Maui Discussion

Renaming of Puamana Beach Park gets initial backing

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Puamana Beach Park erosion resulted in the exposure of iwi kūpuna and safety concerns. PC: (file 2022) Nā Aikāne O Maui presentation screenshots

Update: (July 4, 2023)

The Water and Infrastructure Committee met again on July 3, 2023, and discussed the renaming of Puamana Beach Park in Lahaina to Puamana Cultural Preserve at Waianuʻukole.

During an earlier meeting in May, the committee had considered the renaming of Puamana Beach Park to Waiahiokole Burial Preserve; however, further research prompted a revision in the proposed name change to Waianuʻukole instead.

The name “Waianuʻukole” can mean two things, according to a presentation by cultural practitioner Cody Pueo Pata:

  1. Water of the Nuʻukole (a variety of ʻoʻopu also known as hiʻukole).
  2. Grain like the Nuʻukole (ʻoʻopu), in reference to a type of stone used for heʻe lures which was streaked with red and black.

The full update is posted here.


Previous Post:

The Maui County Water and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to pass a bill on first reading relating to the renaming of Puamana Beach Park to Waiahiokole Burial Preserve.

Dr. Janet Six, principal archaeologist for the County of Maui spoke in support of the bill. She explained: “Puamana is a more modern convention named after a historic house that was a few doors away.”

Dr. Janet Six. PC: screenshot (5.26.23) Maui County Council Water and Infrastructure Committee stream.

“It’s always nice to see the accurate place names put back on the landscape because they have meaning and kaona that was lost during the gentrification and colonization process,” said Dr. Six in testimony, Friday.

As an example, she said traditional places like Waioka and Kaihalulu in East Maui are often times referred to as “Venus Pool,” and “Red Sand Beach” respectively. But encouraging the use of proper names, she said, is important because of the meaning associated with it.


“Puamana definitely is a Hawaiian word–it just is one that was assigned to a large plantation house in the 1920s,” said Dr. Six, who explained that the area is historically a large grave site.

“I would love to see an island-wide… push to accurately rename places,” said Council member Nohelani Uʻu-Hodgins. “We should never name a beach park after something so temporary,” she said.

Keʻeaumoku Kapu. PC: screenshot (5.26.23) Maui County Council Water and Infrastructure Committee stream.

West Maui resident, Keʻeaumoku Kapu, CEO of Aha Moku said traditional practitioners looked into the naming, and the significance of the offshore waters as a shark birthing area.

When explaining the significance of the name “Waiahiokole,” Kapu said “kole” means raw, and “waiahi” talks about the turbulence during the time of the shark birthing process. In addition to the literal translation, Kapu said scholars that he reached out to, told him it was also named after a prominent chief that lived in the area.

“The aumakua, when people pass… take on the so-called name of that general area. Waiahiokole talks about that–the naming of the chief, and also the area that surrounds the birthing place of the manō (shark) within that area known as Puamana. There’s a jetty that goes out, that’s part of Waiahiokole, that’s known as the birthing area of the sharks,” said Kapu during testimony on May 26.


Kapu said the renaming proposal stems from the many years that he participated with the Maui-Lānaʻi Island Burial Council, dating back to 2017 when inadvertent discoveries of iwi kūpuna (ancestral bones) were being made in the area.

Puamana erosion. PC: County of Maui (2021)

In 2020, the item surfaced as an agenda item. One one occasion, Kapu said he walked the area with his wife and observed iwi “stretched out across the reef.” In testimony, he explained that iwi were found “from the guardrails all the way to the condos.”

Council member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez called the scattering of iwi across the reef as “heart-wrenching,” and expressed gratitude for the work done to care for the remains.

“We picked them all up. We went to the state, and knowing that they’ve been retrieving a lot from 2017… and nothing was done about it,” he said. “So I entertained a motion to ask the burial council to recognize Aha Moku as well as Nā Aikāne o Maui as a repository.”

The efforts according to Kapu, were focused on figuring out ways on how to free recovered iwi from storage, reinter the iwi, build a monument, and develop a long-range plan for protection and preservation. During testimony last week, he estimated that 11 boxes were retrieved from the state as part of the collaboration.

“It started that long journey for us to make sure that we provided not just an area of ambiance… but to involve a lot of the people in the community as well,” said Kapu.

The group has since built a kuahu (altar) for the interment area. The next task would be to establish a code of conduct sign to inform the public that the area is a burial preserve.

Dr. Six said the crypt was placed as far back as possible from the shore due to ongoing erosion, and a belief that, “at some point this park will go back to the sea.”

“There’s an understanding that if sea level continues as it is, that this park would be shut down,” Dr. Six explained. She said, the idea is to slowly remove all park infrastructure and use vegetative buffers to slow erosion impacts.

Council member Tamara Paltin, who is from West Maui, thanked Kapu and the groups who advocated for iwi protection. “Not only are they helping in West Maui… they are setting a protocol for all of our places in Maui County and possibly the state,” she said.

East Maui Council member Shane Sinenci described the area as “highly sensitive.” He said, “It’s not only about changing the name, but also going through the state and becoming a partner with the state in protection of these ancient burials.”

Committee Chair Tom Cook said he is optimistic that the community can move forward toward proper name use.

Bill 13 passed first reading with eight members voting in support, and one (Kama) excused.

Questions relating to protocol within a burial preserve and rules for the park use going forward will be addressed in future discussions.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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