The Birthing of Hawaiian Royalty

I have wanted to get to this place for the longest time!  I rarely get out to Wahiawa or beyond so, after I got my safety-check sticker, I made sure to take full advantage of this rare and infrequent opportunity!

Over time, the writing of this blog has created a much greater sense of aloha for Hawaiian culture and it has ignited a thirst for knowledge about that culture’s history.  Up until now, Kukaniloko was known to me only as “the birthing stones.”   When I found my way there, I was lucky enough to find a rather interesting group of people.

Students from a University of Hawaii, Manoa Geology class

This was a class of Geology students from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.  Apparently, Kukaniloko “is the geographic center of O’ahu…” thus making it geologically important.  They were actually there with their geology professor!  Talk about a stroke of luck!

I tried to get closer so that I could eaves drop on part of what the professor was saying to the class.  I have to admit that I was a little taken aback listening to Dr. Scott Rowland as he told his students how an alii was birthed.  “They did what???” I was thinking to myself, relatively horrified.

I’m not going to get into it but, let’s put it this way, the State of Hawai’i’s flyer about Kukaniloko says, “The birth of a child at Kukaniloko was witnessed by 36 chiefs.”  This stunned me a bit because that is not the kind of birth-giving experience that I would care to deal with while bloody, sweating, and in pain.

Of course there are women today that have an audience during the birthing process.  The whole visual of the process being described by Dr. Rowland just caught me off guard, I think.  Of course, if you’re in that much physical distress, perhaps your only focus is on getting past that pain!  Mothers can weigh in on this.  Seriously, please do!

Dr. Rowland did remind everyone that, back then, this area did not look like it does now.  It used to be a forested area and hence much more secluded and private.  “Good point!”  That made it a little better.   Today, as you can see by the photos, it is wide open to the world!

The group of stones at Kukaniloko

I was quite impressed by how well-maintained this site has been kept after all these years!  Before the class departed for its next stop, Dr. Rowland was kind enough to share a copy of his handouts.  Part of the handout that had been put together for the class stated that Kukaniloko,

“is one of only two locations in Hawai’i where children of chiefs were born (the other was on Kaua’i).  Kukaniloko may have been established as a royal birthing place as long ago as the 12th century.  Fortunately, W.W. Goodale of the Waialua Sugar Plantation as well as the Daughters of Hawai’i made sure that this place was protected and not plowed over for agriculture.”

Thank goodness!  That would have been an archeological and culturally-historical disaster!

Well-kept grounds at Kukaniloko

As I surveyed the area I became curious about the slightly-elevated area pictured above.  Was it ever used for rituals or halau performances or something?  It sort of looked like a hula mound.  Anybody in the know can share your knowledge on this too!

Any woman living in those times would have appreciated the honor it was to actually be giving birth to a chief!  Hawaiians had a great deal of respect for the alii, as they do to this day.  The birth of a new ruler was certainly an event to be celebrated!

Heiau at Kukaniloko

It was really comforting to see how the grounds are so well kept.  I was very pleased but I wanted to know more about this heiau.  Again, anybody in the know on this is welcome to comment!

Close-up shot of the birthing stones

Dr. Rowland indicated that one of these stones was the main stone but I wasn’t close enough to the group to hear which one it was.  The one in the center of the picture above may have been the one but I’m honestly not sure.  I knelt down and touched the surface of the stones — they were unusually smooth and even soothing to the touch.

Kukaniloko sign

This sign posted by the DLNR shows that the land here is protected, as it should be.  The sign has taken a beating over time but the simple message it carries is essential — “Please respect this sacred area.”

I came away moved by the beauty and serenity of this simple site that is listed on both the National and State of Hawai’i Registers of Historic Places.  While feeling a little more educated about this little tidbit of our historic culture, I still remain overwhelmed by the very complex history of our State.  There is still so much to uncover and talk about.  And you thought you were going to get off easy!

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Dec 29, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    That is so awesome. You were so lucky. I once went to Kapoho to go snorkeling and happened on a Hawaiian Language class chanting in the parking lot. That was really cool too. Totally unplanned, but totally … spiritual almost.

  • 2 Evelyn // Dec 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Hi Lisa,

    I was pretty happy when I figured out who they were! I like your story too! Sometimes we end up at in the right place at the right time. 🙂

    Thanks for visiting and for your comment!

  • 3 sonya // Dec 30, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    lived here my whole life and never knew this existed! thanks for posting it…i’m gonna take my family to check it out!

  • 4 Evelyn // Dec 31, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Sonya, I wouldn’t have known about it either if people at work weren’t talking about it off and on. Once I knew about it I just HAD to see it! You know, it’s amazing how much we’ve been missing! How can we live right here and not know about this stuff?!? Tsk!

    Blogs are even more important for finding out about these things. Please share your thoughts once you get there! 🙂

  • 5 Carnival Welcoming the New Year // Jan 4, 2011 at 7:06 am

    […] (I) found it because she was looking for it!  I really wanted to share this link about The Birthing of Hawaiian Royalty.  This location has been a cultural fascination to me for a long time and I finally got to see […]

  • 6 April M. Williams // Jan 5, 2011 at 3:27 am

    What an interesting find. Lava rocks are usually rough so I was surprised you said they were smooth.

  • 7 Evelyn // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Hi April! I was kind of surprised at the smoothness as well. I’m going to go with years of use. That would do it, I believe. Perhaps, at one time, as part of their geological history, they were river rocks. That’s probably not the case but I don’t know that for sure either. Maybe we need to ask Dr. Rowland. Now I’m on a mission. See what you did? 🙂

  • 8 Karen of Honolulu // Jan 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Evelyn, I was checking in to see what was new on your site when I saw your post on Kukaniloko. You can imagine how surprised I was because I’ve been working on posting just the same thing for over a month. There is so much to say and I know so little but it is such a sacred place. Thanks for posting it. You have inspired me to get to work on it TODAY!

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