trip to Maui begins with a hike to ‘Īao Needle Lookout followed by a plunge in ‘Īao Stream. The Needle, we explain to the small but dedicated class of ‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o, is a tourist attraction whose importance to Hawaiians of old is reflected in the name they gave it: Kukae-moku, a dollop of kukae.

The real significance of the valley, we continue, is at least twofold. First, it is the burial place of eleven generations of Maui's ruling chiefs -- beginning with Kāka‘e in the 15th century and ending with Kekaulike in the 18th.

Second, it is the site of the 1790 battle between the warriors of Kamehameha and Kalanikūpule. The two sides were evenly matched until the Hawai‘i Island chief deployed a canon named Lōpaka against which Maui had no defense. The short term result of this encounter was, of course, Kalanikūpule's resounding defeat, but the greater consequence (as Maui loyalists will still tell you) was the marriage of Kamehameha to Keōpūolani, Maui's highest ranking chiefess. Their union (which a victorious Kalanikūpule would never have allowed) gave rise to the Kamehameha dynasty, a line of kings whose superior rank came not from Kamehameha but from sacred, glorious Maui.

This history, we conclude, is not the history of tourist brochures and high school textbooks. It is recorded, instead, in chant, song, and dance. Our job, as hula people, is to keep this record alive. We're on Maui to look beneath the surface, to learn what the ‘Īao Needle postcards don't teach, to become the keepers of what might otherwise be lost. 

And then we dance "Maui o Kama" with new appreciation for its reference to the waters of 'Īao. And then we sing "Nā Ali'i Puolani" with its proud roll-call of Maui chiefs and its reference, again, to the waters of Kepaniwaio‘īao. And then we hike down the hillside and swim (or dangle our feet) in those very waters. And then we learn the first two verses of ‘Anakē Kahikina's "Hanohano ‘o Maui," a hula she composed in 1995 for our second HMI trip to Maui:

    Hanohano ‘o Maui i ka lei loke

    A he nani hiwahiwa kū ho‘okahi.

    ‘Akahi ho‘i au a ‘ike maka

    I ka wai hu‘ihu‘i a‘o ‘Īao.

    Maui is celebrated for the lei loke

    Hers is a singular, treasured beauty.

    I have just now experienced for myself

    The chilly waters of ‘Īao.

By this point in our first day's journey, the waters of ‘Īao have become part of us: mo‘olelo, mele, hula, and ‘ike maka experience all rolled up in one. We have learned the first of our first-hand, learn-by-immersion lessons. It serves as a model for the lessons that follow.

Each of our haumāna took with her a 66-page Maui workbook; each was required, as well, to keep a daily journal. One entry for each day of the three-day trip. We'll let their words and photographs tell the rest of the story.

Hanohano ‘o Maui

The ‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o Trip to Maui

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The ‘Anakē Galleries (coming soon)

As it has for 14 years now, our HMI

Day 1  |  Day 2  |  Day 3

Day 1  |  Day 2  |  Day 3