Celebration in Hōnaunau: South Kona Cultural Center Restored

West Hawaii Today, August 5, 2017

On July 30, more than 150 people gathered at Hōnaunau Bay for a traditional Hawaiian blessing of the newly restored Hale o Ho’oponopono. The attendees included many community volunteers who had worked on the building project, community members from the surrounding area and numerous kupuna who had been connected with the hale in the early days of its history.

The rebuilding of this significant South Kona cultural site was sponsored by the Keoua Hōnaunau Canoe Club and funded with a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). In addition to perpetuating the ancient art and culture of Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling as traditionally practiced on historic Honaunau Bay, the canoe club seeks to promote awareness of Hawaiian culture and its preservation and perpetuation.Their youth program seeks especially to assure that the cultural knowledge is passed on to those who will preserve it for the future.

The Hale o Ho’oponopono, which translates to “house of making things right, bringing things into balance, healing” was constructed in the mid-1970s as part of the creation of a school of the same name.

The school had been established to fill the need of many Hawaiian children who had a difficult time relating to the education process as presented by the local public schools.

The students went fishing and opihi, or Hawaiian limpet, picking and were taught canoe maintenance, paddling and stewardship principles, along with a Hawaiian language curriculum.

The school’s traditional hale halawai, built by school staff and students, served as the center for many of these activities, which had a significant positive impact on the lives of many young Hawaiians coming of age in the 1970s.

 The building project has been a long time coming, noted Rafael Ramirez, a member of Keōua Hōnaunau Canoe Club for 42 years and its current president and head coach. The school at Hōnaunau Bay closed in 1995 and the hale gradually fell into disrepair. The concept of rebuilding the hale had been discussed at the canoe club for more than 20 years, and when a grant application written by a club member was approved by ANA in 2015, the long-awaited project could finally begin.
The process of rebuilding the hale was accomplished over a two-year period with a small core team of experienced and new hale builder haumana — interns — assisted by a cadre of community volunteers who participated in the seven hale building workshops that took place over the course of the project.

The hale building process was led by one of the most experienced practitioners in the state, master hale builder Walter Wong. Uncle Waltah, as he is known, orchestrated the project from start to finish, which was built according to Hawaii County’s building code for traditional and indigenous structures.

Puna Kihoi, who officiated the hale blessing, was a teacher at Hale o Hooponopono in the 1980s. One of the hale builder haumana, Randal Kahele, was one of her students at the school and their reunion at the blessing ceremony was an emotional reconnection for both.

The hale will be used for educational and ceremonial purposes and will serve to strengthen the cultural landscape of Hōnaunau Bay ­— a visible, enduring reminder of the significant and sacred nature of this place.