Paka`a’s Potato Fields
In the previous episode of the Paka`a legend, we learned about Paka`a’s time on the west end of Molokai and the origin of several of the place names there. But, with a typo, a mistake was made. It should have been I`oli as the apana and hilltop, not Ilio.
Different authors provide a diverse perspective of Paka`a. Most present Paka`a as a man ousted from political power who goes into exile to save his life. However, Samuel Kamakau’s view is less flattering. He says that Paka`a deserts Keawenuiaumi, his lord, which creates trouble. Yet, Kamakau still acknowledges Paka`a as one of the ali`i’s favorites, which is why he sets out to look for Paka`a.
Kamakau’s version tells us that Keawenuiaumi’s people had heard of a man at Kalua Koi who might be Paka`a. In addition, Paka`a gets word that Keawenuiaumi is seeking him. It is afterward that Paka`a and Keawenuiaumi dream of each other. Then they begin their respective preparations for a future meeting.
Keawenuiaumi’s travel delays were caused by supernatural birds, which prevented the building of his canoe. These birds would land on a tree and it would become rotten after it was cut down. The legend of Pikoi is found within the Paka`a story. However, that is for another time, suffice to say, the ali`i’s double hull canoe took some time to build.
Which gave Paka`a time to prepare.
Paka`a takes Kua Paka`a to the uplands to plant sweet potatoes. Modern landmarks locate his fields in the area from the Maunaloa Cemetery, past the satellite dishes, past the Doppler radar station, to the old Del Monte golf course.
What I found interesting when I walked the length of his sweet potato fields is that stones were used to form the planting mounds. The rocks acted as mulch to hold the moisture, collect dew and anchor the starter vines. This planting style is similar to the Kona field system. When Vancouver visited Hawaii (around 1793), some of his crew wrote about their time on the Big Island. They provided details about 400 acres of Kona farming.
Today, about 12 acres of the Kona fields are still preserved using those ancient methods. Paka`a followed the same practice on Molokai.
Kamakau tells us that Paka`a’s fields were located from the uplands of Punakou to the “summit on the west side of the disk (maika) playing site of Maunaloa”. They were about a mile long and half a mile wide. For you old timers, the ulamaika field was located just north west of the piko stone. George Cook writes that Paka`a’s trail went from Paka`a’s house to the hilltop of Kopala. But that part was destroyed with the planting of pineapple in the early 1920’s. These descriptions help locate the fields in modern times.
In the next episode, Paka`a disguises himself while encountering his enemies.