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The Contemporary Pacific 13.1 (2001) 293-295

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Book Review

Pana O'ahu: Sacred Stones, Sacred Land

Pana O'ahu: Sacred Stones, Sacred Land, edited and compiled with photographs by Jan Becket and Joseph Singer. Contributions by Kèhaunani Cachola-Abad, J Mikilani Ho, and Kawika Makanani; foreword by Marion Kelly. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8248- 1828-8, cloth; xxx + 186 pages, map, photographs, notes, bibliography, glossaries, index. US$42.

The most disturbed of the Hawaiian islands, O'ahu, still retains a large number of cultural and historic sites that provide a measure of the nature, complexity, and accomplishments of Hawaiian society before the beginning of extensive contact with the western world. Through a remarkable collection of photographs and accompanying texts, Pana O'ahu offers a visual reminder of the presence and activities of the Kanaka Maoli or Native Hawaiian people when this and the other islands of the group were theirs alone. Born out of protest against the desecration and destruction done to Hawaiian lands by the construction of the H-3 freeway in the last decades of the twentieth century, this compilation of photographs offers stunning testimony to what has been lost and to what might yet be regained through political resurgence and cultural revitalization. This is a book well worth viewing, reading, and reflecting on. In addition to the history it tells, this book also suggests other ways of doing history, of reading that part of the past that is imprinted on the terrain by the actions of godly beings or recorded in the ruins of structures that Native Hawaiians built on the land. In short, this book is both about the past [End Page 293] and about the ways in which a native past might be more appropriately and accurately appreciated. In my opinion, it succeeds at both levels, and honestly. There is no attempt to hide conflicting evidence from different primary sources; no effort to replace uncertainty about the Hawaiian past with groundless speculation; no aversion to mentioning the hardship visited on O'ahu by the invasion of conquering chiefs from Maui and later Hawai'i in the latter half of the eighteenth century.

The black-and-white photographs taken by Jan Becket and Joseph Singer form the core of this book; they are of sixty heiau or shrines, most having been built between the fifteenth and late-eighteenth centuries. Some of these heiau were extensive edifices on which elaborate ceremonies took place, involving the ali'i nui or highest order of chiefs. Others, according to Marion Kelly, were constructed by the maka'ainana or common people to procure divine assistance in securing the bounty of the land and bordering sea. The more modest sites left behind by the maka'ainana are of special interest to the photographers and authors of this book. Heiau, then, could be places for high ceremony, quiet reflection, religious worship, or ancestral commemoration. Of particular note is Kèhaunani Cachola-Abad's point about the great diversity in the size, shape, environmental settings, and functions of heiau--a diversity demonstrated graphically by the photographs. Whatever their specific form and function, however, all heiau were considered sacred sites.

The photographs and accompanying texts are organized under the pre-mahele division of O'ahu into six moku or districts; these, beginning in the southeast and moving in a clockwise direction, were Kona, 'Ewa, Wai'anae, Waialua, Ko'olauloa, and Ko'olaupoko. Such an ordering allows the creators of this book to demonstrate the extent of heiau construction on the island, and the disturbance and destruction caused to most of those heiau by massive changes in population, government, commerce, agriculture, and economy over the last two centuries. I found particularly dramatic and moving those photographs that show the damage done to Pu'upahe'ehe'e in Wai'anae, Kahokuwelowelo in Waialua, and Kukuiokane in Ko'olaupoko. This last heiau once stood as the principal shrine of the district, and was clearly visible and imposing from miles away. Pineapple farming in the early decades of the twentieth century and...