Located in the heart of Lānaʻi City, this center perpetuates the eras and stories of the island.
Located in the Old Dole Administration Building, in the heart of Lānaʻi City, is the Lānaʻi Cultural & Heritage Center. This space honors the past and enriches the future of this island. Not only do they operate a physical space where you can see local artifacts, but they also have a free app to help visitors to the island.
Lānaʻi Cultural & Heritage Center
The history of Lāna‘i is rich and diverse and provides many lessons in attempts, both successful and not successful, in living sustainably. Archaeological evidence indicates that Hawaiians have lived on the island of Lāna‘i for the past 800 to 1,000 years.
According to ancient Hawaiian tradition, the island of Lāna‘i was not habitable to humans in the earliest of times, as it served as home to Pahulu (the god of nightmares) and his ghostly subjects. But then Kaululā‘au, a young Maui chief, was banished to Lāna‘i because of many mischievous misdeeds and left to survive or die by his wits. In short order, the young chief tricked and killed Pahulu and his followers, reformed his ways, and returned to Maui to inform his people that they may safely settle on the island. The Kaululā‘au genealogy is believed to date back to around 1400 A.D.
Early Lāna‘i settlers soon learned to live “within their means” and the culture, beliefs, and practices of these ancient Hawaiians mirrored the natural environment around them. Their material culture reflected the resources found naturally on and around the island, and their material goods were made from available resources: stone, wood, bone, fibers/plants, shells and feathers. Knowledge was handed down by word of mouth in traditional times and often animated through mele (chants) and hula (dances).
More on Significant Places…
Today, remnants of ancient Hawaiian villages, ceremonial features, dry-land agricultural fields, fishponds, and a wide range of cultural sites dot the shoreline of Lāna‘i at places like Honopū, Keone, Kaumālapa‘u, Kaunolū, Māmaki, Kapalaoa, Kapiha‘ā, Hulopo‘e, Mānele, Kamaiki, Naha, Kahemanō, Lōpā, Kahalepalaoa, Kahe‘a, Keomoku, Ka‘a, Hauola, Maunalei (including a wet land taro field system in the valley), Kahōkūnui, Kaiolohia, Awalua, Polihua and Ka‘ena.
In the uplands, vestiges of significant traditional settlements can be seen at Ka‘ā, Kō‘ele, Kihamāniania, Kamoku uka, Kalulu uka, Kaunolū uka, Keālia Aupuni and Keālia Kapu, and Pālāwai.
Similarly, Puhi-o-Ka‘ala, Hālulu, Pu‘u Pehe, Kalaehī, Pōhaku Ō, Ke-ahi-a-Kawelo, Kānepu‘u, Ka‘ena iki, Nānāhoa, and Ha‘alele Pa‘akai are places that commemorate many important traditions, beliefs and practices of the ancient residents of Lāna‘i.
Through the early 1800s foreign influences grew and the native population declined. By the middle 1800s, large parcels of land fell under western ownership. While native subsistence practices continued, ranching interests expanded – generally under the direction of western land owners – beginning in 1850 and spanned the next hundred years.
In ancient times, the windward coast of the island of Lāna‘i was home to many native residents. In Maunalei Valley was found the only perennial stream on the island, home to a system of lo‘i kalo (taro pond field terraces), which supplied all the important taro of the Hawaiian diet. Sheltered coves, fronted by a barrier reef, provided the residents with access to important fisheries, and allowed for the development of loko i‘a (fishponds), in which various species of fish were cultivated, and available to native tenants, even when the ocean was too rough for the canoes to venture out to sea.
Rains borne upon the trade-winds also provided water for cultivated crops. And many claims for kuleana (personal land parcels) were made by native tenants for lands in this region, when the first fee-simple ownership of land was granted to Hawaiians by the King in 1848.
By the 1870s, Walter M. Gibson, had secured fee-simple interest in most of the lands of this region, with the exception of the native kuleana lands. Gibson’s business efforts focused on ranching, and most of the native families came to be employed by him, in various capacities, such as cowboys, fence and water-men, and as captains or boat-hands for shipping operations between Lāna‘i and Lahaina. Until the late 1890s, nearly all of the residents on the island were Hawaiian, with a few Caucasian managers and landowners.
In 1899, W.M. Gibson’s daughter, Talula, and his son-in-law, Fredrick Hayselden, entered into a partnership, and formed the Maunalei Sugar Company. They developed larger communities along the coast, imported Japanese laborers, cleared the lands, developed a narrow gauge railroad between Keomoku Village and Kahalepalaoa, and planted sugar cane, irrigated by water from Maunalei Valley. Within three years, the venture failed, and the plantation was closed.
Source: Lānaʻi CHC