Newly launched site highlights Lanai’s landmarks, locations

The Society of Hawaiian Archaeology held its annual conference over the weekend at the University of Hawaii Maui College. The conference began with a reception Friday night at Hale Ho‘ike‘ike, formerly the Bailey House Museum, in Wailuku. The world’s foremost experts in Hawaiian archaeology presented research papers on Maui and other topics during the three-day conference. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

WAILUKU — The Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center has launched a website showcasing the island’s iconic landmarks and locations through history, photos and video.

The website, LanaiGuideApp.org, is the culmination of more than 45 years of research and is the brainchild of center Executive Director Kepa Maly. It boasts 115 locations ranging from the historic buildings of Lanai City to the sacred and storied landscapes of Keahiakawelo.

“The idea is to provide people with authentic, meaningful information about place so that we can also maybe assume a better role of responsibility in stewardship when we visit these places,” Maly said Friday at Hale Ho’ike’ike, formerly the Bailey House Museum. “We’re not giving away secrets — these are places everyone goes to already. The idea is we can travel there with a little more wisdom and respect.”

Maly introduced the website during his keynote address at the Society of Hawaiian Archaeology’s annual conference. The three-day event, which ended Sunday, gathered the world’s foremost experts in Hawaiian archaeology.

The society awarded Maly with this year’s Cultural Stewardship Award.

Kepa Maly, executive director of the Lana‘i Culture and Heritage Center as well as vice president of culture and historic preservation for Pulama Lana‘i, speaks to a crowd of more than 50 people Friday night at Hale Ho‘ike‘ike. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

The idea for the website had been in Maly’s mind for years, but it wasn’t until he solicited the help of software architects Bryan Berkowitz and Mike McDougall of Koa IT that it became a reality. Developed in partnership with Pulama Lana’i, the website took less than three months to build. It launched about three weeks ago, Maly said.

The website can be found in app form on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

“People are given information on how to access these places respectfully,” he said. “They’ve been doing it already, but now we have a chance to move the jeep off of King Kamehameha’s house site as an example.”

Each location is displayed on a digital map and contains historical information about the site as well as directions, hikes and tours of the destination. For example, Keahiakawelo’s name means “the fire made by Kawelo,” according to the website.

“Kawelo was a priest of ancient Lana’i and several stories focusing on this region and of the mana (spiritual power) of Kawelo have survived the passing of time,” the website reads. “The region around  Keahiakawelo (popularly called ‘Garden of the Gods’ since 1912) is one of the most significant storied landscapes on Lanai.”

Cultural respect and historical accuracy were two of the most important aspects of the website, Maly said. Before users can access the website, a disclaimer pops up and explains that the cultural and natural resources of Lanai are protected under federal and state law.

Penalties for harming resources include fines of up to $25,000, imprisonment and payment of value of the resource damaged. The disclaimer encourages visitors to “take only photos and leave only footprints behind.”

Maly noted that he can maintain the site in real time, which could mean hiding a dangerous or vulnerable place to ensure protection of resources and travelers. He also can update it with new information or media, including flyby video and photos.

“You’re getting information that has time depth; we didn’t just make it up last week,” said Maly, who has conducted more than 1,000 oral history interviews and produced over 200 cultural historical studies involving Lanai. “When I first went home to Lanai in 2006 to start working on the museum program, some hotel employees came up and said, ‘Is it true that Captain James Cook planted the Cook Island pine trees so he would have spare masts on Lanai?’ No, it wasn’t true and it’s not good to share that kind of information.

“So we’re trying to get the stories a little more straightened out.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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