Kukaniloko or Where’s the Aloha

Kukaniloko The Birthing Stones

The center of the island. Kukaniloko is a sacred area where it is said great chiefs are born. Mana, or power, energy, spiritual strength, emanates throughout the area.

Thousands of the commoners will be lined up in the distance waiting for the deep sound of the two pa’u drums to echo its announcement of a new chief”s birth.

Thirty six large stones placed in two rows, eighteen on the left and eighteen on the right, are flanked by thirty six chiefs  who are in line with them.

They are there to give testimony to the new alii‘s arrival in this very spot at the moment of birth. Having no written language these chiefs will be witness to the fact that the child is of royal birth and pledge their support.

The Birthing Stones

The alii’s wife is carried in on a fine woven mat by her retainers. She is brought to one of the birthing stones and placed above it. Her retainers will place their feet into the indention’s of the stone and the pregnant woman will sit on her retainers hips so as to not touch the ground.

A kahuna (Priest) will stand behind her and one will stand in front to catch the child as it is born. A piece of sharp bamboo is prepared to cut the umbilical cord from the mother.

Once the child’s cord is cut from her, the child is whisked away by forty eight chiefs who will perform the ceremony of cutting the naval cord from the child. Be it a male or female, both were recognized as chiefs divine and treated as such.

With such a history you would think that this area would be treated with the utmost respect and attention. But for many years it sat neglected because of problems with surrounding areas being used for growing crops for mainland landowners.

I remember visiting Kukaniloko many years ago for the first time and seeing weeds growing high and stones hidden between them. You could pretty much drive your car right over the area where once only alii could step foot on.

It was very sad to see and I couldn’t understand why it had been so neglected. Last month as I was reading a wonderful book called “Sites Of Oahu” by Sterling and Summers, I was once again introduced to the history of this area.

With a little background of what the area meant to the Hawaiian people and inspiration from the book I decided to go out their and check it out. To my surprise much had changed.

First of all the ability to drive right over the sacred ground was not there. Instead there was a very small area to park a couple of cars behind a chained off area. You now had to walk about a city block to get to it.

Stone formation at Kukaniloko

Stone formation at Kukaniloko

As I approached the site, off to my left was a man weed whacking the side of a small mound. I felt I was in luck as I still had some questions about the area and hoped maybe he could answer them.

He was a thin tanned  part Hawaiian who looked at me with half disdain as I started to talk. I had seen this look many times on Hawaiian people when approached on their turf because of people trying to crowd in on what was once their land.

Once we got into conversation though he softened up when he realized that I did have some idea of what I was talking about and I was respectful of the area I wanted information about.

As it turned out, his family (I’m thinking maybe it was more like his Ohana or extended family) was a part of Kukaniloko and had for years tried to bring it back to it’s original condition to give it the respect that it deserved. But the people who were working the land (and there is some argument that it does not belong to anyone but the Hawaiian people) refused to let them take care of it.

Now that the cane and pineapple are no longer grown and the land is up for sale (even though there is no proof that it belongs to those farmers) this group of Hawaiians have gotten together and have brought the area back to the manicured and beautiful condition that I saw that day.

The one complaint that the Hawaiian had as we talked was that no children were being brought out to be taught  how important and sacred this place was. I remarked with the developing of Hawaiian immersion programs maybe more children will be visiting and learning about it.

And just as we were finishing up our conversation a group of teens with a young woman leading them came up to the entrance where we stood and as they stood their she began to chant a Hawaiian greeting to the area before they entered.

The Hawaiian had a big smile on his face as he called out aloha to the woman and the kids. And of course I couldn’t have been more happy to see it happen myself.

Now, I have set out here the sacredness and importance of this area. I have also stated what has happened to it. A very important part of the Hawaiian Culture is once again being fought over because of the states refusal to recognize what was rightfully the Hawaiians.

Who, in the experience I’d just had deserved the Aloha? How would you react if you had been greeted as I was. Who should be offended?

Personally, I am thankful that I’ve been volunteering at Bishop Museum. It has forced me to do much research on the history of the Hawaiian people and I’ve become much more aware of who I am and who they are.

If I was not greeted with a big Aloha, I am not offended at all. There was much aloha there with the work that was being done on the area, the time that was put into bringing it back to it’s original condition and most of all making children aware of what their ancestors believed.

Here is a web site that has very interesting information on the process of the birth and information on the site of Kukaniloko. I was able to get more of a picture of the birth to use here in my post from it. Cultural Significance.

If you would like to read a great book on the sites of Oahu, once again here is the title of the one I used. “Sites of Oahu” by Sterling and Summers.


8 comments on “Kukaniloko or Where’s the Aloha

  1. Kaui says:

    Karen could I have permission to use a couple of your beautiful photos in an interview with Martha Noyes who has spent 12 years researching Kukaniloko, tomorrow? 4/14/17 ?


  2. Thank you Evelyn. I had been trying since December to figure out how I was going to write this as I felt it was a touch subject but I wanted to put it out there.


  3. Evelyn says:

    This is much more detail than I offered when I blogged about finally finding Kukaniloko. Thank you for that added information — it knocked me over when I got a visual of such a scene. 🙂 Enter the shock of cultural differences. I think that even today a Hawaiian woman would be shocked if given such a visual.

    It is hard to understand but sometimes you can tell who is approachable. I would not have been offended because I am fully aware of my own appearance. I may be born and raised on the Leeward side of O’ahu but I am still 100% white so they often think me a nosy, doubting visitor — until I open my tita mouth. 🙂

    We do have visitors who tend to be disrespectful of our ancient culture. Not a lot, but enough. I would not have been offended but I would, however, have gotten angry if he hadn’t lightened up when he discovered you were not mocking something so culturally significant. 🙂

    It is a beautiful little parcel with, I agree, a definite feeling of mana! Another reason that cultural preservation is so important and places like Bishop Museum are so important!


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