Huakaʻi to Ulupō

January's false alarm missile attack was a good and terrible opportunity to reflect on what genuine security means to us. In December 2017, Women’s Voices Women Speak got to meet with aloha ‘āina Kaleomanuʻiwa Wong for a huaka’i to Ulupō Heiau. Before going to Ulupō, Kaleo took us to a Maunawili hike entrance at the base of Pali Highway, where signs are posted about unexploded ordnance. We learned that where Windward HPU campus exists today used to be a military training ground, Pali Camp. That the rich waterways of Maunawili was the site of one of the first water diversions on Oʻahu, to Waimānalo plantations owned by a planter named Irwin. That Maunawili was so famous for its poi that Queen Kaʻahumanu would send for it all the way from Waikīkī.

Photo: The IG post that inspired our huaka'i. Mahalo to Kaleo for letting us repost his photo.

Photo: Aunty Terri and Aiko stayed by the road next to this healthy pōpolo berry

Then we drove down to Ulupō and Kaleo shared some moʻolelo about Kailua, and the ʻili ʻāina of Kūkanono. As he talked, the wonders of that ʻāina began to shift and settle around us. The body of Olomana lying above the YMCA, cool water springs below. The stomping grounds of Kākuhihewa and Kualiʻi. A land famous for navigators, with sweet edible mud brought from far across the Pacific as proof of this story. We marveled at the excessive amount of pōhaku (some all the way from ʻEwa, from Kualoa) used to make the heiau. It is amazing this structure is standing, Kaleo shared, there is another heiau close by named Kaanahau, which was taken apart for stone for Kalanianaʻole Highway. Ulupō heiau is right by the road but still here, for some reason. We wound our way down through the work of many hands, cultivating kalo, ʻulu, niu, lāʻau, and other native plants, helping water to flow.

Photos: walking through the work of many hands

Kaleo took us to a portal, overlooking Kawainui Marsh and the gentle curves of Mahinui Ridge. A few decades ago, there were permits approved to drain the marsh and erect a shopping center here, he shared. “We like to take the keiki here and ask them what they see. Think of a swamp: what do you see? ‘Shrek!,’ they yell. ‘Alligators!’ Think of a marsh: what do you see?” Mud, grass, birds, and Kaleo reminded us: a “wildlife sanctuary” where people must be kept out to protect the environment.

“Think of a fishpond: what do you see?” The kids’ answers change, Kaleo’s face lights up too. They say “food!” “Life!” At one time, Kawainui Fishpond was the second largest fishpond on O’ahu. The low estimate is that 250,000 pounds of fish could be harvested from this pond.

Our dream is that one day this will be a fishpond again, Kaleo shared. He continued: so much fish that when they jump, they fall down to the water like pouring rain. In the meantime they grow a little food here, more and more, and bring keiki here, bring the women inmates here, bring the community back. They mālama this place and eat plate lunch. They tell these moʻolelo, to learn to see the moʻo again, beneath the Target and the Whole Foods. They remember from Kahinihini`ulaʻs story, not to overlook even the smallest child. They share food from this ʻāina to reconnect us to these relationships.

We were so moved and reinvigorated by this work of genuine security and peacebuilding, and there are many lessons planted in us that will continue to grow and feed us. Mahalo nui to the kupaianaha lands of Kailua and to Kaleo for showing us how to love and care for each other. For more about the awesome work of this hui please see their blog, at:

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