Community members allege desecration at North Shore heiau

Community members on the north shore led by anthropologist Malia Evans are claiming that a Waimea area land owner has damaged an ancient Hawaiian fishing heiau by stacking boulders up against it.

News Report
Will Caron

Community members on the North Shore are dismayed and angry by the piling of large boulders against an ancient Hawaiian fishing heiau in the Kawailoa subdivision in Kapaeloa near Waimea Bay. The boulders were discovered on Saturday while a group of faculty and students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa North Shore Field School were visiting the heiau as part of their tour of important cultural resources in the area.

The heiau, named Ke Ahu ʻo Hapuʻu, is well documented in Hawaiian oral traditions, literature and archaeological surveys. The heiau, also known as a koʻa, is unique throughout the Hawaiian islands because of its large size. It is said to have contained the image of the fishing god, Kaneaukai. Hawaiian scholar Samuel Kamakau noted that koʻa “bring life to the land by attracting fish.” Kapaeloa was a well known fishing settlement prior to European contact.

An archaeological investigation and survey was conducted in 1981-82 by the Bishop Museum. Numerous, important archaeological and cultural features and artifacts were documented; including the heiau, stone walls, enclosures, boundary markers, and basalt adzes and fishhooks among many other discoveries. The archaeological reports strongly urged the protection and preservation of these valuable resources to the developer, Oceanic Properties, a subsidiary of Castle & Cooke Inc.
Among the recommendations made to the developer was the installation of a fence with a 10-meter boundary enclosing the heiau. If those recommendations had been followed, the integrity of the heiau would not now be compromised. According to a resident of the subdivision, the boulders were brought in from a nearby vacant lot on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The resident was startled by the noise as the boulders were dumped near the base of the heiau.

According to another resident, the owner of the 4,000 square foot parcel is John Collins, owner of a home constructed on the rock outcrop within 10 meters of the heiau. Malia Evans, a Waialua resident who conducted the tour for the UH students, returned to the heiau the next day, with long-time resident Moki Labra to assess and document the damage/alterations to the structure.

Collins insists he purchased the parcel to protect the heiau from trespassers and homeless squatters. He said a Hawaiian group set up the boulders as a barrier that blocks unauthorized access.

Labra, a fisherman and cultural practitioner whose genealogical ties to the Waimea and Kapaeloa area reach back generations, was devastated by the insensitive treatment of this valuable cultural resource. He would like to see the boulders removed and the heiau maintained and protected by those who understand and value its history.

Evans, an anthropologist and co-chair of Mālama Kēia ʻĀina o Haleiwa indicated her organization and the Waialua Hawaiian Civic Club would like to work with the parcel owner to find an equitable solution that includes access, maintenance and preservation of this important cultural landscape.

The Ke Ahu o Hapuʻu complex was placed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Sites in the late 1970ʻs but de-listed in 1981 due to non-notification of landowner 45 days prior to listing. Although the heiau is not currently listed on the register, eligibility and treatment recommendations are still applicable according to a State Historic Preservation Division staff member.

The State Historic Preservation Division has been notified of this blatant disregard of historic preservation regulations that protect and preserve Hawaiiʻs valuable archaeological and cultural resources.

Mālama Kēia ‘Āina ‘o Haleiwa was formed in 2009 to advocate for the protection and preservation of the Hawaiian cultural landscape and traditional practice in the Waialua moku. The hui consists of community members from various cultural, civic and professional organizations who support Kanaka Maoli values, culture and ways of knowing.