Waimea was the largest ahupua`a on Kaua`i, almost 93,000 acres. It included much of Waimea Canyon and Koke`e. Waimea means red water.


Waimea: Red water

An ahupua‘a of the Kona district. [Geo] [PEM]

Waimea was the largest ahupua‘a on Kaua‘i, almost 93,000 acres in all. It included much of what we call Waimea Canyon and Koke‘e today.

On the eastern bank, the boundary begins at the mouth of the river. The boundary line follows the low cliff until it reaches the junction with Makaweli river. There the boundary crosses the Waimea river, goes upstream a little, then re-crosses the river to climb up the ridge to Kane-kula. Kane-kula means Dry-land-man, named possibly after an expert in dry land farming of yams, sweet potatoes, and certain kinds of taro.

This east boundary is shared with the ahupua‘a of Makaweli to the peak named Ka-lehua-hakihaki. This 3724 foot peak is often mentioned in Kaua‘i mele. A warrior broke this tree apart to make his warclub from the wood. The splintered trees continued to grow.

The boundary now runs over and through part of the Alaka‘i swamp until the Ka-unu-o-Hua ridge. Here, just above Kanaloa-huluhulu where the Koke‘e Museum is, is a furrowed rock, Pōhaku-wa‘awa‘a. Its name means furrowed, or full of grooves. It also refers to a person whose back bulges with muscles but is a stupid fool. This rock was the boundary point for four ahupua‘a: Waimea, Kalalau, Awaawapuhi and Nualolo.

From Pōhaku-wa‘awa‘a, the boundary line continues along the top of Ka-unu-o-Hua ridge, with the edge of the canyon on the east and the watershed for the ridges above Mānā on the west.

Pu‘u-kāpele is the highest point on the canyon‘s edge and was the home of the specialists in canoe making. It was in the forest area where koa trees grow and these were carefully tended so that the trunks would be straight, branchless and as much as 80 feet tall. The original name means Distended-hill, like a pooched-out stomach. The meaning of Hill-of-Pele, Pu‘u-ka-Pele, came much later for Pu‘u-kāpele is named in the earliest legends almost eight hundred years before Pele came to Kaua‘i.

After Pu‘u-kāpele, the boundary is shared with the ahupua‘a of Poki‘i-kauna whose principal village was tucked up against the cliffs behind present-day Kekaha. Poki‘i-kauna means the chant belonging to a younger sister.

The ahupua‘a also included off-shore fishing grounds and the surf for the sport called he‘e nalu, sliding the waves. [appeared in the Garden Island, April 22, 1990]

Waimea is a land of firsts. It was the first land settled by people who, it is thought, came from the Tahiti area. These settlers were led by Kūalu-nui-kini-akua. With him was a high priest named Pi‘i who brought the taro known as pi‘i-ali‘i with him. Also with these settlers came the Menehune, who were a group of skilled workers, experts in stone work, canoe building, and the like. They were not the little brownies or leprechauns or what have you that nineteenth century Europeans brought with them. By looking very carefully at the few stones visible of the Menehune Ditch, it is evident that never again were the Hawaiians capable of doing such work.

Under Kūalu‘s grandson Ola, the island was explored and many of our present place names date from that time of discovery.

Waimea was an ideal place for settlement. There was abundant water. The climate was warm and relatively dry, useful to a people who wore few clothes of beaten bark, which held together well when dry but disintegrated quickly when wet. Taro could be grown. Captain Cook speaks of yams and sweet potatoes reaching fourteen pounds or more. Fish was abundant, and the early settlers brought pigs and dogs for meat, kukui for its nuts, ti for its many uses, and bananas, coconuts, and breadfruit.

Waimea is where Captain Cook first landed in the Hawaiian Islands. It is where the first Hawaiian was shot in a scuffle with Cook‘s marines on Ke-one-luhi. It is where the first of the European diseases was introduced which in the next few decades would reduce the native population by more than half.

Waimea is where Kaumuali‘i, the last king of Kaua‘i, welcomed King Liholiho, son of Kamehameha who had been unable to conquer this island. Liholiho invited Kaumuali‘i on board his ship, The Pride of Hawaii, for dinner and during the meal Liholiho ordered the sails raised. Kaumuali‘i never returned to his island and was forced to cede his lands to Liholiho.

After Kaumuali‘i died in 1824, his son George Humehume rebelled against the Kamehameha family. He attacked the Fort at Hipo but in the battle Humehume was defeated. The Kamehameha forces killed every chief who had fought with Humehume and many of their wives and children. Those chiefs who had gone to Kaumuali‘i‘s funeral which was held on Maui were never permitted to return to Kaua‘i and the lands were taken over by Liholiho, Ka‘ahumanu, and other members of that family.

The Waimea is the third longest river on Kaua‘i, after Wainiha and Wailua. It was the center of the ahupua‘a, the ancient land division that stretched from Pōhaku-‘awa‘awa, Furrowed-rock, in the mountains down to the sea.

It was a heavily populated area, and there are still house sites, taro patch walls and ruins of temples all along the Waimea nd its tributaries.

Wai-mea means Red-stream. After a storm, the water in the river runs red but the water down Makaweli (which joins the Waimea just above today‘s town) runs white. When the two streams join, the water remains red on one side and white on the other. The red side was called Ka-wai-‘ula-‘ili-ahi, The water that turns the skin fiery red.

The river runs red, the legend goes, because a man named Mano wanted to marry Kō-maliu, daughter of the chief. She did not like Mano and refused to have anything to do with him. One night he kidnapped her and took her to his home, which was a cave behind a waterfall. Here he demanded that she marry him and once again she refused. He hit her with his war club and she fell dead. The blood from her wound flowed across the floor of the cave and into the waterfall and was carried downstream to the village near the sea. Her death was avenged yet the river runs red in her memory.

Waimea River was famous for its hinana, the spawn of the ‘o‘opu, a goby fish. During the season when these fish swim down river to the sea, they were so thick in the water that they touched the skin of anyone entering the water.

Waimea is also the Kaua‘i name for a kind of mamaki, a native tree that was often used to make tapa. It had leaves with red veins and stems. Tapa made of waimea was coarse and heavy compared to the tapa made from wauke, the mulberry tree. It was durable if kept dry, but tore like paper when wet. [appeared June 25, 1989 in The Garden Island]

Waimea is also a species of tree, the same as olomea. [And]

There are extensive taro fields on both sides of the river. This is one of the most populated of ancient villages. Along the base of the bluffs on both sides of the river after getting up past the branch of the Makaweli and Waimea rivers, there are built up stone house sites. In some places these facings run for over 100 feet along the base of the bluff with the paving extending back 15 feet or more. At other places the terrace is just sufficient to maintain one house. On the east side of the river on the steep talus slopes, there are house sites with terraces as high as 8 feet to maintain a level platform for a house. [Ben 25,33,27]

Hinana were a small ‘o‘opu (1 or 2 inches in length) that only grew in the Waimea river and is different than the nopili. [G. Christian]

PE says the hinana were the young of ‘o‘opu and were formerly caught in nets and greatly relished. [PE iii]

Ka i‘a ho‘opā ‘ili kanaka o Waimea,

The fish of Waimea that touch the skins of people.

When it was the season for hinana, the spawn of ‘o‘opu, at Waimea, they were so numerous that one couldn‘t go into the water without rubbing against them. [Pukui 1339]

Ho‘i hou ka pa‘akai i Waimea,

The salt has gone back to Waimea.

Said when someone starts out on a journey and then comes back again. The salt of Waimea is known for its reddish brown color. [Pukui 1028]

Ka ua nounou ‘ili o Waimea,

The skin-pelting rain of Waimea.

Refers to Waimea, Kauai. [Pukui 1591]

Ka-wai-‘ula ‘iliahi o Waimea,

The red sandalwood water of Waimea.

This expression is sometimes used in old chants of Waimea, Kauai. After a storm Waimea Stream is said to run red. Where it meets Makaweli stream to form Waimea river, the water is sometimes red on one side and clear on the other. The red side is called wai ‘ula ‘iliahi. [Pukui 1662]

Ka wai ‘ula ‘ili ahi o Waimea,

The fiery red skin of Waimea.

The water of the Waimea river, like that of KawaikōÄ« and Koai‘e is the color similar to iced tea. When one puts an arm into the water, it looks as though it is on fire, e.g. fiery skin. The water from the Makaweli was named Wai-kea, white or clear water. [Kaohe, telephone conversation 12 Jul 89]

Ke one kapu o Kahamalu‘ihi,

The sacred sand of Kahamalu‘ihi.

A city of refuge for those of Waimea, Mānā, and the Kona side of Kauai. [Pukui 1775]