Moku and Ahupua’a of O’ahu
The ancient Hawaiians were a very well organized people. In ancient times the island of O’ahu, like all of the other Hawaiian islands, was divided into districts, called Moku. The word “Moku” means to divide in two, or to cut. You can think of Moku as administrative districts, something like a county in western cultures. If you have a large piece of land, with hundreds or thousands of square miles, it makes sense to divide it into manageable pieces, with various sub-governments that all answer to the larger governing entity. Nations have states and provinces and counties, the Hawaiians have Moku and Ahupua’a.
There are six Moku on the island of O’ahu. Going clockwise, starting at Kaena (the heat) Point, in the far Northwestern corner of O’ahu, their names are: Waialua, (two waters), Ko’olauloa, (long windward), Ko’olaupoko, (short windward), Kona, (leeward), Ewa, (crooked, bending), and Wai’anae, (water, mullet fish). Some of these names may be familiar to you today, having endured since ancient times. Kailua, (two seas), is in the Ko’olaupoko Moku. Waikiki, (spouting water), is in the Kona Moku.
Within these Moku are smaller land divisions called Ahupua’a, (pile of stones + pig). Ancient Hawaiians would carve a pig’s head out of kukui wood, and mount it on an altar of stones to mark the various land divisions. Ahupua’a typically ran from the highest mountain ridge to beyond the first offshore reef. These Ahupua’a contained everything the people needed to sustain life. There were rivers and springs to provide precious fresh water, and terraced farmland at various altitudes, all with elaborate irrigation systems, to provide various crops, primarily Kalo, (Taro). As you neared the water, aquaculture facilities were developed to provide increased access to the bounty of the sea. You can still see ancient fishponds dotting the coasts. One or two fishponds could sustain an entire Ahupua’a. You can feed yourself and some friends by throwing a net into the ocean, or you can feed thousands by creating a controlled, caged environment where thousands of fish can grow. The ancient Hawaiians were geniuses at what we would now call “urban planning.”
The Ahupua’a contained in the Moku Ko’olaupoko were called He’eia, (washed away), Kane’ohe, (male + bamboo), Kailua, (two seas), and Waimanalo, (potable water).
The Kailua Ahupua’a is bordered on the North by Mokapu (sacred district) Rd., (many ancient burial sites here), and on the south by the ridgeline at the southern end of the neighborhoods of Enchanted Lakes and Lanikai.
Kawainui, (the Big Water), Marsh is within the boundaries of Moku Kailua. The name “Kawainui” is appropriate since it covers 830 acres. Overlooking Kawainui Marsh is the Ulupo He’iau, one of the largest and most sacred places on O’ahu. “Ulupo” means “night inspiration,” a reference to the legendary Menehune, who are said to have built the He’iau under the cloak of darkness. This is a very sacred place, so treat it with great respect and reverence. I’ll be writing more about Kawainui and Ulupo soon, so watch for it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration into the Moku and Ahupua’a of O’ahu.
The Ko’olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, www.koolaupokohcc.org, is working to restore the ancient boundaries and markers. Visit their web site to see what you can do to help.
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