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Wailuku’s Forgotten State Monument

Wailuku’s Forgotten State Monument
December 3, 2018 Aramis Davis

The Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument, translated as “house of images” and “gathering place of high supernatural beings”, is an overlooked historic landmark to tourists, locals, and even the county. This site was added into the National Register of Historic Places on November 25th, 1985 and was known at the time for being the only heiau still intact within the Kahului-Wailuku area. What gives this state monument significance other than its venerable age is Kahekili, high chief of Maui, using Haleki’i as both a home and place of worship from circa 1765-1790. These heiau overlook Iao Valley and Kahului bay, and were used for rituals as well as ceremonies dedicated to Kū, god of war, due to the heiau being war temples built for the success in war. However, the Wailuku Civic Center Historic District, Iao Valley State Park, and Bailey House Museum are a few examples of better well-known historical landmarks in Wailuku that shadow the Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau from more attention despite holding a strong significance on Maui’s history. 

For those curious on visiting the heiau, the site is located between Hea Place and Akuluikuli Way in a local neighborhood in Wailuku. The entry road is gated to prohibit vehicles and only allow pedestrian traffic, so this means one would have to park outside of the gate in the residential area. The dulled-out parking lot and relatively well-kept signs are still intact atop the hill, but there are no park staff in the area. Atop the hill is where the Haleki’i-Piahana Heiau should be. However, due to the natural deterioration of the heiau, they were torn down at some point within the past couple of decades. What’s more surprising is the last documented reconstruction of the heiau were as far back as 1959 where Kenneth Emory of the Bishop Museum was in charge. There are no plans on restoring the heiau currently. 

In regards the deteriorated eastern side of the sand dune park site, the Hawaii National Guard constructed a water tank, pipeline, and dirt road that can be followed through a thick brush to a plaque that states: “Pihana Heiau” with lei offerings at the farthest end of the site. The only remains left of the Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument at this point are the rock foundations, informative signs, plaques that discuss the history associated with the site, some of the dirt path carved out by the Hawaii National Guard, and the scenic view over Wailuku and Kahului. 

As a community in Maui county, efforts should be made to restore an important piece of Hawaiian history and recreate the heiau atop the overlook. If convincing the state to do something falls on deaf ears, this equally important state monument should be visited by everyone whether local or not.

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