Kahuwai with archaeologist Keone Kalawe.
At the time of the Mahele in 1848, the ahupua‘a of Kahuwai was granted to Victoria Kamāmalu, the daughter of Kīna‘u and Kekūanāo‘a. Kamāmalu inherited the lands of her mother Kīna‘u and Ka‘ahumanu. Kamāmalu’s lands were the inheritance of the kuhina nui and were part of the largest single award of lands at the Mahele. Upon Victoria’s death in 1866, the lands were passed to her brother Lot Kamehameha and then to Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani in 1872. Upon Princess Ruth’s death in 1883, Kahuwai was passed to Bernice Pauahi Bishop and became part of her perpetual estate in 1887.
Today, the land is managed by the Kamehameha Schools, Land Assets Division. The village settlement at Kapele Bay evolved over hundreds of years of continuous occupation. Little is known of its early history. The rocky bay provided coastal access and may have served as a place to launch and land canoes used to fish the rich windward shoreline.
Early settlement may have evolved around the bay and expanded inland with a mix of house sites, agricultural fields, trails, heiau, burials and other sites. It is clear from the density of sites and structures that Kahuwai was well populated and that both lawai‘a (fishing) and mahi ‘ai (farming) were important parts of daily life. The large size of some walls and trails may also indicate an ali‘i presence in the village that could direct the building of large structures.
The first written accounts of life at Kahuwai come from the Rev. William Ellis, who traveled around the island in 1823. His journal indicates that 150 people gathered to hear him speak at Kahuwai. Subsequent research in tax records show 17 households paying taxes from Kahuwai in 1863. Twenty years later in 1882 only two households were reported. Permanent residency at Kahuwai may have ended in the early 1900s.
(from Imua April 2004)