POSTED: 14 March 2006 - 8:30am

Does "Hawaiian" mean anything today?

Salt Pond with Ben Kali's salt pans at center. In background are some of the trees he wishes to save

An Hawaiian's view of the Hanapepe Ahupua'a
by Juan Wilson on 14 March 2006

I live amongst the taro fields in Hanapepe Valley on the island of Kauai, but I'm not Hawaiian. I've only been here 5 years. My neighbor, Ben Kali, lives across the street and he is Hawaiian. Ben's property has been the Kali family homestead for over 100 years. Ben tells me that his family history goes back far into the past in our valley. I have no reason to doubt him.

We are both of age to have fought in the early days of the Vietnam War. I didn't - he did. While I was going to college in New York City and protesting the war, Ben was "in country" as part of the Army artillery. His hearing was destroyed as a result, but he still flies an American flag on his truck.

Ben straddles two worlds. On one hand he is a patriotic American who has embraced 20th century American technology of trucks, tractors and outdoor equipment; on the other hand he carries on his family's tradition of gathering salt at Salt Pond and tending what he sees as sacred sites Puolo Point - Salt Pond Area.

For years Ben has cared for a sign that he put up to protect the Kiawe forest that stretches along Lolokai Road, on the way down to Salt Pond Beach Park. If you've been there you have probably seen it.

Recently Ben came over to my place. I have a computer and printer and he needed my help to write a document he wanted to present to Linda Lingle, Bryan Baptiste and others who he felt were threatening the well being of Hanapepe as it reaches the ocean.

Ben explained to me that he wanted to make the case that the authority of the Kingdom of Hawaii was not nullified when the US illegally overthrew it in 1893 and that the 1993 "Apology Bill" recognized that fact. In addition, the traditional local authority of Kingdom of Kauai was still intact and that the traditional land divisions of ahupua'a still had meaning and force.

Moreover, Ben explained that Salt Pond and Puolo Point were part of the ahupua'a of Hanapepe Valley that includes the watershed of the Hanapepe River and adjacent minor streams and that he was the eldest representative of of the ancient Hawaiians who lived in the valley.

Recently Ben has been alarmed by what he perceives as threats to the health and well being of the island due to greed and uncontrolled development. He wants to defend Hanapepe from the destruction he sees coming.

You can see a copy of his letter as a PDF here, or read the text here.


I am Benjamin Kap’oiwa Kekui Kali Sr.
Identified by Serial 00071 Kingdom of Hawaii,
Kauai (5302). I am the eldest descendent of
a line of Hawaiian alii who are caretakers of the ai’na of Onipa’a, Aupuni, au o Hanapepe Pa’uwai Ho’omana
(The bio-regional watershed of the Hanapepe River).

I, and my ancestors, were born and have lived our lives in the Ahupua’a of Hanapepe. I am a person called a papa kanaka kahuna - a person in communication with intermediate messengers to the spirit world. I have direct spiritual connections with my ancestors, and they are not at rest.
I, and my ancestors, have tended and honored the sacred places in the Hanapepe Ahupua’a. All my life I have worked in the Hanapepe Salt Ponds at the same place my ancestors collected their salt. I have spent many years of my life preserving the Kiawe Forest that surrounds and protects the Salt Ponds from the dust and poison of the cane fields and highway.

This Kiawe Forest is also a sacred barrier between the living and the dead. It separates the playground of the public Salt Pond Beach Park from the many sacred burial grounds to the north and east that include the bones of Portugese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiians, as well as fallen war heroes.

For many years I have maintained a heiau in the Kiawe Forest on the north side of Lokokai Road between the Chinese Cemetery and what used to be the Humane Society (TMK#4-1-8-08:018). On repeated occasions the agents of the County of Kauai have attempted to cut down this forest (extending to TMK#4-1-8-08:017) in the name of progress, safety or security. I have worked against this destruction and it has not happened yet. Years ago I have placed a sign there reading.


Whereas, it has been recognized, by an act of the United States Congress (US Public Law 103-150) that the Kingdom of Hawaii was illegally overthrow of on January 17, 1893 and that the Kingdom has been unlawfully subjected to the De Facto State of Hawaii since 23 November 1993 and whereas, De Jure Kingdom of Hawaii recognizes the authority of the traditional bio-regional land authorities, and specifically the Onipa’a, Aupuni, au o Hanapepe Pa’uwai Ho’omana (or Ahupua’a of Hanapepe).

Be it understood that destructive acts to the aina within the Ahupua’a of Hanapepe by the De Facto State of Hawaii (its departments, agencies or county representatives) are considered criminal acts against the De Jure Kingdom of Hawaii and must be halted. The De Facto State of Hawaii has brought only ruin to the people, the culture and the ecology of the Hawaiian Islands.

Heed this plea before it is too late!

By the Authority of the Onipa’a, Aupuni,
au o Hanapepe Pa’uwai Ho’omana

Cease and desist cutting, clearing or harming this sacred site!


Benjamin Kap’oiwa Kekui Kali Sr.
Signed this 4th day of March, 2006
at Akea Road, Hanapepe Valley, Kauai

Ali’i au Moku Kanaka Maoli, the caretaker of the ai’na of our Ancestors, Onipa’a, Aupuni, au o Hanapepe Pa’uwai Ho’omana


See also: Island Breath: Puolo Point Plan