Keys To The Kingdom
Through restoration efforts, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Kaumuali‘i Chapter 3 is rebuilding Kamalo‘ula Cultural Preserve to its former glory.
Along the coast of Poi‘pū discreetly sits 16 acres of land that’s overgrown with koa and easy to be overlooked as yet another large parcel to be developed. But, beneath the deep brush and layers upon layers of soil rests a sacred part of Kaua‘i’s history.
This is the Kamalo‘ula Cultural Preserve, and the restoration of this land is moving forward under the charge of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Kaumuali‘i Chapter 3 (Kaua‘i Chapter).
According to kahuna pule Chucky Boy Chock, “This is what comes to mind instantly: ‘Ke one hānau o Kalaniana‘ole,’ the birthsands of Kalaniana‘ole, Prince Kūhiō, a significant heritage center for all Hawai‘i nei, especially Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. What’s even more special: He’s the great-grandson of our beloved king, Kaumuali‘i.”
The discovery and restoration of the ancient land was given a boost in 2020. The Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Kaumuali‘i Chapter 3’s nonprofit Na Kahu o Ho‘ai received funding from Hawai‘i Tourism’s Kukulu Ola program to support internships for Kaua‘i’s keiki to work and learn at the site.
The organization is also in the process of applying for a grant-in-aid, for equipment in the clearing and restoration process.
According to kahuna Kuhikuhi Pu‘uone Chadley Schimmelfennig, who is the chairman and lead for the Kamalo‘ula Restoration Project, “Our short-term goal is to continue to clear the over-brush in the area and identify significant sites. Then, the process of rebuilding will begin.”
The long-term goal includes the creation of an educational site that replicates how this land would have been used over 200 years ago. “This,” says Schimmelfennig, “combined with ongoing education in farming, sustainability and preservation, will allow us to continue a legacy that was started by our kūpuna.
“The literal translation for Kamalo‘ula is ‘the red malo’ — red being our original island color and the color that our ali‘i from Kaua‘i wore,” adds Schimmelfennig. “Another interpretation could also be ‘the sacred malo.’ From what we’re able to learn, Kamalo‘ula was used as an agriculture site predominately for our ali‘i.”
The organization’s kakaolelo, Kimo Perry, explains how this is an important historical site that covers all eras from pre-contact, through the sugar era, and up to modern day.
“Somewhere around 1,400 AD, the Kōloa field system was created, which is a unique feature of the site, with complex ‘auwai carrying water to the area,” says Perry. “There are also remnants of ancient house sites and a heiau. In fact, we still don’t know exactly what we’ll reveal once we start removing all the brush, but we do know that there’s more than 500 years of human history to be discovered.”
Ironically, the preservation of this land was first made possible because of the knowledge and foresight of a development company. According to the Royal Order’s Alihikaua Warren Perry, Kukui‘ula Development Co. was the landowner in the early 1990s, and the company recognized the importance of preserving and restoring the site. Kamalo‘ula abuts Prince Kūhiō Park, which had been owned and maintained by the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Kaumuali‘i Chapter 3 since 1924. Kukui‘ula decided that the Royal Order was a natural entity to take on the project as owners and caretakers.
Discussions and negotiations began in the early 1990s and continued until the deed to Kamalo‘ula was finally signed in May 2018. The Royal Order’s efforts to preserve and restore the site started soon after that, with “much-appreciated financial assistance from Kukui‘ula.” Chock explains that “the restoration of this storied wahi pana (place) is not only our kuleana (responsibility), but a reminder of the importance and legacy of Prince Kūhiō. ‘Ua kau I ka hano hāweo’ to all people of Hawai‘i nei, he is placed in the highest honor. What a privilege to walk in the footsteps of Keali‘imaka‘āinana, the people’s prince. Wow!”
Schimmelfennig says, “This project is particularly important, being that it was a site that fed many of our ali‘i and also the last recognized ali‘i, Prince Jonah Kūhiō. This project, now, will allow our community to come together and rebuild what could have been lost.”
There are many ways for the community to become involved, whether it be a financial contribution, donating tools or equipment, or volunteering at the site. The organization has started to schedule regular workdays, including a major one in June. It will also be starting internships for keiki in March and July.
Leon Gonsalves Jr., ali‘i aimoku for Moku o Kaumuali‘i, Chapter 3, explains that the Royal Order’s purpose is to instill principles of friendship, charity, goodwill and to improve the social and moral condition of its members. The Kaua‘i chapter (Moku O Kaumuali‘i, Chapter 3) has been active since Dec. 5, 1918, and currently has 25 members.
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I, as it exists today, was inspired by an earlier organization created on April 11, 1865, by Kamehameha V. This was the first Hawaiian Royal Order, created to commemorate his grandfather, Kamehameha the Great.
“To me, Kamalo‘ula bridges the past to the present,” says Gonsalves Jr. “In the Order, we perpetuate the Hawaiian culture by upkeeping our wahi pana at Ho‘ai. We now have a cultural education resource with this restoration project, which will allow people a glimpse into the past. Kamalo‘ula to our current members is akin to what the restoration of Prince Kūhiō Park was to the members at that time. It’s our contribution to the future of the chapter and the people of Kaua‘i and beyond.”