Lua halau visits Nioi Heiau

[Story and photo by Mike Foley: Originally published in KALEO, March 26, 1998]

Nioi Heiau, LaiePa-Ku’i-a-Lua, a halau of Hawaiians studying the ancient martial art of lua, and family members visited the Nioi Heiau [pictured at right] and Hawai’i Reserves, Inc.’s new taro project in Laie on March 14 to gain additional exposure to Hawaiian culture.

Richard Paglinawan, a special assistant with The Queen Emma Foundation and one of the leaders of Pa-Ku’i-a-Lua, said the visit “was part of our orientation to ku’i sites. Many of them have not had this exposure,” he said. “In order to understand lua, they must also understand where they came from from a cultural perspective.

“The heiau becomes very important from a cultural perspective, because some of them are from the area,” Paglinawan continued, pointing out?group member Gordon Kai, a former BYUH student, is married to Janice Lua from Laie; also Ululani Beirne from Kahana and her niece, Timo; Peter Lonoae’a, another former BYUH student; and Naomi Kawelo Kalauokalani who used to attend BYUH and now teaches at Waiahole Elementary.

“We involve the family, because the family is important. As they train, they become aware of what their spouses are doing,” said Paglinawan, who is from Kahalu’u and carries the title ‘olohe lua, or lua master.

“There are three of us involved. The second ‘olohe lua is Moses Kalauokalani (from Kahalu’u) and the ‘olohe haka, Noe Mahoe, from Pauoa,” he said, explaining that he and Kalauokalani began studying lua in 1975 under the late Charles Kenn.

Paglinawan said “the Pa members couldn’t help but feel the spiritual nature” of Nioi Heiau. “I think a lot of them got a feeling about what Laie is all about — a city of refuge. The extension of not only a place of refuge in the ancient sense, but also of what the Mormon Church is doing now.”

William K. Wallace III, director of BYUH’s new Hawaiian Studies program who led the halau on their visit to Nioi, agrees there’s a special spirit at Nioi.

“As we work with Nioi, as we malama [take care of], it gets better and you also learn from it. I’ve learned so much from Nioi just be going there, being there, feeling of its mana’o and feeling of its mana, that I’m very, very sure that it was a spiritual center for Laie way back,” Wallace said.

Some people feel human sacrifices might have been made at Nioi Heiau as they were at other luakini, but Wallace doesn’t agree. “That’s my own personal impression, and other people may disagree, from having experience being at both a luakini as well as other healing types of heiau. This feels more like a heiau dedicated for healing.”

Wallace also told the Pa-Ku’i-a-Lua halau that Nioi’s central location in the Ko’olauloa moku which had heiau luakini at either end — Paleku in Kualoa and Pu’u o Mahuka above Waimea Bay — also supports his views that the Laie heiau was a healing center.

“Everyone that had a feeling that Nioi is important, they’re right. It is important, and we’ll find out more about its value as we continue to do research, as we continue to pray about how we can best take care of this heiau.

“I think if the visiting groups come down with a specific kind of Hawaiian purpose, then I think we can accommodate; but in terms of tying into any kind of major tours, or things like that, I’m not for it. Because it’s the kind of site that it is, we need to be very careful,” he said. “There may even need to be designated areas where people can go.”

Wallace said the heiau will be integrated into BYUH’s Hawaiian Studies program and will involve student majors, the community and kupuna “to look at what would be the best kind of vegetation that needs to go onto the heiau.” He added they will probably start to plant some ti leaves and careful clean off some of the shrubs.

“One thing we don’t want to do is just have people going in there, ripping things up, uprooting things without the Hawaiian community — our people — feeling and making a decision as to what should be taken out. It will be a cooperative effort with our kupuna that will be starting within a couple of months.”

Before leaving Laie, Pa-Ku’i-a-Lua also visited the new lo’i kalo. “They were very impressed with what’s there, and also with the technical problems involved,”?Paglinawan said. “All of these things take time, and most people don’t think about that. It’s not just restoring the land, but there are a lot of things that go into it.

“It was a prime example of how people are working on this.”

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