Why Haleakala is not sacred anymore

The Maui News
Letter to the Editor
Sunday, June 06, 2004

In ancient Hawaii, Haleakala was considered a wahi pana (legendary place, sacred place) and a wau akua (place where the gods live). Today, it is abused daily with bike tours, tourists in rented cars, buses and hundreds of people viewing this magnificent place that was revered by our ancient ancestors. The question is: Why is it not sacred anymore?

Do the Kanaka Maoli culture and their reverence to this wahi pana not mean anything anymore? Haven't we as Kanaka Maoli given up the land, our lifestyle and finally our sacred places to people who have exploited its beauty and sanctity for the sake of commercialism?

What about the protection of the natural resources? When will people realize that the National Park Service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources as stewards of the trust lands failed miserably to protect the resources on Haleakala from commercialism? We have passed the stage of having a pleasant drive to Haleakala to "enjoy" its beauty and have the bike tours barrel down the mountain and all the tourists and tour buses going up to see this "sacred" crater only to find there are so many cars in the parking lot there is no room for anyone else. That is the reason local people don't visit Haleakala anymore.

Now Ben Hall and his Haleakala Bike Co. want to come down Skyline Trail - enough already. The Na Ala Hele group should be the only ones allowed to take guided tours (noncommercial) down Skyline Trail, and no one else, including individuals and bike riders, should be allowed to ruin this once pristine and sacred area to the Hawaiian people. That is being responsible caretakers. It is long overdue and the park should have a parking area by the ranger's station and allow only a certain amount of cars and buses to enter the park. It is done at other national parks, why not here?

Steps should be taken now before we lose one of the most treasured places for many people that live in Hawaii, but most of all for the Kanaka Maoli who look to this sacred icon of Haleakala with its ancient name "Ala Hea Ka La," or the Path To Call The Sun.

This is where the demigod Maui lassoed the sun so his mother, Hina, could dry her tapa cloth. This is the former home of Pele, the goddess of the volcano who created 16 cinder cones, looking for a permanent home to live. Pele and her younger sister, Hi'akaikapoliopele, died at Haleakala later in mythological history in a battle between her rival sister, Namakaokaha'i, where their iwi (bones) were scattered through the crater and the hill at Aleamae named Kaiwiopele. This place contains the mo'olelo (stories) of our Hawaiian race and should be protected at all cost for the generations yet to come, so they know what their past was to prepare them for the future as Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii Nei.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi
Maxwell Sr.