Kapolei's cultural features deserve proper care
By Shad Kane
The Barbers Point Naval Air Station was closed in 1999.
To this day, much of this cultural landscape belongs to and is the responsibility of the Navy. Ultimately it will be conveyed to perhaps another agency. It is critical that it be conveyed to an agency that has the cultural sensitivity, vision and resources to care for and preserve these valued cultural resources.
The 'Ahahui Siwila Hawai'i O Kapolei, the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club, has been working in partnership with the Kalaeloa Development Authority, the Navy Region Hawaii and Navy Base Police as interim caretakers toward the security, care and preservation of the Kalaeloa Heritage Park.
Kalaeloa Heritage Park was meant to serve as a community benefit and a venue to educate both our residents of Kapolei and visitors. Its reuse was also based on the numbers and excellent condition of valued cultural resources within the property.
These cultural structures are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. They are entirely constructed of coral and hints of a Tahitian origin by the integration of many upright stones into their construction. It suggests that the occupant may have been a permanent resident of the area or temporary based on its design construction.
The presence of water in sinkholes is unique to this region. Where in most other places water would travel along surface dissections or rivers, water traveled underground in the porous coral of Kanehili. Some of these sinkholes that served as water resources have walls constructed around them in an effort to keep 'opala or trash out of them. Sinkholes are also identified as agricultural sinkholes. Our ancestors planted their crops within the moist and damp recesses of sinkholes. Among burial sinkholes are chambers and walls within the sink designed and constructed to conceal the kupuna (ancestors). There are also above-ground burials as coral mounds or ahu.
Perhaps the one most interesting cultural feature is a paved trail of upright stones every 6 to 8 feet. This paved trail of coral slates is perfectly straight. Only approximately 200 yards of this trail exist today.
The Kalaeloa Heritage Park is perhaps the most important piece of real estate in the former naval air station. It culturally defines who we are as a new community of Kapolei and its namesake Kapo as the elder sister of Pele.
Much more work must be done in the identification of ancient bird bones in sinkholes. Much more data need to be gathered and cataloged. The vastness of the cultural landscape paints a picture of a community of people that lived in Kanehili. It is not a documentation of individual archaeological features but rather a landscape, an ancient community that once lived at a place once known as Kanehili.