Kauaula and Neighboring Lands, Lahaina District

At the request of Rory Frampton (Makila Land Company), and Ulalia Woodside (Kamehameha Schools-Land Assets Division), Kumu Pono Associates LLC, conducted a detailed study of archival and documentary literature, and conducted oral history interviews for lands of the Lahaina District on the island of Maui. While the primary focus of the study was the lands of Makila and Kauaula, it was found that the system of ahupuaa land divisions in this region of Lahaina was unique, and included or bounded many other noted ahupuaa. As a result of this unique system of traditional land management in Lahaina, the study expanded to include details of the ahupuaa of (in alphabetical order): Alio, Halakaa, Haleu, Ilikahi, Kalualepo, Kamani, Kauaula, Kaulalo, Kooka, Kuia, Launiupoko, Makila, Pahoa, Paunau Iki & Paunau Nui, Pola Iki & Pola Nui, Puaa Iki & Puaa Nui, Puehuehu Iki & Puehuehu Nui, Puunau Iki & Puunau Nui, and Wainee Iki & Wainee Nui (with selected references to Aki, Kelawea, Puako, Waianae, Waiokama and other lands of Lahaina).

It appears that throughout its' history, Lahaina has played an important role in the history of Maui and the neighboring islands of Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe, with Lahaina serving as the chiefly center. The first documented foreign visitation to the Lahaina region occurred in 1793. Traveling across the kula lands and up to the mountain pass, overlooking the Wailuku District, writers of the time commented on the rich landscape, observing that it was extensively cultivated. Waterways were engineered to transport water across dry lands, making them fertile fields, capable of supporting the population. In the years between 1820 to the 1860s, the lands of the Kauaula-Lahaina region, were controlled by several high chiefly lineages, including the King, who until 1849, retained the ahupuaa of Kauaula as a personal land.


Historic shot from the early 1990s of the Kauaula-Lahaina Region (Pioneer Mill Co. Collection at Hamilton Library)

Diverse land use activities and crop cultivation still remained important in the Hawaiian system through the middle and later 1800s. But, we also find that conflicts in land tenure and land use were arising. In the 1820s, agricultural crops were being diversified, and introduced livestock were being allowed to roam large tracks of land. These food items were being raised to supply the growing numbers of foreign ships which were finding safe harbor in the lee of Lahaina. By the 1830s, serious efforts were underway among missionary families to process sugar for table use, and to support expanding agricultural interests. In 1849, it was reported that the finest sugar in the islands could be found in Lahaina. Interests in development of business opportunities, led to the establishment of the Lahaina Sugar Company in 1861. A year later, in 1862, the Pioneer Sugar Mill was founded.

The Pioneer Sugar Mill operations evolved, buying out other competitors. And eventually nearly all of the available land in the Lahaina District, and large volumes of water were developed into the operations of the Pioneer Mill Company, Limited. This plantation drew water from the various Lahaina valleys, and larger volumes of water from the Kaanapali District into cultivation and processing of sugar at the Mill which became the heart of Lahaina Town. Mill operations spanned 138 years, from 1861 to 1999.

Since the closure of Pioneer Mill Company in 1999, there has been a growing interest among native families of the region to reclaim kuleana and water resources to sustain families by working the land. There is also a deep passion for the history and cultural-historical resources of the Kauaula-Lahaina region. We find that there is a rich legacy in these lands and among the people of the Kauaula-Lahaina region. The challenge now before everyone who is associated with these lands is to ensure that the legacy lives, and that there can still be maintained a sustainable manner of life through the future generations.

Among the interviewees, who shared some of their history and experiences, we find a deep passion for, and desire to perpetuate knowledge and respect of place. The Hawaiian families and many of the older generation residents (non-Hawaiian by genealogy), do not see the land as a commodity. It is a living thing, a part of the family. They wish to see the history remembered (accurately), the environment cared for, and for future generations to experience something of what these Lahaina lands were like in earlier times.


He Wahi Mo'olelo no Kaua'ula a me Kekahi 'Aina o Lahaina i Maui (PDF)