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Grassroots campaign under way to mark Na Hono-A-Pi‘ilani

By Staff | Nov 5, 2009


WEST MAUI — Can you name the six sacred bays of Pi‘ilani?

Guests at a recent reception held seaside on the grounds of historic Holy Innocents Church in Lahaina were asked that very question and only two out of 70 knew the answer.

The gathering launched a grassroots campaign to establish an 18-mile Scenic Byway between Honokowai and Kahakuloa memorializing Na Hono-A-Pi‘ilani (the Bays of Pi‘ilani) “before the history is lost,” Deidre Ruiz-Rockett explained.

Ruiz-Rockett and fellow Lahainaluna High School graduate Chyna Colorado organized the event, working hand-in-hand with Lahaina-born Hulu Kupuna Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart to advance her vision.

“I would like to recognize the legacy of Mo‘i Pi‘ilani,” Bekeart told the Lahaina News in a 2007 interview.

“I want the people, succeeding generations, to know about the importance of West Maui and this history of the Hawaiian people,” the educator added.

Colorado agrees: “With the steady increase of development on Maui, we are at risk of losing much, if not all, of the history that can still be seen within the natural landscape. I feel that projects such as ours are essential to saving and preserving Maui’s old history for ourselves and, most importantly, future generations.”

Referred to as Pi‘ilani the Great, the beloved monarch was attributed with uniting West and East Maui under one rule in the 15th century.

He ruled from the royal capital in Lahaina, where he was born and is known to have died. His residence was at Moku‘ula.

During the peaceful reign of the Pi‘ilani dynasty, Maui prospered, signified by a boom in agriculture and construction of heiau, fishponds, roadways and irrigation systems.

According to Bekeart, other islands in the chain were not experiencing the same success. “Oahu was overpopulated, and the land was less arable.”

To protect the West Side shores from frequent raids for food and goods from the other islands, the  powerful leader posted warriors as lookouts above the bays to “make sure there were only friendly canoes passing by,” Bekeart commented.     

Connecting Na Hono-A-Pi‘ilani with a ribbon of signage wrapping around the West Maui Mountains is Bekeart’s goal, including Honokowai, Honokeana, Honokahua, Honolua, Honokohau and Hononana.

“Every segment has a meaning, has an important moment in history,” Bekeart continued. “This is a natural museum — part of the history of Pi‘ilani is carved here.”

Bekeart has sought an avenue to commemorate Na Hono-a-Pi‘ilani for at least five years, but the road has been paved with hurdles.

Recently, Colorado and Ruiz-Rockett connected with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) in Honolulu and learned about the National Scenic Byways Program, resulting in the reception held two weeks ago Friday at sunset to launch the grassroots campaign.

In a message to reception attendees, DOT Director Brennon Morioka wrote, “Last Spring, the State of Hawaii became the 50th state to join the National Scenic Byways Program.”

“Scenic Byways are highway corridors which are determined to have outstanding intrinsic qualities that make them unique and integral to their communities,” Morioka noted.

“These include such qualities as scenery, recreational activities, cultural sites, archaeological features, natural areas and/or historic qualities,” the state executive continued. “Scenic Bylaws are meant to tell a story and to share some of the uniqueness of the area with those from both near and far.”

“Listing of a state scenic byway corridor,” Morioka added, “can have tangible economic benefits that support state and local transportation missions, natural resource preservation and to achieve tourism goals… It also provides opportunities for byway-specific federal grants for projects along these designated corridors.”

In order to reach designation status, every community along the route must support the program, and the event was attended by community leaders, local politicians and other interested and influential West Siders.

Mark LeDoux has helped “Aunty Edna” with documentation of the history of Pi‘ilani.

“Clearly, the corridor has historic value for Maui and Hawaii. For me, the six hono are so very different from one another. The journey from Honokowai to Hononana takes me from the busy developed part of West Maui to the rural, wild, agricultural and undeveloped lands along the north coast,” LeDoux said.        

Michael Moore of Old Lahaina Luau agrees with LeDoux’s assessment. He said that honoring the historical and cultural importance of Na Hono-A-Pi‘ilani, as well as the phenomenal natural beauty of the bays, is something everyone can appreciate and hopefully help to implement.

Su Campos is the rental manager at Honokeana Cove, situated immediately mauka of one of the six sacred bays.

“I think this project is awesome. It is about time for West Maui to embrace our heritage. We’re not just about big hotels and time shares. We need to recognize what this place is all about. It is such a special place,” she said.

Although unable to attend, Aunty Edna enjoyed some of the event festivities by telephone from the Big Island, where she now resides with her daughter, Marquita Denison

Denison wrote the next day, “Again, Mahalo for honoring Mom and her work on the Pi‘ilani project. Last night was the culmination of many long months of research, long-hand composition (old-school!) and education for her on the significance of this chief’s contributions to the western coast of Maui and its history.

“And,” Denison continued, “how wonderful that many of you have taken Mom’s efforts and run with it, helping to establish the historic corridor and signage of the beautiful bays of Pi‘ilani. Everyone’s kokua will certainly go a long way in protecting that coastline and leaves a legacy for the next generation that visits, swims in, photographs, picnics and resides near those bays. I’m certain this legacy was Mom’s main focus throughout.”

Ruiz-Rockett recognized those community members who “generously contributed” to the success of the evening, including Father Bill Albinger and Holy Innocents Church for hosting the event; George Kahumoku, Jr. and Nancy Kahumoku for providing the entertainment; Esther Calapini, executive director of Holy Innocents Preschool; Kenny Hultquist, artmusicvideomaui@mac.com, for filming the event; Kahoma Ranch Tours; Jerry Kunitomo of BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria; Jason Donez of Leilani’s on the Beach; Mark Ellman and Penne Pasta; The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; Dani Haney; Kelly Robinson; Keoki Yanos; Ramon K. Madden; Jorge Ruiz; Starla Cosme for the flower arrangements; Job Cabato for the flowers and foliage; Sam Aki; and Wayne and Elle Cochran for the pictures.

Colorado was pleased with the community response: “The reception was a success due to the support of all those who attended. By the end of the night, ideas were being shared that will help this project be realized.”

According to Ruiz-Rockett and Colorado, the next step is to continue to gather support, appoint a board of directors, launch a website and work with the DOT.

“The success of a scenic byway can only be achieved through the passion and pride of a community willing to make that lifelong commitment. It allows people to share the rich history and natural beauty that make Hawaii special and unique from anywhere else. The State Department of Transportation applauds grassroots efforts such as yours to share your story with the rest of the world,” Morioka concluded.

For more information, or to join the “Support Na Hono-A-Pi‘ilani Scenic Byway Campaign,” e-mail sixsacredbays@yahoo.com or call Colorado at 385-5103 or Ruiz-Rockett at 268-1773.