presents the vision that she and many of the kūpuna in our community, and those that are with us in spirit, have to establish a cultural preserve in the valley, through the nonprofit Koʻolau Foundation.

The vision features restoration of the various wahi kapu, reinterment sites for iwi kūpuna, native reforestation efforts, and repurposing the OMEGA station into a Koʻolau Museum.

With the closing of this vision and completion of this lei of knowledge, it is then placed upon all of us. This ʻike triggers a calling in our naʻau to return to mālama this place and transform it into a place of healing and learning as it once was for our kūpuna. Haʻikū then serves as a newfound piko for all of us who mālama. It is through conducting mālama ʻāina and ʻaha ʻāina that we develop a collective understanding of place, and what needs to be done for that place.

Piko can be both a place and a practice.

It is in this work to restore the valley that we develop a connection that is hard to put into words. It is a connection that is seemingly woven into all of us through the sharing of stories, that then develops an internal drive to see that our stories go beyond memory and dreams to become a visual reality.

I encourage everyone across Ko Hawaiʻi Pae ʻĀina to find or develop a piko for community, family, and even ourselves. Finding or creating a place where the stories of our kūpuna are shared and create a desire for us to move forward and reconnect to who we are and remind ourselves of what we ought to be doing: ke aloha ʻana i ka ʻāina o Hawaiʻi. Let us set a firm foundation for nā mamo to build upon; therefore we must ask ourselves, “Where is my piko?”


Bronson Azama is a freshman at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and a graduate of Castle High School in Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu.