Kamehameha Investment Corporation for restoration of sacred sites of Keauhou including Hapaiali‘i and Ke‘eku heiau
Keauhou, in the ahupua‘a of Kahalu‘u on the island of Hawai‘i, holds some of Hawaii’s most culturally significant ancient sites and historic event locations that forever changed Hawaii’s history.
Most of these sites are obscured by earlier development and ravaged over time by nature, including earthquakes, tidal waves and high surf.
Because Hawaii’s commitment to its cultural past has often been overshadowed by community development goals, landowners often wrestle to find a balance between cultural responsibility and economic need. This pattern of community mistrust posed a problem for Keauhou in early community relationship building as the conversation about restoring Hawaiian cultural sites within the resort began.
Kamehameha Investment embarked on a monumental restoration campaign to reconstruct the venerable Hapaiali‘i and Ke‘eku heiau and to complete research on nearby Kapuanoni heiau.
As they planned the restoration of the first site, it became clear that cultural protocol and unique environmental elements would be the center of the project and that deep community involvement would be key.
The cultural team was tasked with teaching those involved—including native Hawaiians, local residents and local area high school students—the daily rituals that connected this modern day restoration team to cultural practices.
As a first step in the restoration, students from Kealakehe High School and Ke Kula 0 Ehunuikaimalino, a native Hawaiian Charter School, worked alongside cultural and archaeological specialists to research and compose plane table maps of Kapuanoni heiau.
This created an opportunity to engage these students in Hawaiian culture and archaeology. Through this program, students had the opportunity to be a part of the future as they mapped the past and earned school credits.
Kumu (teachers) spent time in the classrooms of participating local high schools to share with the haumana (students) cultural knowledge that would be required of each of them. The kumu also taught protocol, proper conduct, prayers and chants in reverence to the sacred site.
Hapaiali‘i heiau was the first to be restored. Carbon-dating indicates that this heiau was initially built sometime between 1411 and 1465. Built on the ocean’s shoreline and completely surrounded by water at high tide, this ancient temple was a platform heiau and used for prayers.
The restoration team was comprised of noted archaeologists, cultural practitioners and Hawaiian experts in uhau humu pōhaku, or dry stack masonry. The team used measurements and research from 1906 maps of the inner wall and 1952 maps of the outer wall. The restored Hapaiali‘i heiau measures 150 feet by 100 feet.
The team began moving stones on July 25, 2007. With the exception of the finishing layer, all of the stone used in its restoration was recovered from the surrounding area.
The restoration of Hapaiali‘i heiau on December 21, 2007, the day of the winter solstice, and a date of great importance to the site. A new discovery made during restoration of Hapaiali‘i heiau points to the setting sun’s path. When standing behind a certain stone and looking at the setting sun, one can see the precision of the ancients. When the sun sets on the southwest corner of the heiau, this is winter solstice, equinox is center point, and summer solstice marks its northwest corner.
Long-term restoration plans will continue to identify and research cultural and historical sites within 100-plus acres of archaeological preserves found throughout Keauhou. Today, after more than five years of community discussion and research, Keauhou is well on its way to achieving its vision of a resort where culture is the new business model and cultural sites and educational activities restore Hawaiian presence within its community.
Accepting on behalf of Kamehameha Investment Corporation is Bishop Holdings President Greg Chun. Dr. Chun is joined by members of the project team, including Keone Keawe, Billy Fields, Darlene Martin, Ross Wilson, Debbie Baker, Laura Aquino and Mahealani Pai.
This list of Hawaii’s historic properties is provided as a public service by Historic Hawaii Foundation. It is not the official list of properties designated on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places. For official designations and determinations of eligibility, contact the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaii at 808-692-8015.