Construction on an ahu, or altar, began in Kepaniwai Park's Heritage Gardens last week, with a dedication planned for Jan. 17.
The altar will be created with pohaku, or stones, from Iao Valley and areas throughout Maui.
Hanalei Colleado, a member of the Native Hawaiian community, has lived with his family in Iao Valley for more than 13 years and envisioned the project about a month ago.
Hanalei Colleado said the name of the altar came to him as “Ahu Kinihapai,” which means “the uplifting of the multitude.” Colleado consulted with many members of the community on the design of the altar and said the face of the large stone will have an image carved of a man with his arms stretched out toward heaven.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
"The Heritage Gardens has dedicated sections to represent the different people groups that migrated to Hawaii to work during the plantation era," said Colleado. "Each group has its own statue of a significant person, situated in a manner that tells a story most significant to their people. The Hawaiian garden has no significant person to represent our people, and I seek to change that."
Colleado said an uncut stone in the shape of a book will be placed at the center of the 8-by-8-by-4-foot altar and represent the Hui Aloha Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions, or Kue petitions, of 1897-98.
These petitions, which were in opposition of the annexation of Hawaii and supported the restoration of the monarchy, have close to 40,000 signatures. Colleado said this was the most significant event in Hawaii.
"The discovery of these signatures wasn't known to us till 100 years later," said Colleado. "With the encouragement of kupuna (elders), people from Hawaii researched and pulled copies of the petitions in Washington, D.C., to bring home. When our people saw that our kupuna protested the annexation . . . it's a tear-jerker and brings you to a certain reality. This ahu will represent our discovery of the truth and hopefully jog the spirits of all peoples that Hawaii is still, and has always been, a sovereign kingdom."
The altar will be built from two large stones and hundreds of medium- to smaller-sized ones.
Colleado said he does not pick out the stones but instead the stones "call out to him."
"We walked the valley and waited for a stone to give us a wink, saying, 'I'm the one,' " said Colleado. "We went sweat up, and nothing said hello or blinked their eye, but then we crossed the stream by the state park and rested by the Iao Needle."
Colleado said he turned to his side and the rock right next to him called out.
"It was right next to me all this time," said Colleado. "I walk by it every single day of my life and I've never seen it. But that's the one."
Colleado received help from county Maintenance Division Superintendent Bradley Pierce, in terms of the approval process for the altar and its construction.
Pierce recruited the help of inmates at Maui Community Correctional Center to gather stones from Iao Stream.
"Last week Friday I had only requested one line, or five to eight guys," said Colleado. "Next thing I know, they got two more vans."
Colleado, who has served as a minister for more than a decade, frequently visits MCCC and wanted to explain to the inmates the cultural importance of what they were doing.
"This is more than just work," said Colleado. "You have to understand the historical and spiritual aspect."
Colleado told the inmates to follow his method of listening to the pohaku and looking for signs. Hundreds of stones were gathered, some weighing more than 100 pounds.
"These guys are moving it from the river up," said Colleado. "Some of the smallest guys are carrying the biggest stones."
County spokesman Rod Antone said that the design and meaning of the ahu is creative and fitting.
"We felt it was appropriate," said Antone. "Some of the statues we have are through generous donors, and we felt the Hawaiian cultural hale should have their own, too."
Colleado said that the public is free to contribute stones by Dec. 21 and help further support the project.
"It all started as a dream," said Colleado. "Our queen says the voice of the people, is the voice of God. . . . Hopefully, this ahu stirs some desire to investigate the truth."
For more information, go online to www.freehawaii.info or www.hawaiiankingdom.org.