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Ha'ena Shoreline from the air.

Ha'ena Shoreline from the air.
Photo courtesty of Greg Vaughn

"On the way to Kaua‘i, Makani-kau, chief of the winds, god of love, crossing the channel between O‘ahu and Kaua‘i in his wind form, saw some people in a boat chased by a big shark. He leaped on the canoe and told the frightened people he would play with the shark and they could stay near without worry. Then he jumped into the sea. The shark turned over and opened its mouth to seize him, but he climbed onto it, caught its fins, and forced it to flee through the water. He drove it to the shore and made it fast among the rocks. It became the great shark stone, Koa-mano, "shark warrior," Pa‘ihulu of this century, needing to travel to Kalalau, would come to this rock and offer prayers and food to a shark. The shark would then carry the kahuna to Kalalau and back again."
Frederick B. Wichman,"Kaua‘i: Ancient Place-Names and Their Stories".



The presence of Koa-mano by the sea at Ha‘ena reflects the importance of this transitional area between land and sea, and the importance of how these two worlds work together in Hawaiian life. By the Sea much of Hawaiian life was and is carried out. The sea provides food, transportation, relaxation, and sport. Seaside is also one of the better places at Ha‘ena for agriculture, as the rich alluvial soil at the base of Limahuli Valley provided a rich area for taro and sweet potato farming. In the subsequent chapter we will see how population densities were high in this area, now known as Ha‘ena State Park.



Ha'ena Shoreline Map.


The map above designates most of the places discussed in this section. There are, no doubt, many, many more place names and activity sites that are not included here, including many that are no longer recalled. As practices such as the collecting of limu (seaweed) and various kapus have fallen out of use, the places associated with them are no longer remembered. We believe, however, that there are still people at Ha‘ena who have much of this knowledge.



One particular use of the shoreline area that is no longer practiced is the use of sand dunes for burials. At Ha‘ena this was apparently a common practice in ancient times, providing an important cultural area for Hawaiians and an important study area for archaeologists.

The presence of buried remains in the Ha‘ena dunes has been known by scientists for a long time. William T. Brigham, a man who would become head of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, visited the area in 1865 and noted "a burial place in the sands on the beach, and we saw several skulls and other bones lying exposed."



Carol Silva's study of the lands within Ha‘ena State Park includes a discussion of the dune burials. She cites various authorities who suggest that dune burials were associated with the aftermath of great battles, or that "the common people were buried in dunes and their graves were little thought of." Considering the tradition, noted in the story of Lohi‘au, regarding cave burials for ali‘i, Carol concludes,

As for the Ha‘ena commoners, the sand dunes were the most reasonable place for interment. Considering again the physical environment, Ha‘ena has limited kula lands (flat, open fields/pastures) being that the cliffs drop so sheerly to the shore. Premium kula lands would be dedicated to those uses which sustain life - auwai, taro cultivation and residences. Thus, if the dead were not buried within a family houselot, the sand dunes would be utilized. Ha‘ena's fairly sizeable resident population through time...would be reflected in more than moderate burial activity in the sand dunes."



Dune Burial

The dune burial area behind the beach at Ha‘ena.
Photo courtesty of Thomas Riley


"Well, we claim it's burial grounds," Samson says. "I don't know if it's burials or what happened, but we believe it as such because of bones found there. So I don't know whether it was designated burial, or because there are plenty bones, and then they designated that thing burial. If they had burial, or fight before and ended up there and buried in that sense, I don't know. All I know is we found--we used to come by beach, come by the sand dunes. Rough time, the thing was eaten [by the sea], all this stuff come out, skulls hanging there, and bones hanging. Stuck on the pine roots. So you can find that on most shores where the sand is eaten."



Whatever their origin and nature, the dunes at Ha‘ena remain a potent reminder of the traditional culture that thrived by the sea at Ha‘ena . More clues to the past lie in the many placenames and traditions concerning Ha‘ena 's beaches.



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