E Luku Wale e
Photos of the H-3 Construction/Destruction
by Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki
Luku wale: vandalism, useless slaughter or destruction; to destroy thus.
E Luku Wale e documents the ‘aina ravaged by machinery during the construction of the H-3 freeway. In the devastated landscape, people are eerily absent. The photos were taken after hours or on weekends, when the supervisors and machine operators had gone home. The absence suggests secrecy, shame, abandonment, a place no longer amenable to human life.
Completed in 1997, the 16-mile H-3 connects Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Pu‘uloa, on O‘ahu’s southern coast, and the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (formerly the Marine Corps Air Station or MCAS) on Mokapu Peninsula, in Kane‘ohe, on O‘ahu’s eastern coast. It tunnels through the Ko‘olau Mountains, between Halawa valley and Ha‘iku valley. The freeway was originally proposed in 1960, just after Hawai‘i became the Fiftieth State. Along with the H-1 and H-2 freeways, it was to be a part of a federally-funded network of interstate defense highways that would facilitate troop and equipment movement during World War III; but the freeways were also promoted in the community as means of speeding up vehicular travel and reducing traffic on O‘ahu’s other roadways.
Construction began in 1972 on both sides of the Ko‘olaus on the Halawa interchange and on the section between the Pali Golf Course and the MCAS.
On Mokapu (moku kapu, or sacred land), where the MCAS was established in 1919, the eighteenth-century chief Pelei‘oholani once resided, near Nu‘upia fishpond; and in the next century, Kamehameha the Great used the sacred land as a meeting place for his ali‘i. So sacred was Mokapu, the nineteenth historian S.M. Kamakau set his creation story at the crater of Mololani (“well kept, well cared for”) on the peninsula: here, the gods Kane, Ku, and Lono created the first man and woman.
The first of eleven pauku in E Luku Wale e refers to Mokapu as a place where forces destructive to the ‘aina entered the land: ua hiki ke kumu ‘ino i ka ‘aina e. These forces are symbolized by the Moa‘e ku, strong trade winds: “Sacred land exposed by the Moa‘e ku.” For centuries after the discovery and settlement of the islands by Polynesians, the sea was a protective barrier, and the people and culture grew and flourished in relative isolation; by the eighteenth century, with western sailing technology, the sea had become a roadway, with the trades blowing European and American ships here.
With the establishment of a military base on Mokapu, Mololani was violated and trampled by trespassers; sacred stones have been toppled, heiau built over, and the burial grounds at Heleloa disturbed:
Along with devastation, the photos depict sacred rocks and mountains sculpted by the famous winds and rains of Kane‘ohe, He‘eia, and Halawa; rock walls and ‘auwai (irrigation channels) carefully laid out with uncut stone; and signs of another kind of digging: archaeological work to uncover what lay in the path of destruction, before the land was gouged up, sliced, and covered by concrete and asphalt.
Pauku 3 and the associated photos depict Ho‘oleina‘iwa, (where frigate birds leap), a sacred, life-giving place connected to the protective gods. This site is near the route of the freeway, but undamaged by it:
‘Eli‘eli kau mai, the refrain of all the chants, is “a solemn supplication at the end of a prayer” that can be translated “may a profound reverence alight.” ‘Eli‘eli is “to dig again and again,” a reference to the destructive digging; but figuratively and ironically, it also means “profound,” “firmly rooted,” “deep,” and also “reverence.” To dig down is to be firmly rooted, like the many-rooted hala tree; and being firmly rooted is the only way to remain connected to the ‘aina, to venerate her and protect and perpetuate human life.
In an earlier collection, Na Wahi Pana o Ko‘olau Poko, Kapulani notes that although there is “no written documentation of this culturally significant site,” the stones “appear similar to the birthing stones of Kukaniloko,” in Wahiawa, where the high chiefesses of O‘ahu went to give birth. Ho‘oleina‘iwa may be another such sacred and sheltered place for the delivery of children and the perpetuation of life.
“Where frigate birds leap” refers to a place where frigate birds nest to give birth to and raise their young. These weak-legged seabirds are clumsy on land. To take-off, they leap from their perches on shrubs, trees or rocks, with their broad wings outspread for lift. Once in the air, they soar. They spend much of their lives at sea fishing for themselves and their young.
Leina is also a reference to a leaping place where human spirits depart from earth to reunite with the ancestors in the afterlife.
The H-3 opened to traffic on December 12, 1997, twenty-five years after construction/destruction began. The two and a half decades were filled with protest and litigation aimed at stopping the destruction. Community groups led by native Hawaiians, cultural preservationists, and environmentalists succeeded in delaying the project, but in the end they could not stop it.
In a newspaper interview, University of Hawai‘i professor Haunani Trask notes, "… struggle after struggle, we protest, we talk about sacred sites, we talk about the destruction of the land at whatever development that we’re protesting, and then we lose.” She and many others believe that in order to fight back, Hawaiians need to establish “a sovereign entity of equal legal standing with the U.S. government.” The only way to effectively protect their cultural heritage and sacred sites is to restore the sovereignty of their nation, which was overthrown in 1893 by haole businessmen with the support of the U.S. Marines.
The plan for H-3 adopted in 1967 routed the freeway through Moanalua Valley. Opposition quickly developed. In 1970, the Moanalua Gardens Foundation was formed to teach the community about the rich cultural heritage and sites of the valley and to persuade the State against building the freeway through it.
Also in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act was passed by Congress. It required that all federally-funded projects produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identifying environmental and cultural impacts and considering all possible alternatives and mitigation measures to eliminate or lessen negative impacts. The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) produced a study the next year. The archaeological assessment done by the Bishop Museum concluded “no archaeological sites exist in the proposed highway corridor that should be saved. ...With the exception of the petroglyph boulders [pohaku ka luahine] .…” No archaeological work was done on the Ko‘olau Poko segment of the project.
In 1972 construction began on the Halawa interchange, but opponents challenged the conclusions of the EIS and convinced US District Judge Samuel King to issue an injunction stopping any further design and construction work.
In 1974, the Secretary of the Interior listed Moanalua Valley on the National Register of Historic Places because of pohaku ka luahine and other archaeological, historical and cultural sites located there. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation accepted the EIS’s “mitigation measure” for the petroglyph stone and the assertion that “no alternatives exist” to the route through Moanalua. The injunction was lifted and construction resumed. But litigation continued and construction was halted again in 1976 by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the state had ignored the historic importance of Moanalua valley, and the Secretary of Transportation had erred in not considering an alternative route.
The following year, the state began surveying other routes, including one through Halawa valley. When that route was selected, a supplemental EIS had to be done. The state complied, and based on Bishop Museum surveys and tests, concluded that there were no significant cultural or historic sites along the route.
Before the supplemental EIS was accepted, however, in 1978, the Stop H-3 Association raised the issue of the new Ko‘olau Poko route running 1.7 miles adjacent to a major future recreational area Ho‘omaluhia Park. A section of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act required that environmental quality in recreation areas be preserved or adverse impacts mitigated. An additional statement of impact was required, and construction was stopped again. This statement was being prepared while the supplemental EIS for the H-3 was completed and submitted in 1980. In 1981, the EIS was approved, and the Federal Highway Administration again allowed construction to proceed.
In 1982, a second supplemental EIS was ordered to address new environmental concerns along the route through Ko‘olau Poko and adjacent to Ho‘omaluhia Park. Construction was allowed to continue in other areas. This supplemental report was completed and included provisions for avoiding known archaeological sites and requiring an onsite archaeologist to monitor construction.
In 1983, construction on the Halekou interchange restarted.
In 1984, on appeal, an injunction was reinstated because the environmental impact on the park was not adequately addressed. Construction ceased for two years, during which state attorneys tried and failed to get the injunction lifted. That same year 15 additional archaeological sites were identified along the route through Ko‘olau Poko.
In 1986 freeway proponents, led by Senator Daniel Inouye, took a different approach: they pushed through Congress an exemption for H-3 from the Transportation Act. President Reagan signed the exemption into law in October 1986.
A series of court actions against the new law followed in 1987, but a final ruling allowed the construction to go forward. In August 1987, the Federal Highways Administration, State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, with the concurrence of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and state transportation department, signed a memorandum of agreement to mitigate adverse impacts of the H-3 on archaeological and cultural sites. By 1989, the blasting of the two tunnels through the Ko‘olau mountains began.
Many in the community were unwilling to accept reports from the state as the final word; and their desire and commitment to protect cultural and environmental resources continued to inspire protests against the construction/destruction.
In the route of the freeway, beneath the majestic mountain Keahiakahoe, lay the site of Kukuiokane, kukui trees of Kane, once the largest and most important heiau of the region. The heiau was dedicated to Kane, the god of life-giving water and farming. Kane gives his name not just to the heiau, but to the ahupua‘a itself, Kane‘ohe: ‘ohe, or bamboo, is one of his forms.
Thrum reported in 1915 that Kukuiokane was “being destroyed” to plant pineapples fields. McAllister visited the area in 1933 and noted that the heiau was gone, but that “the ploughed-up remains indicate heavy walls and several terraces.” In 1988, archaeologist Earl Neller reported that while probing for sites in the path of the freeway, he had found the site of the heiau. However, the following year, after further excavation, the Bishop Museum declared that the site identified by Neller represented dry land agricultural terraces, not a heiau. Work on the freeway continued. Neller was replaced.
In 1991, Bishop Museum’s archaeological project director Scott Williams concluded that the site identified by Neller and three adjoining sites formed an agricultural complex that included Kukuiokane.
A place name and the flora around this site speak of the presence of Kane and his heiau. A nearby site on the pali of Keahiakahoe is named Papua‘a a Kane, the pig enclosures of Kane, where the god is said to have kept his prized pigs. Beneath it is a grove of kukui trees, the rich, oily nuts providing food for the pigs.
Pauku 7 is about Kukuiokane and the sacred spring of Kumukumu associated with it:
Kumukumu is near the head of Wailele stream, which joins Kamo‘oali‘i stream and flows into Kane‘ohe Bay near Waikalua fishpond. The kukui tree is a form of the god Kamapua‘a, the pig god, and the chant calls on his boars to form a protective barrier around the heiau and the sacred trees:
Work on the freeway continued; the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs agreed to preserve one of the three sites that Williams identified as the agricultural complex and to bury the other two, including Kukuiokane. Steel tire rims were placed at strategic points in the heiau, so it could be located by remote sensing in the future. Then the sites were buried in gravel and dirt, and the Kane‘ohe interchange was built over it.
Disputes also arose over two sites in Halawa valley. A researcher and an archaeologist from the Bishop Museum and other cultural experts argued that the sites were important heiau. One of the sites was said to be a hale o Papa, a house of Papa, who is the mother of Hawaiian creation. Kamakau notes that such heiau belonged to the high chiefesses (pi‘o and ni‘aupi‘o) and “were for the good of the women and the children borne for the benefit of the land.” The other site, nearby, was said to be a luakini, which could be built only by an ali‘i nui, or paramount chief. Luakini were built in times of war and other crises and allowed for human sacrifice to plead for the blessing of the gods.
The State Preservation Office’s chief archaeologist and others, however, contended that the two sites were the remains of houses and family burials, not heiau.
Both sides agreed that the two sites were archaeologically and culturally significant, and in 1992 the state realigned the freeway to avoid them. Still, the protests continued, as even the new alignment impacted the sites. Today the sites lay along an access road under the freeway, fenced off for cultural study.
Pauku 10 and associated photos portray Halawa as sacred to Papa; the building of the freeway was a rape:
The sacred and life-giving land cries out at the desecration:
Members of the community continue to feel and express heartache, grief, and anger over the impact of the H-3 freeway on the ‘aina.
The H-3 project drew more protest and opposition than any other construction project in Hawai‘i’s history. The largest and most expensive public works project of its time, H-3 was symbolic of what many in the community did not want Hawai‘i to become: an extension of a constantly and rapidly urbanizing and commercially developing continental United States. Those who wanted to stop the freeway wanted to preserve qualities of life and land that were unique to Hawai‘i: its Hawaiian heritage and sacred sites, its natural environment, and its rural character.
During the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s investors from the U.S., Japan, and beyond were pouring money into the islands, convinced that profit and wealth could be made by transforming the islands into the business and tourism center of the Pacific, a hub of the global economy.
The freeway symbolized this new global economy and culture driven by international capitalism and backed by the military of the United States, one of the main beneficiaries of “the new world order.” Locally, the symbolism was more specific: the Ko‘olau mountains, once a protective barrier for Ko‘olau Poko against the urbanizing and westernizing influence of Honolulu, was becoming porous with tunnels. Two had already been completed, the Pali Tunnels in 1957 and the Wilson Tunnel in 1960; the H-3 provided a third tunnel through which Honolulu could penetrate further into the rural valleys and small farming communities of Ko‘olau Poko. Kane‘ohe and Kailua had already become suburbs of Honolulu; the fear was that H-3 would bring more people, traffic, subdivisions, and shopping malls to the rural ahupua‘a north of Kane‘ohe.
A year after the H-3 construction started, in 1973, the farming ahupua‘a of Waiahole and Waikane learned that a landowner was planning a new development in Waiahole. The communities began organizing protests against it. The protests continued to increase in strength and intensity for four years, culminating in marches on state government offices, blockades of roads into the valleys, burning of eviction notices, and a blockade of Kamehameha Highway, the coastal road that is the only way north from Ko‘olau Poko to Ko‘olauloa. In the end, the state diffused the protest by buying Waiahole in 1977 for $6.1 million to preserve it as farmlands. In 1998, the City and County of Honolulu purchased 500 acres in Waikane to block a plan for a golf course and to preserve the valley for use as a nature park.
Nowhere were protests against urbanization and westernization stronger than in the Hawaiian activist community. After a century of disruption, desecration and destruction of native cultural heritage, traditions, and sacred sites, this community developed to resist wholesale adoption of western values and practices and to teach and practice traditions that had been kept alive in rural pockets and among family who still had kupuna who knew and cherished them. The reinvigoration of culture and arts included language-immersion programs, kalo-farming, fishing and fishponds, herbal medicines, kapa-making, hula, chanting, voyaging, and martial arts.
In the 1970’s, Hawaiian activists and their supporters confronted the U.S. military over Kaho‘olawe, an island taken by the military during World War II and used as a bombing and firing range ever since. When the movement to protect Kaho‘olawe started in the 1970’s it was criticized by many as radical and unpatriotic; but by the mid-1980s, the majority of people in Hawai‘i, from politicians to schoolchildren, saw the protests as pono, or just.
After two decades of protest and struggle, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order ending the military’s use of Kaho‘olawe as a bombing and target range. In 1995, the U.S. Navy agreed to return the island to the state, which then designated it as a site for native cultural practices and education. In 2004, after a five-year, $400 million clean-up to make the island safe for peaceful activities, the island was officially returned to the state. Still, so much ordnance had been fired and dropped on the ‘aina, much remains embedded forever.
The decades of struggle brought about a growing awareness of the importance of protecting and restoring sacred places for future generations in order to teach about and perpetuate cultural traditions that embody values and practices of living on small islands that make sense for Hawai‘i, values and practices like taking care of the land so that it remains healthy and flourishing and a careful use of resources to sustain this healthiness. Such values and practices contrast and clash with those of the expansionist, consumerist culture of America, which developed on a continent with a seemingly endless supply of resources that European settlers used to build massive cities and roadways while overwhelming a multitude of native cultures and communities once rooted there.
Many sacred sites have already been lost in Hawai‘i. McAllister’s Archaeology of Oahu (1933) and Sterling and Summers Sites of Oahu (1968) are records of those losses. And those losses will continue, as long as the future of the islands is controlled by culturally uneducated developers, local and foreign, and local politicians and residents who have come to see the land as vacant, rather than as a rich repository of sacred places and traditions.
The photos in E Luku Wale e record the losses at the end of the 20th century for posterity. Each new generation grows up thinking that what they see is how a place has always been; the photos allow them to see how it was before they got here, a way to understand history. The photos are also poetry, elegies on the desecration of sacred lands, evoking reflection on what has been lost and bestowing a profound reverence for place.
The photos reveal changes in the natural environment that have already taken place, in the flora, with introduced plants like mango, albizzia, paper bark, java plum, strawberry guavas, and octopus trees, dominating the coastal plains and hills of Kane‘ohe, while endemic plants (lehua, koa, hala) and plants brought by the native Hawaiians in the their migrations from the South Pacific (kalo, ‘uala, ki, wauke, ‘awa, kukui, hala, ‘ulu, ‘ohe) are less often seen.
The photos also praise what is still here. Mountains are one of ‘aina’s most enduring bodies, not as easily leveled as hills or forests: again and again, we recognize the three great mountains of Kane‘ohe Konahuanui, Lanihuli, and Keahiakahoe, rising like giants above the wind-and-rain-furrowed pali of Kane‘ohe and Ha‘iku. These peaks capture rain clouds coming in on the trade winds, and silvery shimmering steams of water tumbling down their pali have come to symbolize the sky father Wakea bringing new life to the earth mother Papa.
Pauku 1 calls out to the tallest of these mountains: ku luna ‘o Konahuanui i ka luku wale e, “Mountainous Konahuanui reveals the onslaught.” Translated “his large seeds,” the name Konahuanui is said to come from a story summarized by T. Kelsey: “when a man, probably a giant, chased a woman who escaped into a cave, he tore off his testes and threw them at her” (Sterling and Summers). This peak, the highest in the Ko‘olau mountains, is home to a mo‘o goddess, a large mythic lizard that lives in freshwater pools and streams. Rain clouds gather around its peak, and its Kona side, often ribboned with waterfalls, is the wettest area of Honolulu: here is the source of the waters of Manoa and Nu‘uanu valleys.
On the Ko‘olau Poko side, below Konahuanui, is a stream called Kahuaiki, the small seed, one of three streams said to be wives of the god Kane (the other two are Hi‘ilaniwai and Mamalahoa). The three join together as one, Kamo‘oali‘i (the royal mo‘o), which brings life-giving water to the fields and plains of Kane‘ohe before entering the bay near Waikalua fishpond. Huanui, big seed, and huaiki, small seed, both speak to the fertility of the land.
In place names, the traditions, like the mountains themselves, endure. To the northwest of Konahuanui is Lanihuli, swirling heavens, a name suggesting rain clouds moving in the wind around the peak; northwest of Lanihuli is Kahuauli, the dark seed. Uli may refer to the dark rain clouds, their shadows on the land below, and the dark green vegetation along the summit and below it.
Pauku 5 and 6 feature the peak north of Kahuauli, Keahiakahoe, the fire of Kahoe, the second tallest peak in the Ko‘olau mountains. Its legend portrays the stinginess of a fisherman named Pahu toward his brother Kahoe, whom Pahu gives only bait fish. As payback, Pahu must watch in silence and hunger as his brother cooks food over a fire during a famine. Reciprocal sharing is another cherished value of our local community; on the other hand, when one is stingy, the payback is stinginess.
North of Keahiakahoe is Ha‘iku valley, in the ahupua‘a of He‘eia. In the cliffs above the valley is Kaualehu, the ash-colored rain (Pauku 8), a cave where the earth goddess Kameha‘ikana lives, a goddess associated with Papa and Haumea, all earth mothers, the procreators of islands and people.
Luluku, utter destruction, is a land section at the base of Keahiakahoe. The significance of this naming in ancient times is lost (perhaps alluding to flash flooding, to which the area is prone), but in modern times, the name has become a reminder of the destruction of the land during the construction of both the Likelike Highway and the H-3.
The impacts of large scale construction projects throughout the islands is voluminously documented: disturbance of burial sites; destruction of cultural sites; loss of native habitats for flora and fauna; the introduction of more non-native species into the valleys and mountains; blocking or diminishing of access to cultural sites and places where forest resources are gathered for cultural practices; more flooding and run-off into the ocean destroying reefs, as rainwater that can no longer be absorbed into ‘aina overwhelms the stream beds and rush to the sea carrying mud and debris; more noise, trash, and night lights that diminish our view of heavenly bodies used in marking the passage of time and the seasons and telling direction.
While some of the sites and resources can be protected, rehabilitated, restored, or reconstructed, some are lost forever. If Honolulu represents the future of the islands, long-term preservation may be questionable: hardly a single structure from ancient times remains extant in the city.
As the islands move through a new century, new development will raise the same questions again and again: how much of what we say we value are we willing to give up in our pursuit of prosperity and comfort? How sustainable is our drive for commercial gains and at what point is the destruction of the land and native culture so great that the quality of life we say we value is irretrievably damaged or lost?
Is there any way to not continue traveling down the path of continuous destruction documented in these photos and chants?
One place to start is education. We can’t practice or preserve what we value in our heritage and traditions unless people in the community have knowledge and expertise to interpret and understand what has been passed on, what has survived from the ancient times. The controversies surrounding building of the H-3 revealed the shortage of archaeologists and scholars trained to interpret native Hawaiian sites, a shortage that has resulted from decades of neglect by the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (established in 1907), with its predominantly colonial administration, faculty and curriculum. With the establishment of a Hawaiian Studies program in the 1970’s and Hawai‘inuiakea, the School of Hawaiian Knowledge in the new century; with a growing interest in native culture, history, and archaeology in some of the other departments; and with a Hawaiian focus requirement for undergraduates, the University has begun to address the scholarly shortage and public ignorance.
The controversies also revealed the ambiguous role of contract archaeology in the protection of sites. From the beginning, the State Department of Transportation, like any private development company, believed it was in its best interest not to find any significant sites in the path of H-3 so it could expedite construction/destruction to control costs. This assumption led the state to neglect its responsibility to do a comprehensive, in-depth study of the entire route before construction began. Instead, after they were required to do such a study, archaeologists were surveying sites while the freeway was being built, sometimes doing so literally a couple of feet in front of the bulldozers. Pressure to draw conclusions before a thorough investigation was completed or to interpret findings in favor of no further changes led to resignations or replacements.
As the decades of construction/destruction passed, the state became more aware of its interest and responsibility in preserving cultural sites, partly because of the importance of such sites to a major source of state income, tourism, but also because of a more active and vigilant native Hawaiian community.
But in the end, studying the past, remembering and recording the stories and traditions, protecting sites and mitigating damage whenever and wherever it occurs may not be enough to preserve a native cultural legacy found nowhere else in the world.
Without a community and culture that is dependent on the land in essential ways for its well-being (plants and animals for food and goods, water, sacred sites), traditional values are difficult to maintain, and the sense of the sacredness of the land is diminished. In a community that imports most of its food, goods, and energy from elsewhere, that can desalinate water if its sources of water are polluted or sucked dry, where children grow up worshipping in movie theaters, digital game parlors, and shopping malls, how can our traditional sense of the sacredness of the land survive?
Land has become property, something to be invested in and used for making profits, assessed and valued by how much it can be sold for. Sacred places have become objects of study or places for tourists to visit rather than places where experiences of the divine occur and prayers and offerings to the gods are made. And if sacred places are no longer essential to the life of the community, they may remain protected only until another crisis in traffic, housing, or the economy triggers more development. Despite laws requiring us to consider alternatives and offer mitigation, we have been educated to trade what we value spiritually and culturally to protect and acquire material wealth.
The photographs and pauku of E Luku wale e embody a belief that what we need is to remain rooted in the ‘aina.
Pauku 11 on Halawa refers to the kolea, the golden plover, whose home and nesting grounds are in Alaska, but who comes to Hawai‘i during the winter months to avoid the cold and find food. Kolea is a metaphor for those who come to enjoy the islands or to make a profit and leave after they have gotten what they wanted. These transient residents don’t have any knowledge of the land and its history; nor do they have a deep love or reverence for the ‘aina, no sense of her sacredness, no commitment to her future.
And the kolea are not just tourists, but those who were born and raised here or who have resided here for decades, but who remain ignorant and uncaring.
In contrast to the kolea are the hala and the kukui trees. In ancient time, they provided for the needs of the people: the hala leaves for weaving baskets and mats and its fruit for food as well as for making paint brushes; the kukui for medicine, condiment, food of pigs, adhesive, dye, and oil for light. Both the hala and the kukui have flourished for centuries in the wet, rainy lowland forests of Kane‘ohe, Ha‘iku and Halawa. May they live on forever. Kau ‘eli‘eli kau mai, ‘eli‘eli kau mai.
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