Lecture reveals sacred past of 'Legendary Lands of Wahiawa'
December 8, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The always-informative Native Hawaiian Lecture Series resumed, Nov. 20, at the Nehelani, here, as military leaders and families received a geography lesson about the lands on which several U.S. Army installations now sit.
According to guest speaker kumu hula, or master teacher, Larry DeRego and his wife, Hokulani, some of the most culturally significant sites to today's Hawaiians, include a region and district that was once located right on the soil under Schofield Barracks.
Kukaniloko is a region that previously extended from Wahiawa to Punaluu and served as the birthing place for many alii, or chiefs.
Lihue is a district whose northern-most point extended into Schofield Barracks and functioned as the training grounds for ancient nakoa, or warriors.
"Thing is, these places are not only important to us and our history, but to you as well," DeRego told the crowd of more than 120 people, which included Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI) and Lt. Col. Richard Gledhill, commander, USAG-Oahu. "Little did you all know that you would be here doing the same thing as (our ancestors) did."
Considered sacred to the ancient inhabitants of the islands, these sites served as much for learning opportunities to some early Hawaiians as they did for the preservation of royal bloodlines, he added.
"It was like a University of Hawaii to the people," said DeRego of the traditional lessons taught at these sites, most of which were shrouded in secrecy for years. "In Lihue, for example, (chiefs) would learn the ways of war and practice its strategies."
In former times, nakoa would be asked to secure the pathway along what is now known as Kunia Road, as well as the strategic location of Kolekole Pass, both of which fell within the ahupuaa, or land division, of Lihue, in order to allow high-ranking chiefs and chiefesses unlimited access to the uplands on Oahu, DeRego noted.
Meanwhile, Kukaniloko was seen as the center of the island, where key battles - including those where today's Helemano Military Reservation now stands - were fought for the control of Oahu.
The Kukaniloko region was also symbolically viewed as the piko, or naval cord, of the body, and thus, the perfect spot for alii, or chiefs, to give birth to the next generation of rulers.
"This is where the alii nui (or supreme chiefs) would study and play," explained Hokulani. "But if you weren't of high rank, in other words if you were a commoner, you were not allowed to enter."
Over the years, Kukaniloko has steadily dwindled in size, from encompassing approximately 35,000 acres during the Kamehameha dynasty, to today's miniscule 5-acre preserve, located at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and Whitmore Avenue, and upon which many ancient birthstones still rest.
Following a hula kahiko, or ancient dance, performance by Halau Hula O Hokulani that paid tribute to Kukaniloko, the DeRegos encouraged audience members to visit the historic site and feel its cultural importance.
"It's like going into church. You have to tread softly there, and don't listen from here," explained Hokulani, tapping the side of her head. "You have to listen with your tummy, because your tummy doesn't lie.
"When you visit, don't only think of the (birthing) rocks as just rocks," she added. "Let the wind blow and listen to them. They will speak to you in this sacred place, a place of our kings and queens."
After the presentation and subsequent luau dinner, event emcee Annelle Amaral, Native Hawaiian liaison, USAG-HI, credited the DeRegos for helping to shed light on the significance of these legendary Wahiawa lands for today's Soldiers.
"These are the lands that now comprise Schofield," Amaral said. "The Soldiers can now have an appreciation that the lands they train on are the same lands that our ancient warriors trained on. (Knowing this), our Soldiers can continue the legacy of the land and its people."
The "Legendary Lands of Wahiawa" presentation was the second in the Native Hawaiian Lecture Series, a program born out of Margotta's desire to bring members of the Army and Hawaiian communities together for an evening of cultural education and food.
The next presentation is slated for February.