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Gecko: lizzard petroglyph

Kanekua'ana is a mo'o, or water lizard (a), who came from Kahiki and brought with her the pipi, or pearl oyster, from which the estuary got its English name ("Pearl Harbor, from the Hawaiian "Wai momi" or "Pearl waters." She also brought 'opae (shrimp), nehu (anchovies), and other kinds of seafood. Kamakau writes: Kanekua'ana "guarded all the district of 'Ewa, and the natives from Halawa to Honouliuli had faith in her. She cared specially for those related to her, but the blessings that came to them were shared by all" (Sterling and Summers 51). The pearl oysters was abundant up until the 19th century: "Not six months after the hau branches were set up [to place a kapu on a nearshore fishing area], the pipi were found in abundance--enough for all of 'Ewa--and fat with flesh. Within the oyster was a jewal called a pearl (momi), beautiful as the eyeball of a fish, white and shining; white as the cuttlefish and shining with the colors of the rainbow--reds and yellows and blues, and some pinkish white, ranging in size from small to large" (Kamakau Ka Po'e Kahiko 83). The pipi began disappearing around the mid-19th century. Mary Kawena Pukui tells this tradition about their disappearance (Sterling and Summers 50):

The pipi was called the "i'a hamau leo" or "fish with a silenced voice." It was not the pipi that was silent but the people who gathered them, for it was kapu to utter a sound lest a breeze arise suddenly to ripple the surface of the water and the pipi would vanish completely. Those who gathered the pipi gestured and pointed like deaf mutes until they had all they wanted.

I have heard (not from a Hawaiian source) that it was muddy deposits on the sea floor that caused the disappearance of most of the pipi in that locality. According to the Hawaiians, it was the wrath of Kanekua'ana that made her take them back to Kahiki.

In the olden days kapu were imposed on certain sea foods several months a year to allow them to multiply and increase. Then the kapu was lifted and the people were permitted to help themselves. In this way the food supply was insured year after year.

One day, an old woman went to get some sea weeds and found a number of large pipi which were kapu at the time. They looked good to her so she took them and placed them in her bag under the sea weeds. The konohiki or head man came to look into the bags of the fishers and found the prohibited pipi in her bag. He emptied it into the sea and scolded her. She knew that she was wrong and answered nothing. After gathering enough sea weeds for herself, she departed for her home.

The konohiki followed her and demanded payment. She pleaded with him not to be harsh because she was a widow and poor but he kept insisting until she gave him a coin, all the money she had. (This was a post-European period and the Haole had brought money to Hawaii nei.) Kanekua'ana, the guardian of the pipi saw all this and became very angry. She was fond of this old widow to whom she was related. The emptying of the basket she felt was just but the following after and the demanding of payment for the pipi he had already returned to the sea was unfair. That night her spirit took possession of a neighbor who often acted as her medium and told all of those present that she was taking the pipi to Kahiki from whence she brought them. Only a few would be left but they would never be as numerous as they formerly were. Kanekua'ana kept her promise to take most of the pipi away, for only a few can be found in the water there today.

No where else in all Hawaii were there so many kinds of bivalves as in Pearl Harbor. There were large and small ones, thin-shelled and thick-shelled ones beside the pipi, famed in legends and chants. These, too, have dwindled in number (Mary Kawena Pukui, "Ke Awa Lau o Puuloa," Hawn. Hist. Soc. Report #52, 1943).

(a) Mo'o, or water lizards, were guardians of fishponds, of which there were several in Pu'uloa, and were worshiped by the people of the area in order to assure an abundance of fish. These spirits lived in the water, and appeared black, from 12-30 feet long. Other mo'o guardians of O'ahu were Laniwahine of Uko'a fishpond in Waialua, Hauwahine at Kawainui and Ka'elepulu in Kailua, and Laukupu in the fishpond at Maunalua Bay (Kamakau Ka Po'e 82-85). The mo'o family was said to have migrated under Mo'oinanea to Hawai'i from Tahiti, where the mo'o was worshiped by the royal Oropa'a family (Beckwith Mythology 128). The mo'o first landed on O'ahu and lived at Waolani and Pu'unui in Nu'uanu Valley before moving to other places in the islands (Sterling and Summers 37). For more on the Mo'o gods, see "1. Mo'o" in "'Aumakua of Kona, O'ahu.").


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