Maui’s Kaupō district and the village of Kaupō are located on the eastern slopes of Haleakalā. Kaupō was famous for sweet potatoes cultivated in the “rich pulverized lava” soil of the area, according to anthropologist Elspeth Sterling. Kalo and wauke were also important crops of Kaupō in old Hawaiʻi. Farming, in this mostly arid area, has been challenging…always. Industrious kānaka maoli of Kaupō took pride in their special expertise in farming and fishing in their home community.
Recently, I lifted a book from my bookshelves and read a most delightful account of a tour through Kaupō and Haleakalā crater. The book, Huakai Makaikai a Kaupō, was published by Bishop Museum in 1998. However, the original work, written by Thomas K. Maunupau, was published as a serial feature in the Hawaiian language newspaper, Nupepa Kuokoa (“The Independent Newspaper”) in 1922. Thomas Maunupau detailed the exploratory tour of Maui’s Kaupō district by Dr. Kenneth Emory, who was a new anthropologist with the museum. Maunupau shows, clearly, how well-informed community kānaka were about their homeland. Mary Kawena Pukui and Malcolm Chun translated Maunupau’s account from the original Nupepa Kuokoa publications.
A moʻolelo of Haleakalā crater that kanaka told Dr. Emory and Maunupau follows:
“On the western side of Halāliʻi is the pig pen built by Pele. There are many stone mounds here, about fifty in number, outside the pigpen. These mounds are very small, two or three stones high each. Fifty feet away on the cinder bed is a big heap of stones, 9 feet long and 3 feet wide. This cinder bed is called Ke-one-kapu (the consecrated/forbidden sand). The natives of Kaupō shared that “this rock pile marked the graves of the people who died there.”
This is the story of how they met with death: “Two men and women came here on a visit. This was a strange cinder bed, in that it was kapu to scratch on it or dig there. When they arrived there, they scratched on the cinder and as a result they were surrounded by thick fogs and covered up by cinder. Their bones were left there in the cinders of Ke-one-kapu.
“A little way farther up is another cinder bed called Ke-one-hili. Between Pele’s pig pen and Ka Moa a Pele (Pele’s fowl), [there] is a small cone. “This was where the nights began,” said the natives, “That was why the ancients name it Ka-ulu-pō.”
“Kawilinau is a bottomless pit just on the upper side of Halāliʻi. This pit directly faces the Koʻolau Gap. And, on the northwestern side of Halāliʻi is a pit called Dante’s Inferno by whites because of the intense heat of the pit.”
Several decades ago, kanaka maoli knew the history of their communities. They took pride in it. They knew their ancestors’ and communities’ accomplishments and moʻolelo (stories). Kānaka knew the location of cultural and historical sites, like heiau, battlegrounds and other important structures. They knew the fishing and limu grounds, the important events that had occurred, and important visitors who came to their community.
How much do you know about your community? I am fortunate that much is written about the area where I currently live, however, my knowledge is still very limited. Soon, a great deal more will be known about the histories of our communities…when more of the Hawaiian newspapers translations are available. Knowing the history of the area surrounding our homes makes life far more interesting and meaningful, even when your family didn’t originate there. We can embrace and enjoy knowledge, history and moʻolelo of the place where we live.