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Historical Sites

Mauna Kahalawai
Waihe'e Valley and the Wall of Tears

The native forests' significance transcends beyond its ecological and agricultural values. The upland forested watersheds or wao akua (realm of the gods) store and purify water for the Wao Kanaka, or the realm of man. These important mountain ecosystems continue to be important in Hawaiian culture and folklore, based on the sacred relationships still present today between the people, gods and the land. Many cultural values, such as woodworking, herbal medicine and cordage go beyond the shared values of water found in the ahupua'a of the mountains here.

Here are some place names that have many cultural meanings:
Lahaina, Olowalu and Waihe'e were all Cities of Refuge
Olowalu - known as the "House-breaking Wind" or "Many Hills"
'Iao - Cloud Supreme
Kahakuloa - the tall lord
Launiupoko - short coconut leaf
Wahikuli - noisy place

Mauna Kahalawai

The Hawaiian name for the West Maui Mountains is 'Kahalawai' meaning House of Water. They are also known as "Hale Mahina" meaning House of the Moon, after Hina, a lunar goddess. West Maui is home to many important historical and sacred sites in Hawaiian culture.  The Partnership aims to maintain the protection of these areas for future generations and to help visitors understand the significance of these sites of cultural heritage.

Waihe'e Valley and the Wall of Tears

Info from: Sites of Maui compiled by Elspeth P. Sterling, copyright 1998 by the Bishop Museum

While the valleys on the Lahaina side are known as the valleys of Pi'ilani (after which the Highway gets its name), the valleys on the Waihe'e side are known as the valleys of Pi'ikea, Pi'ilani's sister. The word Waihe'e has several meanings. One meaning is 'slippery water' after the people who go there to bathe and slip on the rocks. Another meaning stems from a large squid that was killed after attacking a mute man name Keakaoku, or the shadow of Ku. Afterwards, the valley was called Waihe'e or 'squid liquid.' Another more violent interpretation comes from King Kamehameha's conquest of the island, when many warriors fled down into Waihe'e valley, which was then known as the "the water of total rout and defeat, where the army melted away." The winds of Waihe'e are known as the Kili-'o'opu, or the faint odors of the 'o'opu (a small stream fish). These fish were considered off limits to commoners and if the fish were caught upstream and cooked in Ti leaves, it was said that the Waihe'e winds would carry the sweet smell down to the chief and they would be swiftly punished. However, if the fish was cooked in olena leaves, the smell did not escape to the chiefs nostrils and so they were safe.

Once home to the largest taro field in all of Maui, the centerpiece of the valley floor is the Waihe'e Stream (also known as the Wailua Stream) which is fed by the Eleile spring. It was said that this spring was called 'the water that returns the Ti' because visitors would toss in a Ti' leaf stalk and the water would swirl around and open the leaves of the Ti' and then the water would push them into a tight stalk again.

The peak of Lanilili, towards the Makai opening of the valley means 'small heaven,' and is the end of the Waihe'e Ridge trail that begins at Camp Maluhia outside of the town of Waihe'e.

Waipukua in Waihe'e was the land of Queen Ka-'ahu-manu, and because chief Kamehameha treated her as a goddess, all of her lands became places where people could be saved from punishment or death. Therefore, this valley is known as one more of the 'Places of Refuge.'