Na Pu'u - The Hills

The ancient Hawaiians, like most indigenous peoples, felt a deep connection with nature and explained everything from the creation of the Earth to the lava flowing from the volcanoes through the stories of their gods and goddesses.

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The lands of our project area lie within a region known by Hawaiian residents as Na ̄pu‘u, or “the hills.” The area is topographically distinct, a region of low, rolling hills standing above an otherwise flat plain sloping to the sea. In geologic terms, Na ̄pu‘u represent an exposure of relatively ancient lava at the northern edge of Huala ̄lai Volcano, erupted along with the prominent scoria cone, Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a, more than 100,000 years ago. Lavas to the south and west below the prominent ridge of Na ̄pu‘u are much younger, having erupted from Huala ̄lai within the last 3,000 to 10,000 years. North and east of Na ̄pu‘u the land is very relatively new; the lava at the surface was erupted from Mauna Loa in 1859.

Each of the hills of Na ̄pu‘u is named, from Pu‘uhululu, mauka of the Ma ̄malahoa Highway in the Pu‘u Lani Ranch subdivision, to Kapa‘akea at the makai end, about 5 km from the highway. These names are remembered by current residents and passed on to younger generations, in part through the telling and re-telling of traditions about their origin. One of these traditions describes the names of several pu‘u in the context of place names for the region and the island as a whole. Anahulu, the wife and Wa‘awa‘a the husband, were a chiefly couple from the Puna district. Among their children were two beautiful daughters, ‘Anaeho‘omalu and Puako ̄, who settled with their husbands at the places named for them in coastal Kohala, north of and within view of Na ̄pu‘u. Anahulu and Wa‘awa‘a moved from Puna district with their attendants, settling at the places named for them to be close to their daughters. A son, Mauiloa, born prematurely, is the name of a cave located next to the hill named for his mother. Pu‘uhuluhulu, mauka of the highway, is named for one of the attendants, an architect priest. Although the tradition sounds fanciful to modern ears, it is in tune with a traditional Hawaiian view of the world in which the division between nature and culture is not firmly drawn.

Within this traditional Hawaiian framework, the legend encodes not only the names of places, but the relationships among the people of those places. Thus, the lands of Pu‘uanahulu and Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a, often spoken of today as one, are husband and wife in the tradition. The tradition also speaks to the close traditional relationship between the people of these lands and the people of the arid coastal lands of South Kohala district, where the daughters of Anahulu and Wa‘awa‘a settled.

( Many thanks to T.S. Dye & Colleagues, Archaeologists, Inc. who researched and prepared the story above.)