Maui News

Haleakalā Honored in Vigil After Apparent Movement of Pōhaku

June 21, 2013, 3:35 PM HST
* Updated June 24, 5:24 AM
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Sunrise at Haleakalā, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Sunrise at Haleakalā, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The native Hawaiian research group, Hui Pono ʻIke Kānāwai, is hosting a vigil atop Haleakalā this weekend, as organizers seek to raise awareness to the cultural landscape and history of the location.

Event organizers say they are holding the vigil to prevent oversight and loss, claiming a large pōhaku or stone was “unearthed and dispensed” of before a Native Hawaiian Working Group became aware of its existence.

The NHWG was created to provide input on historic property matters related to the construction and operation of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope Project that broke ground atop Haleakalā, east of the Mees Solar Observatory in November, 2012.

According to the project website, the ATST will be the world’s most powerful solar observatory when complete, standing nearly 143 feet high and 84 feet in diameter.


Attempts to contact a project adviser to confirm the circumstances surrounding the pōhaku discovery were unsuccessful. The alleged incident was not referenced in meeting minutes of the NHWG, because it had apparently surfaced for discussion at a later time, according to Kamaunu.


Event organizer, Johanna Kamaunu, claims the pōhaku ended up measuring an estimated 10-feet tall after construction crews dug around it. She said that while the significance could not be determined because information surrounding the discovery came after the fact, the size poses some unanswered questions.

Kamaunu Kahaialiʻi, a member of Hui Pono ʻIke Kānāwai noted that pōhaku were often used in the construction of altars and shrines, and at times to designate a stone memorial pile; but he could not say what purpose the removed stone had served.

The summit area of Haleakalā is considered a sacred place with many of the place names telling of the storied connection of Hawaiʻi’s people to the land.


One cinder cone in particular, called Ka Luʻu o ka ʻŌʻō or “plunge of the digging stick,” makes reference to the volcano goddess Pele, keeper of the fire, who took her magic digging stick to Haleakalā and created many cinder cones, according to NPS informational signage.

Kamaunu explained that the vigil was not a demonstration against what had transpired, but rather a way to seek answers in determining what could be done in situations like these which she said, “clearly show a disconnect in terms of transparency.”

“We continue to collaborate in hopes of a better outcome,” Kamaunu said in a statement.

According to meeting minutes from April, Kahu Dane Maxwell who is providing cultural guidance for the project, provided general commentary on construction saying, “With the current ATST team at the site (including contractors), …they’re doing their best… the contractors are local… People up there care about what they’re doing.”

Group leaders say the vigil is a “cultural practice based in recognition of and need for divine intervention.”  It was described as a process to hear ʻohana stories, personal experiences, and historical accounts; observe protocols; and come with respect.

The vigil will take place from sunset (6 p.m.) on Saturday, June 22, to sunrise (6 a.m.) on Sunday, June 23, at the lookout building with a circular view. Organizers say the vigil will include hourly observance of cultural protocol.

Kamaunu said the supporters are welcome to attend but advised that extended exposure to winds, cold weather, and pressure from the high altitude could result in altitude sickness.

Event organizers released a partial schedule of events for the night of the vigil that includes the following speakers and presenters:

  • Kiope Raymond, Hawaiian Studies instructor: will share his personal mana’o of Haleakalā and recent events with Kilakila O Haleakalā the group challenging the building of the ATST.
  • Joyclyn Costa, a member of ATST NHWG and past Alaka’i for Hui Pono ʻIke Kānāwai. Her “Sense of Place” perspective provided foundation for a new sensitivity training video that follows modern lives of individual’s whose family have lived in the shadow of Haleakalā for generations linked by custom and tradition.
  • Kamaunu Kahaialiʻi and Kaniloa Kamaunu, presenters for Hui Pono ʻIke Kānāwai: Though musicians their common passion is advocating Hawaii kingdom law. The two will provide dialogue on native laws, rights regarding land, water, and iwi during a midnight presentation.

Prior to Saturday’s overnight vigil, there will be a discussion held tonight, Friday June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kepaniwai Hale in ʻĪao Valley.

Hawaiian studies lecturer, John Laimana has been invited to speak at the event. His thesis reportedly focuses on the rise of literacy in Hawaiʻi and emphasizes the thoughts behind the phrase, “Knowledge is like kuleana always to be exercised and pursued with aloha.”

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