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Leleahina Heiau

Aerial view of Leleahina Heiau

Aerial view of Leleahina Heiau.

On a hill towards the back of ‘Ioleka‘a Valley sits Leleahina heiau. In her 2012 Masters Thesis, Donna Ann Kameha‘iku Camvel—whose family has ancestral ties to Iolekaa--writes as follows:

View from Leleahina

If the invasive trees were cut down, one could see across He‘eia to Moku o Lo‘e and Mōkapu.

“The significant location of the heiau and the mo‘olelo associated with it comes from the goddess Hina. Hina is a multi-faceted deity, and her elements have to do with the ocean tides, the moon and its lunar rhythms, and the beating of kapa, another ‘ōiwi rhythmic movement of life. Her kinolau are the reefs or the papa, the laua‘e fern, limu kala, and coral. She is Hinakuluiua, the element of dropping rain.

“Hina is the initiator of movement. The coral, the moon, and the sea are the essential elements of life and Hina in the form of the coral polyp, is distinguished as the first born in the Kumulipo. Kame‘eleihiwa describes Hinaōūholoko‘amoana as ‘Hina whose womb is filled with everything from the ocean.’ A makawalu of the term Leleahina provides some interesting correlations.

  • lele: to fly, jump, leap, burst forth. To move as a meteor in the sky, an altar.
  • lelea: the kapu which the priest imposed upon awa while the chief was drinking it.
  • le‘a: joy, happiness, sexual gratification, the star Hōkūle‘a (Arcturus).
  • a: of, to, in connection with motion.
  • ‘āhina: the silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense macrocephalum)
  • hina: the color gray, gray as the head of a mākule, applied to Moloka‘i in the description of the fog around the top of the island, Moloka‘i ahina.
  • hina: leaning, falling, topple, goddess, the color gray, to blow in a straight course, of wind. Ke hina maila ka makani mai uka mai, the wind is now blowing steadily from the uplands.
Top of the Heiau

Top of the Heiau.

“None of the descriptions are tactile, with the exception of Hina’s kinolau [physical manifestations]. In the deconstruction of the term, Leleahina, it is my analysis that the heiau is a place in which to invoke, placate, or honor the element(s) of Hina in her function as the moon. Movement is pivotal, the bursting forth of rain, the color grey, not only as the color of the moon but also the nuances created by it on specific nights, i.e. the silvery gray beams that shoot through the forest, lighting it up in a silvery glow.

"As the moon, Hina is the initiator of the ebbs of the ocean tides as it controls the rhythmic movement of the ocean, responsible for the growing of sustenance, medicines, and other such growth. Hina’s movements are life giving, hence, this bursting forth, this movement, of the tides, the rain, the wind, and the ocean, are the elemental signifiers of Hina In this element she is the cohort of Lono, as initiator of growth through the rhythmic or seasonal movements necessary for sustenance.

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Fish-shaped rock found at the heiau.

“The coral polyp, the low lying reefs are the body of Hina in the element of the ocean. In this environment, she is the nesting place of life, in rhythm with Kanaloa, sparked by Kū, and mingling with Lono and Kāne.

“The connection of Leleahina in the complex of sites located in the ‘Ili of ‘Ioleka’a have to do with the ‘ili’s function as a place of learning. The heiau that are located there, have much to do with the health and well-being of kānaka ‘ōiwi, and the training of those who would be kahuna and caretakers of kāhuna and would have to have a place to learn and live. I believe ‘Ioleka’a is such a place.”

In 1930, J. Gilbert McAllister conducted the first detailed survey of archaeological sites on O‘ahu. His 1933 publication had benefited from his working with knowledgeable Hawaiian informants. Here is what he wrote about Leleahina heiau:

Leleahina heiau

"Leleahina heiau. Depression with adjoinging stone platform." Bishop Museum photo, from an archaeological survey.

"Located nearly at the foot of the palis, the heiau covers an area of 110 feet by 115 feet. Two platforms were apparently the prominent features formerly, but now the higher division on the north has been disturbed and a small graveyard 40 feet square has been built on this platform. Here Keli‘ikanaka‘ole and his wife Kopaea are said to be buried. The stones for building the heavy wall which surrounds the graves were undoubtedly taken from structures which were on the mountain side of the present burials, for there are the partial foundations of many walls which have been so badly disturbed that it is impossible to determine their former position. On the lower platform, roughly 74 feet by 110 feet, are some interesting remains, particularly that of the probable lele or anu‘u tower, which is in the southeast corner. A growth of guava, fern and some lantana now covers the site."

Leleahina diagram

McAllister's sketch of the layout of Leleahina from Sites of O‘ahu..

Leleahina heiau, southwest of He‘eia, Site 329: a. ground plan; b. perspective sketch:

  1. rock-paved platform 8 by 14 feet, 2 feet high, joining area 2;
  2. lower area 8 by 6 feet but only 1 foot high;
  3. high facing with slope approximating 45 degrees, 31 feet at west end, 50 feet at east end;
  4. terrace, dirt-paved, 65 by 110 feet, 3 feet lower than terrace 14;
  5. platform, rock-paved, 7 by 5.5 feet, height 1.5 feet;
  6. irregular paving of stones, .5 foot higher than terrace 4;
  7. stone-paved platform 12 by 15 feet, height 3 feet, with a small enclosure 5 by 8 feet on the north, wall of which is 1 foot high, floor paved with 6-inch stones and level with terrace 4;
  8. stone-paved area, east of platform 7, 5 by 7 feet by I foot high;
  9. circular stone elevation possibly pedestal of an image;
  10. area with rounded corners, lower than area 12, scattered with large stones;
  11. facing of earth and rocks 3 feet high but sloping gradually for 8 feet;
  12. terrace upon which are partial foundations of many walls which have been so much disturbed that no pattern can be determined;
  13. cemetery surrounded by walls 3 to 5.feet high and 3 feet thick, modern construction, containing apparently only one grave;
  14. (including 12 and 13), upper terrace 40 by 110 feet;
  15. earth embankment resembling low wall;
  16. two small piles of rock on two elevations running out from heiau, possibly pedestals for images;
  17. facing primarily of dirt, though many stones are scattered throughout;
  18. large rocks used at this corner.
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Portion of the walls of the cemetery enclosure.

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Inside the enclosed area.

Separated from the rest of He‘eia is an ‘ili (strip of land) out on the Mōkapu Penninsula. Here a distinct lifestyle took place in old times. This is the ‘ili of Mōkapu.



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