Native Hawaiians practice their culture on Kahoolawe

KAHOOLAWE (HawaiiNewsNow) – Before stepping foot on Kahoolawe, or Kanaloa as it was once called, guests must chant a request to come ashore.

Oct 19, 2010 7:52 

Guests chant a request to land on Kahoolawe Guests chant a request to land on Kahoolawe
Davianna McGregor Davianna McGregor
Some believe this to be a sun dial Some believe this to be a sun dial
A rain ko'a A rain ko’a
Kaliko Baker Kaliko Baker
By Teri Okita

It is the first of many traditions practiced at this cultural reserve – where, 20 years ago this week, military target bombing on the tiny island came to an end.

“What we envision is that this island will be a center for deeper learning about Hawaiian science and Hawaiian or indigenous wisdom about land and natural resources,” says Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commissioner, Davianna McGregor.

In the middle of the island, a mysterious, large rock hovers precariously over a deep cliff. Because of the markings and its location, some believe it’s a sun dial that helped ancient Hawaiians track the seasons. Native Hawaiians hope to use it again.

“When is the best time to fish on Kanaloa? When is the best time to plant on Kanaloa? How can we, with the knowledge of the seasonal changes, best bring this island back to life?” wonders McGregor, as she looks at the ancient rock.

Scholars aren’t sure how the boulder got there, and it’s the only one of its kind in the islands – leading some to refer to it as the “Stonehenge of Hawaii”.

Over the years, they’ve documented hundreds of other traditional sites, like petroglyphs, which dot the area around the mysterious rock. The entire island of Kahoolawe is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arid, windy conditions dominate this island – prompting caretakers to build a rain ko’a, a ceremonial site where Native Hawaiians pray for downpours from neighbor islands.

Kaliko Baker, a member of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana says, “The rain garland around the islands of Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, and back to Maui – those rains will help re-green Kahoolawe.”

As scholars make new discoveries, they say Kahoolawe isn’t just a historical record of what was but a promise of what will be. “It symbolizes that we can be the traditional Kanaka that we were,” explains Baker.

The last thing guests see as they leave the island is another cultural site on the hillside. It’s the place where Native Hawaiians will someday welcome in a sovereign government entity.