I have wanted to get to this place for the longest time! I rarely get out to Wahiawa or beyond so, after I got my safety-check sticker, I made sure to take full advantage of this rare and infrequent opportunity!
Over time, the writing of this blog has created a much greater sense of aloha for Hawaiian culture and it has ignited a thirst for knowledge about that culture’s history. Up until now, Kukaniloko was known to me only as “the birthing stones.” When I found my way there, I was lucky enough to find a rather interesting group of people.
This was a class of Geology students from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Apparently, Kukaniloko “is the geographic center of O’ahu…” thus making it geologically important. They were actually there with their geology professor! Talk about a stroke of luck!
I tried to get closer so that I could eaves drop on part of what the professor was saying to the class. I have to admit that I was a little taken aback listening to Dr. Scott Rowland as he told his students how an alii was birthed. “They did what???” I was thinking to myself, relatively horrified.
I’m not going to get into it but, let’s put it this way, the State of Hawai’i’s flyer about Kukaniloko says, “The birth of a child at Kukaniloko was witnessed by 36 chiefs.” This stunned me a bit because that is not the kind of birth-giving experience that I would care to deal with while bloody, sweating, and in pain.
Of course there are women today that have an audience during the birthing process. The whole visual of the process being described by Dr. Rowland just caught me off guard, I think. Of course, if you’re in that much physical distress, perhaps your only focus is on getting past that pain! Mothers can weigh in on this. Seriously, please do!
Dr. Rowland did remind everyone that, back then, this area did not look like it does now. It used to be a forested area and hence much more secluded and private. “Good point!” That made it a little better. Today, as you can see by the photos, it is wide open to the world!
I was quite impressed by how well-maintained this site has been kept after all these years! Before the class departed for its next stop, Dr. Rowland was kind enough to share a copy of his handouts. Part of the handout that had been put together for the class stated that Kukaniloko,
“is one of only two locations in Hawai’i where children of chiefs were born (the other was on Kaua’i). Kukaniloko may have been established as a royal birthing place as long ago as the 12th century. Fortunately, W.W. Goodale of the Waialua Sugar Plantation as well as the Daughters of Hawai’i made sure that this place was protected and not plowed over for agriculture.”
Thank goodness! That would have been an archeological and culturally-historical disaster!
As I surveyed the area I became curious about the slightly-elevated area pictured above. Was it ever used for rituals or halau performances or something? It sort of looked like a hula mound. Anybody in the know can share your knowledge on this too!
Any woman living in those times would have appreciated the honor it was to actually be giving birth to a chief! Hawaiians had a great deal of respect for the alii, as they do to this day. The birth of a new ruler was certainly an event to be celebrated!
It was really comforting to see how the grounds are so well kept. I was very pleased but I wanted to know more about this heiau. Again, anybody in the know on this is welcome to comment!
Dr. Rowland indicated that one of these stones was the main stone but I wasn’t close enough to the group to hear which one it was. The one in the center of the picture above may have been the one but I’m honestly not sure. I knelt down and touched the surface of the stones — they were unusually smooth and even soothing to the touch.
This sign posted by the DLNR shows that the land here is protected, as it should be. The sign has taken a beating over time but the simple message it carries is essential — “Please respect this sacred area.”
I came away moved by the beauty and serenity of this simple site that is listed on both the National and State of Hawai’i Registers of Historic Places. While feeling a little more educated about this little tidbit of our historic culture, I still remain overwhelmed by the very complex history of our State. There is still so much to uncover and talk about. And you thought you were going to get off easy!