the author
Ahupua'a: Sustainability

The ability to protect land and water resources from depletion and still provide the materials needed by the people is called sustainability. How did the ahupua'a system of management achieve sustainability?
Sustainability draws from historical researcher Carol Silva's report in the Archaeological Investigation of Hule'ia National Wildlife Refuge Ha'iku, Niumalu, Kaua'. In addition, the traditional Hawaiian perspective is taken from Lilikala K. Kame'eleihiwa in Atlas of Hawai'i.
The traditional Hawaiian perspective saw the 'aina and the ali'i nui (high chiefs) as elder siblings (brother or sister), with the maka'ainana as the younger sibling - all three having descended from the mating of the earth and sky. It was the duty of the maka'ainana to malama 'aina (care for the land), while it was the duty of the 'aina and the ali'i nui to ho'omalu (protect) the maka'ainana.
.(Lilikala K. Kame'eleihiwa)

The ahupua'a was viewed as a single system. The konohiki managed the ahupua'a as one system. What happened in any one part of the ahupua'a affected all the other parts. The head was connected to the tail, the mauka connected to the makai. The maka'ainana worked as a community with a shared interest in protecting the land and water resources from wao to ko kaha kai.
Ahupua'a painting by
Marilyn Kahalewai
From Carol Silva - “Pre-contact Hawaiians depended upon an extremely ordered and equitable system of land division in which district boundaries were most carefully planned and laid out. This guaranteed that all natives residing within these boundaries would receive a fair share in the rights, privileges, and benefits essential for a self-sufficient yet comfortable life. Private land ownership was unknown, and public, common use of the ahupua’a resources demanded that boundaries be drawn to include sufficient land for residence and cultivation, freshwater sources, shoreline and open ocean access."
Ahupua'a Map courtesy of Ho'okipa Network

There was a clear line of responsibility from gods to ali'i to konohiki to maka'ainana. There were clear kapu (prohibitions), which controlled when and how resources were used, with very strict penalties for those who did not follow the kapu.

“As the native Hawaiians used the resources within their 'ahupua'a, they practiced aloha (respect), laulima (cooperation), and malama (stewardship) which resulted in a desirable pono (balance). This is sound resource management where the interconnectedness of the clouds, the forests, the streams, the fishponds, the sea, and the people is clearly recognized.”
(Carlos Andrade)
Alekoko Sunset by David Boynton
Soon, however, the sun would set on traditional Hawaiian land use. In Plantation, we look at the forces set in play by the arrival of Captain Cook.
Created June 2001