Institute for Astronomy Home
IFA Home Page   |    Search   |    Other Editions    No. 17 - 2005 
  All Articles  


Altar Dedicated on Haleakala

by Michael Maberry, Assistant Director for External Affairs

Photo by Brett Simison.

Throughout Polynesia, the summit of Haleakala is considered the sacred "House of the Sun." Puu Kolekole, the second puu (cinder cone) of the southwest rift zone of Haleakala, is the home of the Institute for Astronomy's Haleakala High Altitude Observatory Site. Oli (chants) and the moolelo (oral stories) tell us that Puu Kolekole is a wahi pana (a very special religious place) where kahuna poo (high priests) convened to discuss important issues, watch for omens, and train students in the arts of healing and navigation using the stars and constellations. The Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) felt that they were closest to the Ao Holookoa (Universe) when they were at the summit.

Over the past 70 years, construction of former and existing buildings at Kolekole may have removed much of the physical evidence of Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices in the area, but koa (ceremonial rock formations) and temporary habitation shelters still exist at Haleakala Observatories. As part of the IfA's Haleakala High Altitude Observatory Site Long Range Development Plan, the area surrounding these artifacts has been set aside for use by the Kanaka Maoli for religious and cultural purposes. Billy Fields of Kailua-Kona, a master dry-stack mason, undertook the restoration of an ahu (an altar or shrine), pictured above, that signifies a sacred ceremonial site. At dawn on Sunday, July 17, 2005, a hoomahanahana (dedication) of the ahu was held. Under the watchful eye of Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., Adrian Kamalanikekai Kamalii led the chant "E ala e" to welcome the Sun.

In the morning light, Lilinoe (the goddess of Haleakala and the mist) could be seen hovering over the ahu. As Kamalii began to chant the hoomahanahana, Lilinoe lifted to reveal Kahoolawe, Lanai, the West Maui peaks, Molokai, and reaching out across the isthmus of Maui, the shadow of Haleakala.

High Altitude Observatory Site Long Range Development Plan