Here is one short story (of many untold) for a place whose name is familiar to many, but whose history is known by few. Here is a story of a quiet, old plantation town in Hāmākua.
Okay, let’s kick it up a notch. Up until the early 1990s, Paʻauilo was smack-dab right in the middle of the island’s century-old sugar industry. Paʻauilo was a bustling plantation town made up of various “camps”—Old Camp, New Camp, Japanese Camp, Haole Camp, Nakalei—a school (home of the Paʻauilo Tigers), a store, a post office, a few churches, a ball park, and a couple generations of kamaʻāina, most of whom led humble lives shaped by sugar or cattle. A handful of my ancestors experienced Paʻauilo in this way, and developed a deep love and respect for this ʻāina, like many others. Those memories, however, remain beyond the realm of what my eyes have seen, and would best be shared by those whose eyes have. So let’s continue on this path, and talk a little more about what is unseen by most about this place.
Prior to the Mahele, Paʻauilo, like other relatively small ahupuaʻa in Hāmākua Hikina (east Hāmākua), was likely home to about 150-200 Kānaka. Early European explorers and American missionaries described the area as fertile and highly cultivated, dissected by the multitude of streams that, now dry, once cascaded off the edge of Hāmākua’s sheer cliffs. One of these streams, Waipunalau, which forms the Kohala-side boundary of Paʻauilo (adjoining the ahupuaʻa of Paukiʻi), is fed by a spring named Waihalulu. Once favored by the kamaʻāina of Hāmākua Hikina for its “wai māpuna ʻono huʻihuʻi” (deliciously cold fresh spring water), Waihalulu was visited by Kamehameha I and his koa when they retired from the battle of Koapāpaʻa. Koapāpaʻa, located in the ahupuaʻa of Kūkaʻiau (just over a mile from Paʻauilo) was the site of the last battle fought by Kamehameha on Hawaiʻi Island in his campaign of unification. The 1791 battle began with Kamehameha holding a ceremony at Manini heiau in Koholālele, and ended with Keōua-kūʻahuʻula, the reigning chief of Kaʻū, seeking refuge under a large stone in Kainehe, which later came to bear his name: Pōhaku o Keōua. The battle proved to be a decisive victory for Kamehameha, as he soon gained control over the entire island.
This brings us back home to the place that this story began. The owner of both papers, and later, president of the Independent Home Rule Party, Charles Kahiliaulani Notley, was a home-grown kamaʻāina of no place other than Paʻauilo, Hāmākua, Hawaiʻi. Kahiliaulani was the son of Charles Notley, Sr. and Mele Kaluahine, a chiefly descendant of Keōua-kūʻahuʻula. In 1906, while running as the Home Rule candidate for "territorial" delegate to the US congress, Kahiliaulani gave a rousing speech before supporters of Home Rule, encouraging Kānaka to unite “no ka Pono, ka Pomaikai, ka Holomua, ka Lanakila, ame ka Hanohano o ka Lahui,” for the Pono, the Prosperity, the Advancement, the Victory, and the Dignity of the Nation. In closing his speech, Kahiliaulani like many of our contemporary Kānaka leaders, likened the path ahead for the nation to that of a voyage on rough seas. As was printed in Ka Naʻi Aupuni (Nov. 5, 1906), this part of his speech went as follows:
E hookele kakou i ke kai hoee e nee mai nei a popoʻi iho ma luna o ka lahuikanaka oiwi o Hawaii. Nolaila, i hookahi puuwai, hookahi ka manao, moe a ka umauma imua, paa like na lima i ke kaulako-waa o Halaualiiokalani, a e kahea aku au ia oukou:
Let us navigate forth into the rising seas that approach, soon to break upon our native nation of Hawaiʻi. Let us, therefore, be of one heart and one mind. Face our chests forward, and together our hands grasp and pull the canoe of Hālaualiʻiokalani. And I call out to you all:
Surely Kahiliaulani is not the only historical figure from this unassuming place who deserves our praise and remembrance. He is but one of many who has been selectively honored in this moʻolelo—a moʻolelo which serves, really, to honor this place. After all, they are one and the same. And as is the responsibility of any storyteller, I will now conclude this moʻolelo where it began: in a quiet, old plantation town in Hāmākua. So the next time you pass by or stop at Paʻauilo Store, look ma kai across the street, and imagine Kahiliaulani once living there. And then look towards Hilo, and imagine the abundant days of Umi-a-Liloa’s youth or the awesome scene of over 30,000 koa converging in battle at Koapāpaʻa. Then look ma uka, and see the sacred summit of Mauna a Wākea, the highest peak in all of Oceania. Then look towards Kohala, towards the sacred valleys of Waipiʻo and Waimanu where generations of our most powerful chiefs once ruled. And remember why this place is called Hāmākua, "the parent stalk" of this island. And back here in the middle of it all you will find yourself, in a quiet, old plantation town, in Paʻauilo.
(Aole i pau)
Na Noʻeau Peralto
Paʻauilo, Hāmākua, Hawaiʻi
Oct. 14, 2015