Somebody’s Kid’s Made a Mark at Kailua’s Sacred Heiau

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH – An elaborate spray painted tag greets you at the entrance to Ulupo Heiau site off Kailua Road.  It’s modern imagery by some graffiti enthusiast demanding “Look at my tag and me.  I’m more important than ancient history!”


Just an expression of contemporary attitudes, a modern-day surmount of what used to count.

The heiu was a sacred place for my ancestor, Kuali’i, who lived in Kailua in the late 1600s.  He was moi of Oahu and other islands,
according to history, Kuali’i an extrordinarly long life—to age 175 and never lost a battle.

Throughout Oahu heius were where honor was paid to gods for good omens.  In peace time this heiau helped to assure abundant crops.

Its purpose was to insure the fertility of what was raised in the vicinity and Kailua was a wonderfully productive place.

At the outskirts of the Ulupo Heiau were fish ponds and wet land taro.

Hawaiians were marvelous caretakers of their resources.  Dryland taro, banana, sweet potato, and sugarcane grew on the fringes of
the marsh.  Hawaiians were exceptionally good caretakers and land and sea—not like what modern people have come to be.

Some heiau were dedicated to success in war.  From what I know, Ulupo served both purposes. Human sacrifices were part of the
ritual, anyone who defamed the land was apt to be placed on the altar.  Splashing paint over heritage is free expression
today—young folks doing what they shouldn’t oughter…”it’s just part of a phase. Be more liberal in your point of view.”

“Free expression”–Gee, then that must be okay.  Auwe!…attitudes change,  new folks come to town along developers.  Farewell dear old Hawaii nei, it’s only the uncompromising deep-rooted who say “Auwe!” Yep, voices of people like me, who saw beauty in what used to be (And chances are, I’m won’t last as long as Kuali’i and have lost many battles.)

J. Arthur Rath III is a Hawaii-based writer, reach him at