Classroom Connections | Kūkaniloko

Teachers from around the island of Oʻahu gathered at Kupuahuawa, also knowKukaniloko1n as Kūkaniloko Birthstones State Monument and Historic Site, for a listening journey hosted by teachers from Helemano Elementary School and facilitated by the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawā. Established in 1960, the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawā is comprised of individuals and families who trace their genesis to puʻuhonua kūkaniloko, and have embraced their kuleana (responsibility) for the maintenance and care of the grounds for the last 57 years. Kiaʻi (caretaker) Tom Lenchanko, led the onsite listening journey, sharing his ʻike (knowledge) and moʻolelo (referred to by Uncle Tom as his family’s “traditional comprehension” of what is seen and unseen):

kukaniloko2…puʻuhonua kūkaniloko kalana līhuʻe, wahiawā, halemano 36,000 acres iwaho iloko…

within and without the 36,000 acres of the kalana līhuʻe, wahiawā, halemano… the land of our Lo-aliʻi… is our inheritance puʻuhonua kūkaniloko.

“Puʻuhonua Kūkaniloko is a wahi kapu (place of privilege).It’s most widely known as the “birth place of aliʻi” and it’s history of being constructed and used to assure the significance of those born here are hoʻaliʻi ikū pau (recognized by the gods as their descendant, highest of them all, managers of our sacred land, precious resources and beloved people). Kuapuu kūkaniloko (the pōhaku (stone) to be trusted in ancient times) may have been specifically shaped to support the aliʻi wahine during the liloe kapu birth rite. Aliʻi born, circa 860AD, at kapuahuawa upon the kuapuu kūkaniloko include but are not limited to, kapawa, kalanimanuia and kakuhihewa… kapaʻahu within halemano and kaluaaahu within waikakalaua pre-date kapuahuawa in our Hawaiian genesis…kukaniloko4

In addition, the half-acre remnant of 180 pōhaku, which is all that remains of a much larger complex, has fixed upon it our navigation school and more importantly the diamond shaped “piko” pōhaku understood to be the center of the island of Oahu in its relationship to the equator, a concept that is deeply rooted in moʻolelo of this wahi kapu. (Voices of Truth Koani Foundation video)”

Scholars also believe that this site, one of thirteen disciplines, is a place of learning. Kapuahuawa is home to a group of 180 pohaku that are used as observational tools for environmental, meteorological and astronomical investigation. Hawaiians kukaniloko3understood and used the sun, moon, planets and stars, and their relationship to the features upon the landscape to mark time and place. From here at kapuahuawa the rising and setting of the sun, for example, using points along the Koʻolau and Waiʻanae mountain ranges may have been used to reference a calendar of events, such as the observation of the solstices and equinoxes. Closer attention to the 36 serrated edges and hallows upon the diamond shaped pohaku and the angles they present, align themselves with the mountain ranges and beyond. Also noting the unique concentric rings petroglyph drawn upon its surface trained Hawaiian navigators on tracking stars to their zeniths throughout the year, an essential tool to navigate around the world and to find their way home.

Puʻuhonua Kūkaniloko, the kalana of līhuʻe, wahiawā, halemano…36,000 acres sits upon the Wahiawā Plateau, a broad plain between the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau mountain ranges. Situated amidst the rich traditional cultural landscape of central Oʻahu, puʻuhonua Kūkaniloko was the socio-economic center of power and authority of the Lo-aliʻi.

If you are interested in the listening journey to puʻuhonua kūkaniloko, please join the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawā as they host an onsite community work day every third Saturday of the month from 9am-12pm. Anyone looking to support a great cause should check this out! You can also read their most recent Newsletter here.

kukaniloko5If you are a teacher on Oʻahu, this is a great listening journey for students of all ages from all over the island of Oʻahu. Disciplines of traditional comprehension, math, science, Archaeoastronomy, Hawaiian history, flora and fauna may be explored in an outdoor venue. Should a listening journey not be possible, contact the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawā through Jo-Lin Lenchanko Kalimapau at or Tom Lenchanko at (808) 349-9949.

Ready to try out any of these lessons or resources? Email us at to share with us what you do with this content – we would love to see pictures and student reflections that we can share on social media and our website!

Doing another kind of project to mālama your community? Share Your Mālama Honua Story with us!

Are your students still in the beginning stages of identifying a problem they would like to try and solve? Don’t forget to check out the Mālama Honua Challenge and share your ideas about work that can be done in the future!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email