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The History of the Ahupua'a in Hawaii


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The owners knew that they had a very special piece of property when they hired Cultural Surveys Hawai’i, Inc. to conduct an archaeology study and produce a report. I intend to write a series of blogs covering some of these spectacular findings. This blog will address the history of the Ahupua’a.

In old HawaiÊ»i, ahupua’a was the common subdivision of the land. It consisted most frequently of a slice of an island that went from the top of the local mountain (volcano) to the shore, often following the boundary of a stream drainage. Each ahupua’a included a lowland mala (cultivated area) and upland forested region. Ahupua’a varied in size depending on the economic means of the location and political divisions of the area.

Ahupua’a is derived from the Hawaiian language ahu, meaning “heap” or “cairn,” and pua’a means pig. The boundary markers for ahupua’a were traditionally heaps of stones used to put offers to the island chief, which was often a pig.

There may have been two reasons for this kind of subdivision:

  • Travel—In many areas of Hawai’i, it is easier to travel up and downstream than from stream valley to stream valley.
  • Economy—Having all climate zones and economic exploitation zones in each land division ensured that each could be self-sufficient for a large portion of its needs.

Rule over an ahupua’a was given out by the ruling chief to subordinate members of the aliÊ»i. On the larger mountains of Maui and HawaiÊ»i, smaller ahupua’a extended up to about 6,000-8,000 feet elevation, while the higher elevations of an entire district would be included within a single, large ahupua’a.

These ahupua’a, such as Kaneohe, Keauhou, Kapaapala, Keaau, Keanae, Puu Waawa, and Humuula, were highly valued both for their size and because they allowed control over items obtainable only from high-elevation areas, such as high-quality stone for tools and uau (Hawaiian Petrel) chicks. They were given to high-ranking alii, or often retained by the high chief personally.

Geological survey map showing project area:

Ahupua’a Today

Following the Great Mahele in 1848, most ahupua’a were split up. Manukā, Puu Waawaa, and Puu Anahulu on the island of Hawai’i, are among the few large ahupua’a that remained nearly intact under single ownership (with the exception of some kuleana lots), because they were crown lands owned personally by the monarch.

In spite of this, the impact of the ahupua’a boundaries can be seen in many areas today. For example, the ahupua’a of KeaÊ»au, near Hilo, was purchased as a single unit by the William Herbert Shipman family to farm and raise cattle. Most of the land, however, was eventually sold off to become the large subdivisions of Puna.

The line between the large northern lots (sold by the state as 30-50 acre farms) and 1-3 acre southern lots in the vicinity of Kurtistown, Mountain View, and Glenwood is the boundary between the laa and Keaau ahupua’a. It is also interesting to note that this boundary follows the edge of the 200-400 year-old Ailaau lava flow, and the ahupua’a of Kea’au was undoubtedly originally created from the land devastated by this flow.

1891 Emerson map (R.M.#1281) showing land grants and the location of the seaward Hokukano/Hokuli’a development (the present project lands fall within Grant 865):

 

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Claire K. Bajo RS

June 29, 2011

Very nice article Sharon! Very informative! The landscaping on this property has such a high value in itself – with all the high end exotic tropical flora & fauna – it feels like you are in heaven on earth! And the dwellings have been very well maintained. Meticulous Sellers with attention-to-detail & pride of ownership shows throughout this private estate! Thank you Sharon for letting us tour this gorgeous farm! Here are some pictures of the mature tropical landscaping if you are interested: http://www.hawaiilife.com/articles/2011/06/high-valued-landscaping/ ..blessings always!

Claire K. Bajo RS

June 29, 2011

Very nice article Sharon! Very informative! The landscaping on this property has such a high value in itself – with all the high end exotic tropical flora & fauna – it feels like you are in heaven on earth! And the dwellings have been very well maintained. Meticulous Sellers with attention-to-detail & pride of ownership shows throughout this private estate! Thank you Sharon for letting us tour this gorgeous farm! Here are some pictures of the mature tropical landscaping if you are interested: http://www.hawaiilife.com/articles/2011/06/high-valued-landscaping/ ..blessings always!

Sharon Brown R(S)

June 29, 2011

Claire, I am so pleased that you enjoyed the tour and seeing this fabulous property. The same tour is available for your buyers! Just let me know and it will be scheduled. I would love to have an escrow with you.

Sharon Brown R(S)

June 29, 2011

Claire, I am so pleased that you enjoyed the tour and seeing this fabulous property. The same tour is available for your buyers! Just let me know and it will be scheduled. I would love to have an escrow with you.

Martha Tumbleson, R(S)

June 29, 2011

Wow, Sharon. So much history and thought went into this blog. Thanks for all the research and sharing another fascinating aspect of living on the Big Island!

Martha Tumbleson, R(S)

June 29, 2011

Wow, Sharon. So much history and thought went into this blog. Thanks for all the research and sharing another fascinating aspect of living on the Big Island!

Sharon Brown R(S)

June 29, 2011

Hey thanks. I intend to write a series of blogs describing the archaeological findings, the soil and water conservation plan, and the sustainability of this fabulous property. Keep posted for history. And I look forward to another insightful blog in the next day or so.

Sharon Brown R(S)

June 29, 2011

Hey thanks. I intend to write a series of blogs describing the archaeological findings, the soil and water conservation plan, and the sustainability of this fabulous property. Keep posted for history. And I look forward to another insightful blog in the next day or so.

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

June 30, 2011

Great post, Sharon!! I just ran across the very first title report ever that had an exception to Schedule B based on a Royal Patent Grant that had never been recorded during the Great Mahele… when the ahupua’a where made “official” in writing…Fascinating! The history of Hawaii property is definitely NOT like the rest of the mainland!

I’m in love with the Green Gecko Farm. The coffee is amazing. The property is one of the most well-organized and clearly loved I’ve seen. Your sellers have definitely been amazing stewards of the ‘aina. Please thank them again for hosting us for our last sales meeting!

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

June 30, 2011

Great post, Sharon!! I just ran across the very first title report ever that had an exception to Schedule B based on a Royal Patent Grant that had never been recorded during the Great Mahele… when the ahupua’a where made “official” in writing…Fascinating! The history of Hawaii property is definitely NOT like the rest of the mainland!

I’m in love with the Green Gecko Farm. The coffee is amazing. The property is one of the most well-organized and clearly loved I’ve seen. Your sellers have definitely been amazing stewards of the ‘aina. Please thank them again for hosting us for our last sales meeting!

Sharon Brown

June 30, 2011

The history of Hawaii’s land ownership is fascinating, Katie, and knowing you just experienced your very first title report that showed an exception. I bet all of us would love to see the title report!

The sellers really enjoyed hosting our meeting and getting to know some of HL agents. The feedback from agents and the broker’s caravan of the property’s presentation and beauty was incredibly positive; many were in awe.

Sharon Brown

June 30, 2011

The history of Hawaii’s land ownership is fascinating, Katie, and knowing you just experienced your very first title report that showed an exception. I bet all of us would love to see the title report!

The sellers really enjoyed hosting our meeting and getting to know some of HL agents. The feedback from agents and the broker’s caravan of the property’s presentation and beauty was incredibly positive; many were in awe.

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