Native Hawaiian sacred sites were destroyed by the Lahaina fires, but – as an area scholar writes – their stories will continue to exist

Native Hawaiian sacred sites were destroyed by the Lahaina fires, but – as an area scholar writes – their stories will continue to exist
23 March 2024 J.W.H

Native Hawaiians are devastated by the recent wildfires swept across Lahainaon Maui, killing dozens of residents and destroying lots of of homes, buildings, Christian churches and Buddhist temples.

It's not only buildings and monuments which can be necessary to Native Hawaiians. This region of Maui has an extended history.

It has been revered by indigenous people for generations as a sacred place. In the nineteenth century, it served as the house and burial place of Hawaiian royalty and have become the primary capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Said Carmen Lindsey, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in a press release that “Lahaina holds some of the most historically significant cultural properties and the highest sacred remains of our ancestors.”

as Local scholar who studies the environment and religion of indigenous peoples, I’m concerned about how environmental changes, corresponding to the catastrophic Lahaina fire, affect sacred sites.

Ancient connections

Lahaina is revered by Native Hawaiians since it has long been their home Kihawahine, the girl who transformed into the goddess of the showor the supernatural shape-shifting lizard in Hawaiian religion. Her fundamental home was a fishpond in Mokuʻula, a small island in Lahaina considered a “piko,” or center of traditional religious and political activity. Native Hawaiian royalty lived nearby to be near Kihawahine and her supernatural power.

The history of the region can also be related to King Kamehameha. When Kamehameha, the “ali'i ʻai moku,” or paramount chief of the Hawaiian Islands, succeeded in uniting all of the Hawaiian islands in 1810, he made Lahaina, Maui, his royal residence.

Portrait of King Kamehameha III of Hawaii, aged 11.
Robert Dampier via Wikimedia Commons. Honolulu Museum of Art.

He selected this place to be close Kihawahine, the guardian spirit of his wife Keopupolani. He then paid tribute to Kihawahine, which ensured that his house would proceed to function leaders.

In the next years, Lahaina became the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Hawaii under Kamehameha and his descendants. The capital remained in Lahaina until 1845, when King Kamehameha III moved it to Honolulu, Oahu.

The Kiwahine's earthly home modified dramatically with the arrival of American colonization and capitalism on the island of Maui within the nineteenth century. Sugar cane corporations diverted water feeding the fish pond and freshwater springs at Mokuʻula for irrigation, which caused the pond to dry up. Then, within the early 1900s, the U.S. Territory of Hawaii filled the stays of the pond with dirt, making a public park.

Efforts are underway restore Moku'ula in Lahaina and revive its history as a sacred place for Native Hawaiians. However, these efforts might be dramatically impacted by the destruction brought on by the Lahaina Fire.

Restoration efforts in Moku'ula.

What will the longer term bring?

Scientists say devastating wildfires just like the one in Lahaina have gotten more frequent and intense attributable to climate change.

Chairwoman Lindsey of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs also sees other influences. “There are fires today partly due to the climate crisisthe history of colonialism on our islands and the lack of the suitable to manipulate our 'aina and wai [land and water],” she said.

The historic buildings and cultural assets of this place might be lost endlessly. This sense of loss is summed up in Lindsey's words: “We watched as our precious cultural assets, our physical connection to our ancestors, our places of memory – everything went up in smoke.”

But the stories of Kihawahine and Hawaii's sacred places will continue to exist.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”