Photo: The Chiefly Birthing Stones of Kūkaniloko
Kapuahuawa: The Chiefly Birthing Stones of Kūkaniloko. - Photo: OHA Staff

By Taylor Asao, OHA Legacy Land Specialist & Lori Walker, OHA Interim Legacy Land Manager

The birthing stones of Kūkaniloko are considered one of the most sanctified places in Hawaiʻi. Kūkaniloko is the piko of Oʻahu where the highest ranking aliʻi were born.

The legacy of this site also includes decades of trauma from deforestation and degradation due to the sandalwood trade, ranching, and monocropping of pineapple. The property’s more recent history is one of neglect, which has led to the dense overgrowth of invasive species. What was once a healthy native forest is now an expanse of guinea grass.

In 2012, OHA acquired the 511 acres surrounding Kūkaniloko to protect and preserve the site by providing a buffer against incompatible development and ensure that future uses of the area are consistent with Hawaiian cultural values. OHA is determined to regenerate and revitalize the land (ecologically, agriculturally and culturally) to mitigate the trauma that has taken place and continue the legacy started by the aliʻi born at Kūkaniloko.

In OHA’s new strategic plan, ʻāina is one of three foundations. Restoring the 511 acres surrounding Kūkaniloko aligns with the new plan in its intention to strengthen and elevate cultural resource management practices.

This 2021 legislative session, OHA’s Legacy Land Program submitted a capital improvement project (CIP) bill, HB203 and SB309, requesting funds to return water back to these agricultural lands in Wahiawā, Oʻahu. The funding will be utilized for the construction of a water storage tank and distribution system.

This project is a crucial step towards implementing the community-driven Conceptual Master Plan (CMP) developed from 2016-2018 and approved by OHA’s Board of Trustees in 2018.

One of the three guiding values of the CMP is hoʻoulu ʻāina which speaks to growing and healing the land. OHA understands that the health of the land is intrinsically tied to the health of the lāhui. Through intensive soil remediation, native reforestation and diversified agriculture, OHA is committed to restoring these Wahiawā lands and contributing to Hawaiʻi’s long-term food security and the overall health of its people.

Pilot plots for native trees and food crops have been started at the Wahiawā property to initiate the restoration process for this wahi kūpuna. Efforts to expand, however, will continue to be inhibited without the infrastructure needed to store and distribute water consistently.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of Hawaiʻi’s vulnerabilities, particularly its dependency on imported goods. Fortifying Hawaiʻi’s agricultural systems has become ever more critical and OHA urges legislators to invest in infrastructure that supports these systems.