I felt so sad to see the devastating fires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii on television news reports this week. When my son and I visited the Big Island in January 2023, we loved seeing the beautiful trees, bushes and huge, colorful flowers. I hated to see some of that lush foliage, historic buildings, and people's houses and businesses go up in flames.
One place we visited was Waipi'o, a sacred place where seeds of important and sacred plants are carefully guarded and preserved by private citizens. In that way, the plants, which are not only beautiful but often have medicinal value, will remain available for future generations. If fires or other catastrophes threaten these plants, the seeds will allow the plants to reproduce for centuries to come.
I loved Waipi'o, near the Kohala Mountains on Highway 240 off the Hamakua Coast. Trees overlooked a view of the coast and the lava shaped hills that plunged into the water. It felt like a sacred place where private citizens spent their time preserving so many seeds of important plants for future Hawaiian citizens.
Waipi'o played a major role in saving the life of an important king, Kamehameha, when he was an infant born around 1758. Threats from warring chiefs and the foretelling of events at the time Kamehameha was born led loyalists to take the future king to Waipi'o Valley, where he was kept in seclusion and raised by attendants loyal to him. When he was five years old, he came out of seclusion and was trained as a warrior under the watchful eye of his uncle, King Kalani'opu'u.
In 1791, Kamehameha led a great canoe battle that was fought in the ocean off of Waipi'o and neighboring Waimanu Valley. With the help of fellow fighters, he defeated the enemy, who fled to Maui. The Battle of the Red Mouth Guns, as it became known, was the first recorded naval battle in Hawaiian history. By the early 1800s, Kamehameha had successfully united all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. He died in 1819.
His leadership and warrior skills saw to it that all the Hawaiian Islands remained united as they are today. It is my belief that the beautiful, valiant spirit of the Hawaiian people will help them rebuild from the destructive fires and allow their land to continue to thrive.