Board Votes to Restore “Wailuku River” Name for Waterway at ʻĪao
By Maui Now Staff
The Hawaiʻi Board on Geographic Names unanimously voted last night to restore the name Wailuku River to the waterway that runs through ʻĪao Valley.
The resolution was introduced by ʻĪao resident John Duey, and was adopted by the council on April 7, 2015.
Last night’s vote came after the council adopted a resolution last month urging the board to restore the name citing repeated references in Supreme Court and Kingdom of Hawaiʻi documents, as well as 19th century maps.
Nearly 40 people attended the meeting with about 15 individuals signed up to provide oral testimony. No one spoke against the measure.
An online poll conducted by KITV News 4 asking, “Should Hawaiʻi change the name of ʻĪao Stream back to Wailuku River?” showed 63% (494) in support with yes votes, 28% (221) against with no votes; and 8% (64) votes as undecided out of the 779 votes cast.
The group Hui O Nā Wai ʻEhā voiced strong support of the name restoration and provided the following explanation of its historical and cultural significance:
“After many years of historical and cultural research along with knowledge shared by many kūpuna within the Nā Wai ʻEhā region, the original name of the stream is Wailuku River/Stream. On every single Hawaiian Kingdom Land Document dating back to the 1840s, maps, and even Hawaiian Language newspapers from the 1800s, the name is Wailuku River or in Hawaiian “Kahawai o Wailuku” Sometimes even known as “Kahawai Nui o Wailuku”. Following the installation of stream diversions by Wailuku Sugar Company in the late 1800s early 1900s, and the dewatering of the Wailuku Stream, the name was changed to ʻĪao Stream / River. For over 100 years, the stream has been what we deemed as “dead” for it no longer flowed from the mountain to the sea. After 10+ years of advocating for the restoration of our streams in Nā Wai ʻEhā, and the fact that many of them are now flowing mauka to makai, we believe (Hui o Nā Wai ʻEhā) that we should reclaim and restore the original name of this once great river, Wailuku River. The name ʻĪao as we know it, refers to the valley for which Wailuku River flows out of.”
Among those who testified in support of the measure was Wailuku County Councilman Michael Victorino who explained that there are many places on many islands that share the same names. Just because there is already a Wailuku River in Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island, does not preclude Maui from using the name for a place that has historically been known as such, supporters explained.
“We want to continue on this track of really calling the rightful places their rightful names—not Big Beach, not Little Beach… it’s sad that we’ve come to this,” said Victorino.