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waiawa, ʻewa, oʻahu

 E Kuu Kaua i ka Loko Awa o Waiawa
We Two Cast the Net in the Milkfish Pond of Waiawa
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Waiawa is an ahupuaʻa in the moku of ʻEwa, on the island of Oʻahu. From the leeward side of the Koʻolau mountain range to the waters of Ke-awa-lau-o-Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor), this ahupuaʻa was once a flourishing cultural landscape rich with loʻi (taro patches) and loko iʻa (fishponds) which was fed by the many punawai (freshwater springs) that scattered the area. Historic Māhele documents tell us that in the 1850s hundreds of Hawaiians were living along the coast of Waiawa, cultivating and sustaining their families from the ʻāina. Kamaʻāina were growing many canoe crops such as maiʻa, banana, uala, sweet potato, niu, coconut, and of course kalo, taro, the nation's staple crop.


As Waiawa, along with much of central Oʻahu, became highly developed and industrialized due to the rise in large scale production farming, kamaʻāina were forced off their ʻāina and sought homes and work elsewhere. The introduction of sugarcane mills and cattle ranching took over the ʻEwa landscape. Although wetland farming was not used for production farming, immigrant workers from overseas utilized the abundance of freshwater for their own native crops. Loʻi kalo eventually turned into rice farms and watercress farms. 

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place name

Wai: Water, liquid or liquor of any kind other than sea water

Awa: 1. The kava (Piper methysticum), a shrub 1.2 to 3.5 m tall with green jointed stems and heart-shaped leaves, native to Pacific islands, the root being the source of a narcotic drink of the same name used in ceremonies prepared formerly by chewing, later by pounding. The particles were mixed with water and strained. When drunk to excess, it caused drowsiness and, rarely, scaliness of the skin and bloodshot eyes. 2. Milkfish. Stages of growth are pua awa (puawa), young; awa ʻaua, medium size; awa, commercial size; awa kalamoho, very large.

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ʻEwa is famous for its kalo variety Kāʻī, often referred to as the Kāʻī of ʻEwa. There are several varieties of Kāʻī, including Kāʻī Koi, Kāʻī ʻEleʻele, Kāʻī Kea/ Keʻokeʻo, Kāʻī ʻUlaʻula, and Kāʻī Uliuli. The Kāʻī is known to multiply itself over and over so that a single planting could last as long as ten years, a feat that no other variety could accomplish. Kāʻī Kea is described as being the most fragrant and was reserved only for the aliʻi (chiefs).

What lives in a Loko Wai and a Loko Kalo?


  • Kalo

  • Limu Kalawai


  • ʻOʻopu (goby)

  • Awa (milkfish)

  • ʻAmaʻama (mullet)

  • Āholehole (flagtail)

  • ʻOpae (fresh water prawns)

  • Weke (goatfish)

  • ʻAwaʻau (ladyfish)

The shores of Puʻuloa harbored many loko iʻa at its peak. There are several different types of loko iʻa constructed throughout Hawaiʻi, with loko kuapā being the most commonly know as identified by its kuapā, or wall, built with stones or coral that would protrude out into the sea, creating a large pen-like structure for the fish to live in. In Waiawa, there are two other types of loko iʻa that were constructed. Those being loko wai and loko iʻa kalo. Loko wai are fresh water inland ponds that were dug out of the land and were fed either by kahawai (streams) or by punawai. Kamaʻāina would catch fish from the ocean and carry them to stock the inland ponds. Iʻa would then be harvested by ʻupena (fish nets). Loko iʻa kalo are taro fishponds built close to kahawai or punawai. Fresh water flowed into the loʻi and the ponds were used to raise both iʻa and kalo. Iʻa swam in and out of the patches and would eat insects, algae, and plants that fell into the loʻi. Small mākāhā (grates) kept fish from escaping into the stream.



Kaʻahupāhau and her brother Kahiʻukā were the famous shark-gods of ʻEwa. Their childhood was no different from that of any other normal keiki of ʻEwa, until one day they wandered a little too far from home and mysteriously disappeared. After searching for many days and many nights, it was told that Kaʻahupāhau and Kahiʻukā had been transformed into manō. From that day forth they would grow to be known as the protectors of Ke-awa-lau-o-Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor). The people of ʻEwa loved and honored them, often making ahu (shrines) in their name and feeding them bundles of ʻawa root. Their home was said to be located in the ahupua‘a of Waiawa. 


Kanekuaʻana is the moʻo wahine, water spirit, guardian of ʻEwa. Many natives of ʻEwa believed in her and if there were ever a time where fishing was unproductive, they would present her with offerings at her ahu, shrine, in hopes that she would bring blessings about the land. Kanekuaʻana is most famous for being the guardian of the pipi, or pearl oysters, of Puʻuloa. Within the pipi you can find a pearl the size of a fish eye. There are mūheʻe kea, white pearls, and mūheʻe mākoko, reddish rainbow pearls.


Kāne and Kanaloa

Kāne and Kanaloa are two of the four main akua (gods) in Hawaiʻi along with Kū and Lono. They were known to travel together often throughout the island chain and stories are told of their travels throughout ʻEwa and Waiawa. Kāne is the god of fresh water and procreation with his kinolau (bodily forms) being wai (water), ʻawa plant, ulu (breadfruit), wauke (mulberry). Kanaloa is the god of the ocean, sailing, and voyaging with his kinolau being maiʻa, heʻe (octopus), and porpoise. Throughout their long and tiresome travels they would break for rest and with their desire to drink ʻawa. When there was no water in sight, Kāne would pierce his magical ʻōʻō (digging stick) into the ground to create punawai  for mixing with their ʻawa root to drink. More moʻolelo tell of Kāne and Kanaloa gifting springs to kamaʻāina who were kind and hospitable to them. Kāne and Kanaloa will always be honored in Waiawa for their creation of punawai that continue to feed into loʻi patches today


ʻōlelo Noʻeau

Alahula Puʻuloa, he alahele na Kaʻahupāhau
Everywhere in Puʻuloa is the trail of Kaʻahupāhau
ʻŌN #105

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Hoʻahewa na niuhi ia Kaʻahupāhau
The man-eating sharks blamed Kaʻahupāhau
​ʻŌN #1014

Mehameha wale no o Puʻuloa i ka hele a Kaʻahupāhau
Puʻuloa became lonely when Kaʻahupāhau went away
ʻŌN #2152

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Ke awa lau o Puʻuloa
The many harbored sea of Puʻuloa
ʻŌN #1686

Created by ʻĀina Intern: Kimberly Tshua 
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Today, there are multiple grassroots efforts by kamaʻāina in Waiawa to restore the cultural landscape of the ʻāina as well as build a Hawaiian sense of place through cultivation of native Hawaiian agriculture, aquaculture, and being steadfast in various native traditions and practices.

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