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Upland field

Upland field at Hoepa.


The Kawaihae Uka area was the major agricultural region in the Kawaihae ahupua‘a, and this is described in the Kawaihae Uka section of the Native Place chapter. But there was also limited agriculture taking place down at Kawaihae Bay area, despite the arid conditions. Early Western accounts, though often describing the area as barren and desolate, also mention groves of trees, particularly coconut.



"Coconut trees, we had lots of them," Lani recalls. "In Kawaihae, we didn’t have oranges, or apples and stuff like that, so we ate coconuts as a fruit. We liked the juice, it was good. The coconut milk was very good. My Dad, every Wednesday he would climb the trees. He had some kind of spike that he would go up, every Wednesday.

"So every Wednesday we would have fresh coconut juice and we’d scoop out whatever is inside the shell. We don’t like the dry ones. The dry ones, they used that to make haupia or kulolo. I like the fresh ones. The meat is soft, you can just scoop it, and the juice is so sweet."



A Samoan variety of coconut that Papa is growing at his Kawaihae home.


Young trees

Young trees growing in Papa's Kawaihae garden.


“We would eat the young coconut meat with the a spoon," ‘Ilima adds, "and then we would use the older coconut to make haupia or kulolo or filipino dessert, because we had a lot of filipinos. There would be coconut candy. We made use of those coconuts.

"And then there was one kind of coconut and it came from a special tree, and the coconut would kind of ooze from the inside. It would come out and would grow on the outside like a big tumor. And this was a delicacy. It was called niu hao hao [soft meat that can be scooped from young coconuts] And it was sort of sponge-like.
And we knew just what coconut to pick, and we knew what kind of meat we’d get out of it."



Waterfront palms

Young coconut palms line the shoreline where the old village used to stand. Behind them is a thicket of kiawe trees.


“My grandfather had two coconut trees in his yard,” Mel says. “The coconut was niu ma‘alalo, which when it is green is edible and very sweet ….all of it…the fiber, water and meat. Grandpa had a kapu on these trees. Only when we had visitors were we allowed to pick two or three coconuts.

"When I went back to Kawaihae some years later, I asked my nephew about the trees. He said they were transplanted behind the coral pit. We went to look, only to find that all the trees died.”



“I think there were four or five kinds of trees that really grew down at Kawaihae," ‘Ilima says. "There was a mango tree, a guava tree, we had a kiawe tree, a coconut tree and of course a hala tree. I don’t remember any other kind of tree.

“There used to be hala trees down there at Kawaihae. We used the hala to make lauhala slippers, lauhala mat. We used lauhala mats, until they got full of sand. We had to take it out and shake it up and we beat on it to take the sand out. Of course we beat it to shreds.

"Mom would make the mats. And usually they made lauhala when it rained, which was very seldom. Because then the lauhala gets soft, very pliable. And you could work with it."


Lauhala mats

Lauhala mats.


Hala (pandanus) fruit. The leaves have thorns (kuku) along the edges that need to be removed (hemo) when processing the leaf for weaving.


“There’s lots of work. You need to pick it and you need to hemo all the kuku from both sides and the center spine, and then depending on what you’re making, you need to boil it to whiten it. But if it’s just for home use, then they didn’t do all of that. And then you need to roll it up and unwind it, roll it up, unwind, to soften it. Roll up, unwind, roll up, unwind.

"And then you would cut it in strips. So how Mom did it, my Dad would get a piece of wood and he would put all these nails, so many inches apart. And then you would put the hala leaf on and pull. And then it would be cut in shreds.”

Click here to learn about lauhala weaving from Tan Floren of Guam.


"My grandfather owned a mango farm also," Lani says, "and we had to work there every summer. Right up the hill, after you pass the road to Spencer Park. And people would come and buy mangos. I used to be like a monkey, I used to climb the trees and pick the mangos and my mother would be down, I would throw them to her. Or sometimes I would go up there with a bag around my waist.

"We had a little shack on the side of the road. My Dad used to stand over there and sell mangos. Five mangos for 25 cents. People would come and order by the bags full. They would take the green mangos, a whole bag full for about $3.00 only. And they would make mango chutney with them.

"There are no trees there now. Not any more, no. Somebody else bought it and there are no mango trees any more."



"And then we had a tamarind tree. It was a sour fruit, a very sour fruit. And we used to sell it to the Filipinos. I don’t know what they did with it, but they used to buy them by the bags.

"Sometimes my mother made cracked seed, so we had tamarind cracked seed. She would cook it with brown sugar and all that. It tasted good. And sometimes we'd take bags and go to school and the kids would say, ‘what are you eating?’ ‘Cracked Seeds, you want some?’ ‘Yea.’ ‘Here, have some.’ It doesn’t look like cracked seed, but it sure tasted like cracked seed.

"We just had one tamarind tree, and we were the only ones that had one. And once people learned how to make cracked seed with it, we sold a lot."



Mango tree, at Pua's house in Kawaihae.



Tamarind pods, which contain a sour, fruity pulp.


“You could buy poi that was pa‘a and was wrapped with ti leaf. It was hard and big”, Mel gestures with his hands, “and when you mix the poi, go like that (expands)!” Mel adds, “When you pau eat, that was $5.00 worth of poi.”

“Yeah, really ono too, the poi,” Papa reminisces. “One big bowl. You had kelemania, that is what you call a crock or something. But they know exactly how much you going to get out of this amount. So when you add water, you mix it, it come this much. And you know that takes care of the family. When you mix it, if it’s hot when you mix them up, you get about 3 or 4—always double. So that’s why you always pounded hard, don’t add too much water. Let the family mix it."

“But when they make it hard,” Papa points out, “that’s triple the amount you see, so you get more.”


"My grandfather was working for Parker Ranch," Lani continues, "and every week they would deliver poi to our place. They brought the poi from Waipi‘o. They’d come down on a mule, and when you get sort of up the hill, there is a truck waiting for them to deliver it to the stores and different places. They would leave it outside on the stone wall, and you’d go out there and get it.

"My Dad would go down to Waipi‘o and pick up a bag of taro and bring it up, and we would make the poi. He would put everything in a barrel, with the wood under it, and he'd say, ‘tomorrow at 2:00 o’clock, light this fire so that by the time I get home, you and I are going to make poi.’ ‘You and I going to make poi?’ ‘Yup.’

"So I helped my Dad make poi. I had to learn all of that. After we peeled it, my Dad would pound it. We had a big wooden board, and we would pound it with the big poi pounder. A lot of work, but I enjoyed doing it."


Mule Train

A mule train of taro climbing the steep road out of Waipi‘o Valley. Photograph courtesy of the Bishop Museum.



Lowland field

A large lowland field can still be seen near Mau‘umae.

"I think kids should be learning like that today. It’s something you’ll never forget. If you never learned about, or didn’t find out about it, you will never ever know out about it. So I loved doing it. I really did. When I explained that to my children, they said, ‘that’s crazy, don’t you think it’s cheaper to go to the market and pick up a bag?’ I said ‘In those days, they didn’t sell it in a market; you would have to order it from somebody that lives in Waipi‘o.’ So I did all of that. It was a lot of fun. And my Dad used to make kulolo."

Click here to learn about making kulolo.



"My grandfather used to plant outside of Pu‘u Kohola Heiau,” Mel says, “He planted sweet potatoes and squash, and had one patch of watermelon. It was the sweetest watermelon I ever tasted in my life."

“Kalua Loa, that’s the name of that place,” Papa says. “That used to be terraces in there. And the ‘auwai runs like that. All irrigation coming from mauka. When it rains in Waimea, we have the flow, so it’s a flood system.

"Just like you talk about automatic system, Hawaiians knew that already. So when the water comes down, it flows in this patch, fills up, moves on to the next patch, and down the line. They don’t have to be there turning the water on this patch, no. It’s automatic. Fills up, overflows to the next one, overflows to the next one and out, that’s all you need, the rest goes out to the ocean.

"But when the Marines came in, they leveled out the place. You don’t see that any more."



A stone corral remains near the area where Mel's grandfather used to farm.

1883 Map

Kathleen Kelly's redrawing of George E. Greeley Jackson's 1883 map of Kawaihae shows two plantations, one behind what is now Spencer Beach park, the other at Waiku‘i. From Kelly 1974: 13.


"This farm here, my great grandfather, William Paul Akau, he and his first wife lived in this piece here and they farmed this area," Papa said in a 1997 interview. "And his first wife is buried in this farm. And below here there's a lot of burials, of people who used to live in that area. This used to be another farm, old man Ka‘aloa.

"And then makai of that the La‘au family, Oliver La‘au. He used to be the park keeper of Spencer Park. These other farms I don't know who farmed. There's a few more scattered. And then makai here, the La‘au family, another La‘au, the sister used to live here. The name of the place is Waiku‘i. Annie La‘au, that's the sister of Oliver La‘au" (Chiogioji & Hammatt 1997: 54).



“We never really wanted for anything,” ‘Ilima remarks, "because we had it there."

More about places and traditions
in the Kawaihae area is discussed in the next chapter, Footprints.



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