A Valley Back in Time

For 100 years, the remains of a once-thriving Native Hawaiian village in Honokowai Valley lay dormant. Today, dedicated volunteers are restoring it—from the sticks to the stones.

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Sky Barnart

kaloI know there are times when Honokowai Valley is dark and rainy. But every time I’ve seen it, it’s full of light, and that’s the way it stays in my mind.

Birdsong echoes down the steep mountainsides that plunge 300 feet from sky to valley floor. Sunlight reflects off the diamond-shaped leaves of huge kukui trees arching over a streambed of rounded rocks. Layer upon layer of ancient stone terraces wind up the slope. Within each terrace, broad green faces of newly planted taro nod in the breeze, sheltered by the spirits of long ago.

On my first visit, my husband and I bump through the cane fields and the coffee farms in the back of Ed and Puanani Lindsey’s truck, past tangled forests of Java plum and haole koa, down steep inclines and across rocky streambeds, until we come to a place where the dense foliage parts like curtains on a stage.

Puanani gets out of the truck to open a low gate with stands of ti plants on each side. As Lindsey drives slowly through into the valley, I am moving, slow motion, back in time. I can almost see the sweating figures of men working in the lo‘i kalo (taro patches), hear the laughing children running out of the thatched hale (house), and feel the rhythm of women pounding tapa in the sun.

Ed Lindsey in a kalo (taro) field.
Ed Lindsey takes a moment in his kalo fields to survey the work.

One hundred years ago, this was a working village—in fact, the “breadbasket” for the Ka‘anapali region. Here, ancient Hawaiians grew taro, sweet potato and squash in the rock terraces they built. They crafted fishhooks, lines and lures; poi pounders, kukui lamps and anchors. The valley gave them everything they had, everything they needed.

Vrrrrrr! The metallic whine of a chainsaw shakes me from my thoughts of ancient Hawai‘i. These are modern times, and modern tools are being put to use here by modern people—people like me and my husband, seeking a way to express our appreciation for this island and this culture.

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