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Our 'Āina

THE FOUNDATION OF KAULUAKALANA is firmly planted at Kūkanono, an ʻili ʻāina (small land division) at the piko of Kailua, which is home to two of the most significant cultural sites in our area: Ulupō and Kawainui.


Ulupō is one of the largest heiau on Oʻahu and was built about 1000 years ago on the banks of Kawainui, historically the second largest fishpond in all of Hawaiʻi and now the largest remaining wetland in our islands. Together, Ulupō and Kawainui are the pillars of what was once a vast agricultural and aquacultural complex that supported the health and well-being of kānaka and ʻāina in our district. The presence of these two wahi pana also made Kūkanono the spiritual and cultural center of our ahupua’a for at least 1000 years.


One meaning of the place name Kūkanono is “excessive” and likely is a reference to the abundance of resources that once flourished there. The name Kūkanono conjures images of a thriving environment, what once was and can be again if we commit to returning, restoring, and preserving our precious cultural features and practices. The significance of this area is documented in songs, chants, and epic stories in the Hawaiian-language newspapers of the 19th and 20th centuries. With these living narratives as our guides, we at Kauluakalana continue the restoration of Kūkanono and other connected wahi pana, to revive and promote – in our own day – the rich, land-based cultural practices of our ancestors.


Within the ʻili ʻāina of Kūkanono is an area of land that we refer to as Ulupō Nui ("greater Ulupō”). It extends from the base of Ulupō heiau to the southeastern banks of Kawainui fishpond. Two centuries ago, this area contained some of the most fertile of the island’s kalo fields. And the fishpond itself was once a 500-acre masterpiece of Hawaiian aquaculture that produced over 500,000 pounds of fish a year to feed our once thriving, self-sufficient community.


Ulupō Nui, Kūkanono is the primary site for all of our organization’s ʻāina education and restoration work where our staff and volunteers have been transforming land back to ʻāina and creating opportunities for thousands of members of our community to reconnect to Kailua’s sacred sites, cultural practices, and master teachers. In so doing, we have become a part of a much longer genealogy of aloha ʻāina—people and organizations that have taken up the kuleana to care for Ulupō Nui and its surrounding lands. From Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima in the 1970s to the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club in the 1980s and 90s to ʻAhahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi in the 2000s, the names of these groups and their leaders—Charlie Rose, Lucia Poepoe Davis, and Doc Burrows, just to name a few—are remembered in every lauhala we pick up, every weed we pull, every huli we plant, every story we tell, every kanaka we help reconnect to ʻāina.


Ulupō heiau, late 1880s, viewed from the east side. looking west across Kawainui.


(Kailua, pg. 150-151; Clifford Brown Wood, Hawaiʻi State Archives)

Maunawili and Kahanaiki streams flowing into Kawainui as seen from the old Pali road circa 1880.


(Kailua, pg. 124 &125; Brother Bertram Bellinghausen, Hawaiʻi State Archives)


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