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Wednesday, April 12, 2000

By Gary T. Kubota, Star-Bulletin
Daniel Palakiko chants at a stone platform in Lahaina,
where Moku'ula Island and Mokuhinia Pond are buried.

Lahaina walking
tour honors
Hawaiian history

Visitors take a culturally
sensitive journey into the
kingdom's former capital

By Gary T. Kubota


LAHAINA, Maui -- As a group of visitors watched, Daniel Palakiko placed an offering on a stone platform to welcome the tourists and honor an island and pond that once was the home of Hawaiian royalty and a legendary dragon goddess.

The group listens quietly when told that what once was Moku'ula Island and the surrounding Mokuhinia Pond is buried beneath their feet, under the basketball courts, baseball fields and tennis courts of what is now the 14-acre Malu'ulu'olele County Park.

A pre-1913 photo of the pond and isle.

The offering is made as part of a walking tour of Lahaina with an emphasis on the native Hawaiian history of a city that once was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom under Kamehameha I.

"For the first time in a long time, we Hawaiians have an opportunity to tell our story," said Akoni Akana, executive director of Friends of Moku'ula. "We're introducing native history to visitors in a way that is culturally sensitive."

Akana hopes the tour will help his group's efforts to restore the island and pond. The hour-long tour, including refreshments, is conducted by Maui Nei, a company affiliated with the Friends of Moku'ula. Half of the $25 cost of the tour goes to the Friends.

The islet and surrounding Mokuhinia pond, where the dragon goddess Kihawahine once guarded Hawaiian royalty, fell into disrepair after the capital of Hawaii shifted from Lahaina to Honolulu in the early 1850s. The Pioneer Mill Co. filled in the pond in 1913.

The remains of King Kamehameha's wife Keopuolani and other royals were exhumed from Moku'ula and transferred to the nearby Waiola Church cemetery.

By Gary T. Kubota, Star-Bulletin
Tour guide Kamoi Kahaialii shares stories of Hawaii's
history with visitors. Behind him is the iron-fenced
royal graveyard in Lahaina.

Akana said records indicate that at least 16 persons of royal lineage were buried at Moku'ula and he is not sure if some of their remains are buried beneath the park.

Bishop Museum archaeologists found a human burial, fragments of bones, and plaster -- possibly from a mausoleum on the island -- during test excavations in the early 1990s, he said.

Akana said preliminary tests indicate the site may be older than what has been the accepted date of the first migration of Polynesians to Hawaii between 350 and 450 AD.

He said test excavations outside the park are needed to determine the exact size of the pond.

The Friends of Moku'ula hopes to obtain a lease for the park once an alternate recreational site is developed.

The group received $130,000 in federal and state grants in 1998 to help with their efforts to restore the pond. Akana said in the past fiscal year, the foundation received $400,000, and funding is expected to grow to $1.2 million in the next fiscal year from federal, state and private donations.

Besides what used to be Moku'ula Island, the Maui Nei walking tour leads visitors along the shoreline to discuss the arrival of the Polynesians to Hawaii and examine the double-hulled sailing canoe Mo'olelo resting near the shoreline.

They walk down the back streets of Lahaina along Wainee Street to the royal burial enclosure at Waiola cemetery, then down Luakini Street to the ministry of the Rev. Lucky Kaahumanu for refreshments.

Kaahumanu offers guests free samples from his fruit trees, a look at native wood carving, and a tour of his greenhouse where he raises monarch butterflies.

Visitors also tour the former home of the Rev. Dwight Baldwin, a physician and also one of the early missionaries from New England.

The tour ends at the Hauola Stone, the birthing rock of royalty near Lahaina Harbor.

The walking tour can be hot under the Lahaina sun. But tour guide Kamoi Kahaialii, a Lahaina resident, said he enjoys sharing his knowledge about Lahaina history.

"Imagine, they're paying us for something we like to do," Kahaialii said.

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