search logo

ʻIke kūpuna in action: Student-built hale at Kamehameha Schools Maui is left unscathed after windstorms

April 18, 2024

A hale waʻa built by haumāna ʻōpio on the Kamehameha Schools Maui Māhele Lalo campus has become a source of pride and a testament to ʻike kūpuna having withstood numerous windstorms, including the one on Aug. 8 that fueled devastating wildfires elsewhere on Maui Nui. 

“Kūhāluapou” was first built in late 2022 by fourth and fifth graders. Nā kumu Edwin Otani and Iwikauikaua “Iwi” Joaquin spearheaded the build. Joaquin, who is part of the campus ʻĀina and Sustainability Department, studied hale building under Francis Palani Sinencia who holds the rare distinction of master builder. It also turns out that hale building is literally in Joaquin’s blood.

KS Maui staffer Iwikauikaua “Iwi” Joaquin, who helped guide the hale waʻa build, studied under master builder Francis Palani Sinencia.

“In my family genealogy, one of our ancestors was a kuhikuhipuʻuone, a person that would be a builder for different aliʻi and they used different aspects in choosing a site to build. A lot of it has to do with the lay of the land, prevailing wind, where is the eastern rise of the sun and the setting sun,” Joaquin said.

That location ended up being near the māhele lalo garden situated next to a shade tree. Kumu Otani says the haumāna put a great deal of passion into the project from day one.

KS Maui kumu Edwin Otani says haumāna took their kuleana quite seriously during the entire hale waʻa building process.

“When working with the loʻulu leaves they had established a whole assembly line. One went through and cleaned it and another one inspected it, another one tied it, and when they got to the end it had to pass one final check, and if it didn't pass, they sent it back, it wasn't okay. I mean, they were their own quality control. It's their success, not ours,” Otani said.

Fifth grader Avei Kanae-Maielua says she loved playing a small role in such an important project.  “I felt like it connected to the land and our kūpuna.”

KS Maui fifth grader Avei Kanae-Maielua was among the alakaʻi haumāna involved in the build.

Haumāna who took part in the build say their hearts swelled with pride every time they passed the hale. That sense only increased after the August fires. The ferocious winds that fanned the deadly wildfires also roared through ʻAʻapueo. It was a punishing test for the hale built using ancestral knowledge instead of modern carpentry. 

“I felt like because we had such good intentions with the students, and we had walked through all of our protocol and had done everything the way it was taught to us, we felt confident that it would be okay. And coming back first thing in the morning before school starts and we see that not one leaf blew off the hale. And so those were hōʻailona to us letting us know that what we had done was good,” Joaquin said.

So how exactly did this student-built hale withstand such strong winds? Kānaka maoli traditional building methods have amazing strength and durability. For instance, a four-ply ʻū lash (method used to tightly fasten two or more items together) can withstand 1,700 pounds. The excellence of these traditional methods is so well demonstrated that they have been written into Maui County’s building code as an acceptable practice to build a permitted structure.

“We don't need pins or nails or brackets or anything like that, it’s a testament to our ʻike kūpuna, our traditional knowledge. And being able to perpetuate that knowledge, and have the students own it and find out who they are through this is truly special,” Joaquin expressed.

As the haumāna who built this hale transition to māhele luna, the incoming haumāna will get their chance to build and grow. Plans are in the works to create a bigger, permanent hale on campus that will be constructed and enjoyed by everyone.

“We're not just building a hale, but we're building leaders for the next generation of hale builders,” Otani said.

ks maui,maui campus,native hawaiian identity,ʻike hawaiʻi,teacher innovation,student experiences

Kaipuolono Article, Regions, Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i, Themes, Culture, Community, KS Announcements, Maui Newsroom, KS Maui Home, Newsroom, Maui, Ho‘ōla Maui, Lahaina, Maui campus

Print with photos Print text only