Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I had a happy day a while ago, one of my all-too-rare local-girl barefoot days.

Growing up in Honolulu meant lazy days at Sandy Beach sunbathing with a girlfriend in matching red-and-white Tahitian-print bikinis. Or taking the bus to Waikiki for a hamburger and a swim with a friend whose parents belonged to the Outrigger Canoe Club, then a hole in the wall with a prime position on the beach. I’d come home tired, happy, utterly relaxed, with – thanks to my dear parents, a University of Hawaii professor and an elementary school principal – not a care in the world.

Some of that sense stole over me the day I decided to give myself four blissful hours at Keanae. The road was a marvel: overhanging monkeypods, banks of ginger, the voluptuous orange flowers of the African tulip tree lying wantonly on the ground.

I stopped first at the old landing near the foot of the bluffs on the northwest side of the peninsula. A derrick once stood there to load cargo for the community, recognizable from sea in the 1930s by “a yellowish church with a steeple” and a “lone coconut tree, well out on the point.”

A black rock about 15 feet high lies west of the landing, and into that little bay, I was told, 27 dolphins came in to sport that morning. I paused to savor the beauty of the sparkling sea – too rough that day for me to venture into – and headed down a curve in the road to Chang’s Pond.

I threaded down the rocky path to the pond and found a trail to a vantage point overlooking the falls, my own private paradise. Concealed by heart-shaped ape leaves nodding their pretty heads in the breeze, lulled by the rush of the stream, I lay down and napped. Napped!

Two local guys appeared and the air filled with a heated conversation in pidgin before they dive-bombed into the pond from the bridge, a fine old thing, narrow, built of concrete, its underbelly visible from the rocks below. It’s one of the 54 bridges on the 50-mile “belt road” (with its 161 turns) that opened formally in 1926, connecting Peahi with Hana.

All was quiet when I awoke, so I stole down the trail and dove into the pond’s chill waters, cool, oh so cool. I swam through a little rocky gorge to the falls before the current pushed me back. A smooth, rocky seat lies hidden under the falls, but it takes the strong arms of fellow swimmers to hold a person in position so I floated back out into the main body of the pond.

A pack of tourists arrived, and they stared at me in wonder as I slid through the water. “You look as if you’re encased in glass,” one said, awed by the crystalline blue of the pond.

I basked on the rocks like a lizard, until the tourists left and a haole guy with long hair and red trunks flung first his slippers and then himself from the bridge. I climbed back to my lookout.

The drive back was golden. Not one but two slow-moving cars driven by visitors behaved courteously and pulled off the road when I nosed up behind. The familiar swath of coastline near Haiku came into view, the broad sweep of mountain to sea, a beautiful ribbon of road my route into town. How fortunate are we who live here.

A small miracle awaited in the parking lot at Mana – an actual space for once! – how long has it been since that happened? A burly gray-haired man from Rancho Mirage, Calif., and his wife pulled in next to me and spotted something in an empty shopping cart. “You look like you live here,” he said. (Swimming suit, pareu, sunburn, Dalai Lama on Maui 2007 baseball cap, how could he tell?) “Do you want this?” It was a treasure, a green papaya tipped in gold, round and fat.

“You don’t?”

“I don’t care for them too much,” the man smiled. “My friend likes them, but he’s five and a half hours away.”

It was so precious, this day of small delights. Some time off, some silence, and the company of Mother Maui.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

The sun was low in the sky, and I was on Ka’anapali Beach at the Sheraton Maui, waiting to view for the first time the famed sunset cliff dive off Black Rock, a tradition since the hotel’s inception 50 years ago.

The dancer performed a hula kahiko in honor of Pu’u Keka’a, and the prerecorded soundtrack intoned the legend of Kahekili, high chief of Maui circa 1766-1793, who was known for his lele kawa, or cliff jumping, sometimes from heights in Hana of 300 to 400 feet.

We waited and waited, but out on Black Rock the torches remained unlit, and we watched as a figure picked his way uncomfortably up the sharp rocks. Then there was an unceremonious splash as he jumped feet first into the water, followed by another.

“That’s it?” the well-groomed tourist next to me said. “I thought it was supposed to be a dive. I’ve seen kids do better than that.”

It turned out the event was indeed the work of kids, some of whom had broken a pole to one of the 11 gas-fed torches on the cliff, resulting in a shutoff of the whole line and cancellation of the dive. Mike Durand and his brother Phil, who were heading back to Seattle that night, were the source of the evening’s entertainment.

“How many beers have you had?” I asked.

“One an hour,” said Mike.

“For 10 days,” said Phil.

The incident underscored for me the many faces of Black Rock – vacation paradise, sacred spot, plantation relic, haven of marine biodiversity – and the tensions inherent within them.

Pu’u Keka’a, as Hawaiians know it, is the westernmost point on Maui, considered ka leina a ka ‘uhane, the place where souls leap into the afterworld. (Each island had such a spot; Polihale on Kauai and Kaena Point on Oahu are others, as well as Kama’oma’o, the dry central isthmus of Maui.)

The cinder cone was also a Hawaiian burial ground and the site of many battles. Abraham Fornander, who lived on Maui from 1859 to 1872, commented on the “great amount of human bones at this place,” so many that students from Lahainaluna studying anatomy went there to procure skeletons.

Pioneer Mill acquired the land in the 19th century (wish I knew from whom) and in 1898 built a small wharf used to ship sugar and molasses and bring in freight and plantation supplies.

An old photograph shows a winch at the end of the blunt dock, a loading derrick and a series of warehouses from which railroad tracks led to the cane fields. Logs used for lumber were submerged near the pier and left to cure for months, rendering plantation homes termite-free.

The pier, removed in the ’30s, stretched out into the ocean where a tugboat waited to tow the barge loaded with heavy bags of sugar to the Matson ship lying in deep water.

Sam Kadotani reminisced about the days when his father worked that tugboat, coordinating on land with the “Brown Gang,” so named for Pioneer Mill’s popular superintendent of shipping. “Everybody wanted to be on the Brown gang,” he wrote. “When the barge arrived back at the pier, the men would go crazy.” Whoever worked the crane would “accidentally” drop a little something directly onto the pier – shoes, clothes, canned goods, for the men, who shared the booty.

The former burial ground now hosts the resort’s $5,000-a-night Ali’i Suite, favored for weddings, and the cliffside rooms at Moana Hale, built in the mid-’60s, favored by honeymooners. Hmmm. To be sure, it’s an exalted spot from which one can look down into the arms of Moemoe, which forms the little sandy cove at the seaward reach. The old circular driveway leads to the former lobby, now a lookout and historical center.

The Sheraton’s property on the cliff is protected by locked fences and a gated parking lot, making access by local folks to Black Rock’s famed fishing and diving spots a trek for the determined. One afternoon we sat on the rocks by the crumbling landing as a breeze ruffled the water and a rainbow climbed into the clouds over the golf course.

Nearby was a sign pronouncing the Kahekili Fisheries Management Area, articulating the balance to be struck between the competing interests of fishermen and divers. One can “kill and injure” fish, but not the colorful Hawaiian nenue (rudderfish), uhu (parrotfish) and surgeonfish.

That’s some honor system. I hope it works.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

We recently treated ourselves to a weekend at the Sheraton Maui, where in 20 years on the island I’d never been. We got a good deal on the rate, an excellent deal, allowing us to live for a few days like high-flying tourists on our own island.

The hotel is now my vote for best resort on Maui, not because it’s the most glamorous or exciting, but for its beauty, its privacy, its commanding presence on Ka’anapali Beach and the role it has played in Maui history. It’s one of those places people went to as a child and return to year after year for the superb setting and service.

Our room the first night overlooked an old-fashioned tropical garden with tall old palms and a native ‘ulu, the finger-leafed breadfruit tree. From the lanai, we spied a sliver of ocean off the Royal Lahaina and the thousand-room condo warrens to the north. There, the desire to maximize square footage trumps Hawaiian charm, a contemporary disease the Sheraton wisely managed (mostly) to avoid in its 1995 remodel. (Why no gardens in the new wing?)

On the second night we looked out onto the sparkling ocean and the pleasurable scene framed by serpentine pool, the beachside bars, and the original eight-story building with its curved balconies and hanging bougainvillea that was carved into the side of Black Rock. A rare view from a perch on the top floor takes in the southern expanse of the beach stretching past the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel to the Whalers condos and beyond.

The promontory of Black Rock, of course, lies at the center of it all, looming over what was once a dry, rock-strewn place. Today it would be sacrilege, and undoubtedly illegal, to slice off the top of a landmark like Pu’u Keka’a that was sacred to the Hawaiians.

The moku of Ka’anapali (the name means “divided cliffs”) stretched from north of the point to Waihe’e, while the ahupua’a of Lahaina extended to the south. The name went into disuse when the Ka’anapali moku was folded into the ahupua’a of Lahaina in 1923, until revived by “the haole guys from Amfac,” according to a friend, and applied to both sides of Black Rock.

The area belonged to Pioneer Mill, a stark reminder of the dominion the sugar companies once held on Maui. In 1953, the company’s board authorized a study to determine the best land use for the property and met at a luau near Black Rock in 1957 where they voted to create the 395-acre Ka’anapali Beach Resort, the first master-planned resort community in Hawaii.

Engineers went to work removing cane haul roads, moving irrigation lines and building a water supply system and sewage disposal plant. Robert Trent Jones was hired to design the first championship 18-hole golf course and land was graded and filled for six hotel sites (using half a cinder cone from Olowalu, according to my friend.)

In June 1962, an airstrip opened at North Beach where the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort is now, and in December the private Royal Lahaina Beach Club offered 31 cottages, the effective date of the resort’s opening. In January 1963, the Sheraton Maui, now celebrating its 50th anniversary year, became the first official hotel of the resort, and the first built by a major chain on a Neighbor Island.

The award-winning design by Honolulu architect George Wimberly (featured in a Museum of Modern Art show in New York) daringly put the entry to the new hotel at the top of Pu’u Keka’a, where the lobby, restaurant and bar looked out onto a dazzling vista from coast to coast. Guests descended to their cliffside rooms: $12.50 for a single, $16, double. Circular cottages dotted the grounds.

It was like being at the pearly gates, one travel writer said.

On Jan. 22, 1963, 2,000 out of Maui’s 40,000 residents waited in the rain at Kahului Airport for a chance to inspect the Mark IV DC-8 jet in which United Airlines ferried movie stars, golf celebrities, “and some of the nation’s top newspaper people” for the Sheraton’s grand opening. (Bing Crosby and Phil Harris struck up duets over the speaker system “to brighten the trip.”)

A hundred agricultural workers enrolled in federally sponsored training classes, hoping for jobs as chambermaids or “waiter and waitresses.” So began the demise of the sugar and pineapple industry as the main employer on Maui. As Alexis Eaton, the Sheraton’s public relations manager put it, “Our history is so much a part of everybody else’s.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

Late one night at the Republican convention of 1902, Henry P. Baldwin shrewdly suggested that Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole could be the person to help the party of the planters win over the huge political majority of the Hawaiians, recently enfranchised by the United States.

Kuhio had the potential to capture the hearts of Hawaiians nostalgic for life under the monarchy. And he did not like the wild rhetoric of Robert Wilcox, leader of the newly formed the Home Rule Party through which Native Hawaiians had captured the Legislature and threatened to dominate the territory’s politics.

The prince was a generous, congenial figure with a ready wit and abundant good humor. His tastes were expensive, and he was an avid sportsman who enjoyed hunting, fishing, yachting and polo. The Maui News considered Kuhio “an honorable, high-minded man who was not ambitious for office.”

His nickname, “Prince Cupid,” was bestowed by the French teacher at the private boarding school he attended in Honolulu, who was taken with the “fat little fellow whose eyes twinkled merrily and upon whose lips there was a perpetual smile. . . . He is so cute, just like the pictures of the little cupids.”

Kuhio was married to Elizabeth Kahanu Kaauwai, daughter of a Maui chief. The young couple left Hawaii in 1899 for a trip around the world, including Paris and South Africa. They returned in 1901 to Pualeilani, their home on the beach at Waikiki that became famous for gracious hospitality.

It was Kuhio who, at the coronation of Kalakaua and Kapi’olani in 1874, came forward with the second crown. It was Kuhio who accompanied Lili’uokalani on a trip to the leprosy settlement on Molokai in April 1891. It was he, among others, who stood in the Blue Room of ‘Iolani Palace on the fateful day of Jan. 17, 1893, when the queen renounced the throne under protest.

There are several versions of how Lili’uokalani’s favorite was persuaded to support the party of the men who overthrew her.

According to Samuel Wilder King, a future governor of Hawaii, a secret meeting took place late at night at Honolulu’s prestigious Pacific Club between Kuhio and Baldwin, who pressed him until 2 a.m. to accept. Kuhio’s English was not good at the time, but Baldwin was fluent in Hawaiian.

A second version holds that Joe Cooke, head of Alexander & Baldwin, and Jack Atkinson, Kuhio’s boyhood friend, were the ones involved. Atkinson left the convention late in the evening to rouse the prince at his home while Cooke waited at the Pacific Club. The prince accepted.

Baldwin put Kuhio’s name in nomination on Sept. 2, 1902, as the Republican candidate for Hawaii’s delegate to the U.S. Congress.

“I cannot forget the pleasure of the years I lived under the monarchy, as a youth, as a young man, as a man of business. My remembrances of all those days give me a heartfelt aloha for Hawaii and the Hawaiians,” he said. Republicans should be proud to have a leader with the stature of Kuhio join their ranks, and “the prince himself should be proud that he has chosen to belong to that party, which is a party that stands for the good of the whole people.”

Kuhio took the floor and announced to hearty cheers, “I am a Republican from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.”

He proved an excellent campaigner. “Aloha, alo-ha, kama-‘aina,” Kuhio greeted audiences in soft mellow tones, drawing out the words. His campaign tours were similar to the royal progresses through the islands his forbears made in days gone by.

The prince was welcomed at the homes of the most important people in each district, and plantation managers eagerly sought his presence. Republicans raised large sums to provide lavish entertainment at each stop, with a luau and the best musicians. Kuhio and his party arrived, dashingly, on horseback. Speechmaking began after the feast and took most of the afternoon.

Wilcox argued that a man who would kuhio (“bend away”) from the Home Rule Party did not deserve Hawaiian support, and the Home Rulers took the majority of the Hawaiian vote throughout the territory. But the prince won huge pluralities in haole precincts, and enough votes in Kona and on Maui, where Hawaiian leaders joined forces with the Republicans, to clinch a substantial victory.

Robert Wilcox died a year later, and by 1912 the Home Rule Party was finished. Kuhio became a favorite in the U.S. Congress and went on to win 10 more elections.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

Prince Kuhio is a beloved figure in Hawaii, with many accomplishments to his name. But the celebration of his birthday last week got me thinking about a little remarked upon facet of his career.

Because of him, the Republican Party was able to crush the nascent Hawaiian opposition and gain a 50-year stranglehold on the politics of the territory.

It went like this.

Full democracy for male Hawaiians was granted through Lunalilo’s efforts in 1873, but property qualifications were reimposed when the Bayonet Constitution was forced upon Kalakaua in 1887. That injustice was perpetuated when the Provisional Government overthrew Lili’uokalani in 1893 and again, by the Republic of Hawaii.

When Hawaii was annexed to the United States in 1898, Gov. Sanford B. Dole and Lorrin Thurston argued vehemently that Hawaiians were politically too immature to govern themselves. “I believe it is extremely necessary to keep out of politics this class of people, irresponsible people I mean,” said Dole.

The U.S. Congress, however, was adamant that Hawaiians have the same voting rights as any American citizen. As long as they were male, of age, met residency requirements, and were capable of reading and writing in English or the Hawaiian language, Hawaiians could participate in all local elections.

Chinese were excluded from voting under the United States’ Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Under the guise of requiring that voters spoke either Hawaiian or English, however, Hawaii’s sizable Japanese population was excluded as well.

The Hawaiians were a shrinking race, with only 28,718 full-blooded and 9,536 part-Hawaiians counted in the census of 1900. This was a fraction of Hawaii’s total population of 154,000, but now they possessed a huge advantage at the polls, with two-thirds of the vote in the territory.

It was a tremendous opportunity for Hawaiians to form their own political parties and wrest power back from those who had disenfranchised them for 30 years. Had they been able to accomplish this, the future of Hawaii would have been very different.

(Imagine large tracts of government lands leased to Hawaiian entrepreneurs, not haole ranchers and plantation owners! Imagine the government buying back the water channels from East Maui, and diverting it to small farms. Imagine initiatives for the health and education of the people!)

For a short time, it looked as though this could be.

In the election of 1900, elated Hawaiians supported neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, led by Prince David Kawananakoa, Kuhio’s brother. Instead they flocked to their own newly minted Home Rule Party, derived from the intelligent and skillful followers of Hui Aloha ‘Aina, who fought valiantly against annexation, along with the National Reform Party and other Native Hawaiian political organizations.

Its head was the fiery Robert Wilcox, a leader in the aborted counterrevolution of 1895 that sought to restore Lili’uokalani to the throne. Nana i ka ili, “Look to the skin,” he told them – vote Hawaiian.

The Home Rule Party won an overwhelming victory, taking 14 seats in the territorial House of Representatives, versus nine for Republicans and four for Democrats, and nine of the 13 seats in the Senate. It won all the Maui seats, save those of the ever-popular Henry P. Baldwin, who was elected to the Senate, and his brother-in-law C.H. Dickey, to the House. Wilcox became Hawaii’s delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Now was the chance for elected Hawaiians to prove the haole wrong. Instead, the Legislature of 1901 became a tragic joke. The Home Rulers insisted on conducting business in Hawaiian, attempted to free native prisoners from jails, and indulged in a lengthy and frivolous discussion about lowering the tax on female dogs to ease the hardship for Hawaiians fond of eating them. For this, they earned the nickname “the lady dog legislature.”

When no appropriations had been made after two months, Dole called a special session to keep the wheels of government turning. The Home Rule Party, said The Maui News, “with the best of intentions in the world, has proved a monumental failure as lawmaking power.”

The Republicans were disgusted, but there was no way that they, the party of the business elite, could prevail against the odds unless they could demonstrate that Wilcox was irresponsible and win over the Hawaiians themselves.

For this, they needed a new champion for the “natives,” one who would want to help his people in the highest halls of power, but also one willing to be led by the haole.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, Baldwin thought, could be their man.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at