Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula Makahiki
"A Hawaiian Thanksgiving"
The Makahiki is an ancient, annual festival that was dedicated to Lono, the deified guardian of agriculture, rain, health and peace. For over two-thousand years, the significance of Lono and his contributions to the beliefs and practices of the early Hawaiian people, influenced the celebration of events held during the Makahiki Festival throughout the Hawaiian Islands. According to the ancient lunar calendar of Hawai'i, the beginning of the Hawaiian new year began on the first night of the rising star constellation Makali'i (Pleiads). The four months following the rise of the Makali'i (from October to the end of January), was set aside as a time for Lono to give thanksgiving for the bounty of the land and sea.
Since Lono was the embodiment of all the characteristics of peace and welfare, all warfare was strictly forbidden during the time of the Makahiki. Since Lono represented the spiritual life-force that came out of all agricultural efforts, much feasting of every kind was done during the four month of the Makahiki. This focus on health and welfare made games of skill that tested a healthy body and mind a focal point of the Makahiki games.
The manner in which the Makahiki was celebrated on each of the main Hawaiian Islands varied as traditional Hawaiian land division influenced the Makahiki. The ancient Hawaiian word for island is Mokupuni. The early Hawaiians divided each of the mokupuni throughout the main Hawaiian Islands into large districts called Moku. Each of the moku were divided into pie-shaped parcels of land called `Ahupua`a. Each `ahupua`a were usually marked out by valleys that ran from the mountains to the sea.
During the time of Lono, each Moku on each Island celebrated there own festivities held for the people who lived within that district. The athletic champions of each moku would them compete among the best athletes of other moku.
During ancient times, the Island of O`ahu was divided into six Moku. All of the lands that surrounded and touched the waters of Pu`uloa (Pearl Harbor) comprised a complete view of the traditional district called Moku `O `Ewa. The Moku `O `Ewa district is comprised of thirteen `Ahupua`a. A complete, panoramic view of each of the thirteen `Ahupua`a can be seen from the Island of Moku `Umeume (Ford Island). Moku Umeume is the only place where one can see all the `Ahupua`a of its Moku `O `Ewa district.
The early inhabitants of the area considered the Island of Moku `Umeume as an important place. In understanding the island`s importance and significance to the early Hawaiians of that area, one must understand the meaning of Moku Umeume. The word “Moku” translates as “Island”. The word “Umeume” translates as “to draw, to pull, or to attract”. The name “Moku `Umeume” translates as “Island that draws and attracts”. The given name “Umeume”, describes the continued action of the streams and rivers of the thirteen`ahupua`a , that empty into the waters of Pu`uloa, and then flow towards Moku Umeume, touching the islands shores before reaching the mouth of the harbor, and then flow out to sea.
To the ancients, the life-giving waters from each `ahupua`a that constantly touches Moku `Umeume, not only physically enlarges the island from run-off, but it also spiritually builds and increases the Mana (Spiritual Power) of that island. For this reason; the ancient inhabitants of the Moku `O `Ewa considered Moku `Umeume as the center of their Moku, and a place of spiritual strength, power and importance. For this reason, Moku `Umeume was chosen by the ancient inhabitants of the Moku `O `Ewa district, to serve as a place for important religious and cultural ceremonies including the Makahiki Festival.
Kapuaikaula (Hickam) appears to have been a very important place in ancient times due to its frequent references in the oral traditions. It is the place where Kaopolupolu, Kahuna Nui under Kahahana was killed and taken to Waikiki where he was sacrificed. He however made a very important prophesy before he died. He predicted that all the lands of these islands would one day pass to a foreign power. Interesting enough the very first lands were the lands and water of Pu`uloa as part of Reciprocity Treaty when Kalakaua gave these lands to the United States in exchange to ship sugar to the United States tax free. It is the same place where Kahahana, the last Mo`i of the island of `Oahu was killed and subsequently transported by canoe to Waikiki were he was sacrificed at the same heiau that Kaopolupolu was sacrificed at.
Kapuaikaula was well known in ancient times for its salt and fish ponds which were amongst the largest ever built by Kaihikapu-a-Manuia in the 15nth century. He was the son of Kalaimanuia who was the daughter to Kukaniloko. Kaihikapu-a-manuia was also the father of Kakuhihewa. These two fish and salt ponds built by Kaihikapu-a-Manuia were Loko Kaihikapu, 258 acres in size, and Loko Lelepaua, 332 acres in size. This area in ancient times were referred to as rich in food resources due to the many fish, kalo and salt ponds such as Loko Kaihikapu and Loko Lelepaua. Queen Emma also had a summer home at Kapuaikaula. Interesting though Queen Emma was known as an accomplished Horse Person. When excavation was done recently at Kapuaikaula to expand the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant horse bones were found amongst numerous human remains. This was an area that was frequented by Lono in his annual trip around the Island of O`ahu during the Makahiki.
The Annual Makahiki at Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula is an important celebration of the past that will help redefine our relationship as contemporary people of Hawaii for the future. It parallels the western tradition of Thanksgiving. With respect to the Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula Makahiki it will not only help to improve relationships between the military and Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian community but also establish an awareness of the rich pre-western Hawaiian traditions and history of the lands surrounding Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula.
Hickam Kukini. (2006). Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula Makahiki A Hawaiian Thanksgiving”. (No author given.)
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