Give me shelter
Located on Oahu's north shore, Waimea's 1,875 acres are a rich cultural resource and gathering place.
“We scrape away the layers of our past to reshape our future just like we debark the trees. We unmask our true selves and show, in our work, the mana that shines within. In the end we stand strong and firm with a new formation that will keep us striving through all of life’s stories. Today, I can stand tall and proud.”
Two work lines of a dozen women debark and haul felled trees from the interior of the Waimea Valley Forest Reserve on the north shore of O‘ahu to a site near the mouth of the valley. There, the wood is treated to prevent insects and other pests from destroying it. Over the course of seven months, through the coordination of nonprofit the Pūʻā Foundation, the woman restore a 400-year old kauhale—or building complex—containing eight separate thatched hale, in one of the last partially intact ahupua‘a on the island.
The work is part of a cultural restoration project, but it is also a personal restoration project for the people involved. The women, many of whom are Native Hawaiian, come from the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Waimānalo and the restoration project is a form of rehabilitation and therapy, helping them to overcome challenges such as substance abuse. Together, they reconnect to their culture through physical, soulful work.
Pūʻā Foundation shared with Summit the above reflection of the process, which was written by one of the participants whose name has been withheld for privacy concerns.
Debbie Victor is a program manager at the Pūʻā Foundation, and she was part of the effort to restore the kauhale site. “Working side by side with the women, they taught me that perseverance is key,” she says. “If we can get it done together, a job well done is better, because it’s not done by any one person.”
In 2005, after a decade of failed cowboy and Indian adventure parks, residential developments and zip lines, under various owners, the fate of the nearly 2,000-acre Waimea Valley had seemed uncertain. But flash back a thousand years to the 11th century—this verdant land was once the hub of a thriving community known as “The Valley of the Priests.”
In ancient times, the pig god Kamapua‘a, the mythical first ruler of O‘ahu, awarded stewardship of Waimea to the kahuna nui (high priests). The agriculture-rich valley became a religious center and a training ground for those who had been chosen to become kahuna. The descendants of these priests lived in the valley until 1898, when torrential floods destroyed their villages and crops.
Today, through the passion and dedication of many, the valley has been transformed and made whole again. A comprehensive cultural education program has produced signage that highlights the dozens of archaeological and historical features of the valley, including religious sites; world-class botanical gardens showcase more than 5,000 varieties of native and imported tropical species.
The newly revitalized valley represents a return to Waimea’s sacred roots, and a healing of both the land and of the hands and hearts that were dedicated to this important work.
Come to see the newly restored kauhale at Waimea Valley. Book a ticket today!