Molokai’s West End
Uncovering Maunaloa’s rich Hawaiian history.
By Catherine Aki
When pineapple began to phase out, the roads on the West End were opened up and the gates unlocked through the efforts of Hui Ala Loa.
As a result, the coastline from Kaunakakai to Halena became open to vehicular travel. At the time, we were building a wall around our house requiring rocks. So on a weekly basis, we would drive the Pala`au road to a ridge located just before the old Kolo wharf to pick up a truck-load of stones.
The stones became scarce as we continued to mine them so we began searching for a new area. Where the road splits at Halena to go up to Maunaloa, there was a bunch of stones laid out in a flat pattern. It looked like easy picking to some in our group, so against my better judgment, we took the rocks.
Immediately after dumping them in the yard I had a series of dreams of Hawaiian warriors dancing Maori style, outside my window. They were chanting “We’re going to get you”. In the dreams I told them my house was blessed and the dreams ended. However, being shaken up, I began asking people about the area where the stones were from. I soon found Paka`a had lived someplace around there.
So who was Paka`a? Looking him up in Catherine Summer’s book, “Molokai: A Site Survey” there was one page condensing his story from six sources and an “x” on a map where his house still is. Not knowing where “x” was located within the landscape and lacking the motivation to look, the episode faded into the background of raising kids.
Fast forward twenty years and Paka`a had resurfaced as a result of nearly unlimited opportunities to explore the West End. This time I dreamt of flying over Maunaloa. A man’s voice said, “You will know everything there is to know about the West End” as if it was a prediction.
I began relocating many of the sites noted in Catherine Summer’s book. At times, kupuna would share what they knew as we visited the sites, or they would act as an advisory group to the ongoing process. It was a mix of local informants, scholarly research and through the land itself, which Molokai’s past began to reveal itself.
Although the West End is dry and seemingly uninhabitable, of the four most renown Molokai stories, that of Lanikaula, Kalaipahoa, Ka’ana, and Paka’a, the latter three occurred on this arid side of the island. What surprises me is how many details there are in Paka`a’s story. In one account, there are 70 pages of a 120 page book; much more than the single page of Catherine Summers’ condensed version.
What’s more, the story and various tangents cover the entire south west coast from Pala`au to La`au. Even more surprising, there is an account of a mile long sweet potato field which once grew in Maunaloa and was capable of feeding many people.
Finding the stone paved trail which went from Kopala, the potato fields, to Kamanamana, Paka`a’s house, took a year of searching. It was through this process of walking Maunaloa and the West End that Paka`a’s story began unfolding, with the landscape uniting the remaining legends into a continuum.
In the next series of articles, the retelling of these legends will weave the countryside into revealing the West End.