Episode 17: Manōkalanipō with Professor Lilikalā Kame‘eleihiwa

Feb 5, 2016

Yesterday we focused on the great chief Ma‘ilikūkahi who forged the ahupua‘a system on O‘ahu. Today we look at his younger cousin, Manōkalanipō of Kaua‘i, who introduced the ahupua‘a system on his island some twenty years later, around 1500 AD. UH Mānoa Professor Lilikalā Kame‘eleihiwa notes that the ahupua‘a system was created in a time when Hawai‘i’s population was thriving and growing. The system, she believes, was designed to create the most food possible, specifically wetland kalo, which was the only crop for which water was actively diverted.

“If the pig is worshipped for wetland taro, which is what Kamapua‘a is known for, and the altar on the edge of the ahupua‘a is called an ahu, an altar for the pua‘a, then you have wetland taro systems rising when you have ahupua‘a systems being made.” Ultimately, says Kame‘eleihiwa, it was all about the wai, the water.

“So you have this intensification of production of food if people use the water within their ahupua‘a in an efficient manner. So that’s why I think ahupua‘a are surface water management systems. And when we look at Manōkalanipō and Kaua‘i being the wettest spot on the earth we must assume that the ahupua‘a system is set up to make sure that lo‘i kalo are now using the water in the most efficient way to feed a maximum amount of people.”