By Bethany Freudenthal The Garden Island | Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 12:05 a.m.
A bellstone believed by some to be missing from a sacred site on Kaua`i apparently isn’t missing at all, according to the state.
In a statement to TGI, spokesman for the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources Dan Dennison said the Pohaku Kani is on display in the museum’s main gallery.
“In the 1920s Andrew Kane of Wailua brought the stone up the slope. He took it home for many years, then gave it to Mrs. Guslander at Coco Palms where it remained until 2011 when Randy Wichman took the stone from Coco Palms, worried that it would be stolen, to the Kaua`i Historical Society’s vault for safekeeping,” Dennison wrote.
A couple years later, the stone was transferred to the Kaua`i Museum, where it remains, Dennison said.
“It is possible that there are two other pieces of this stone. It is written that one of Ka`ahumanu’s priests, Hule`ia, broke the stone into three pieces and threw it over the slope towards the Wailua River,” Dennison said.
In ancient times when a member of the royal family was ready to give birth, they would retreat to a birthing site. When the baby was born the kahuna of the area would announce whether the child was a boy or girl and the Pohaku Kani, (bellstone), was rung, reverberating from kai to mauka.
On Kaua`i, the birthing site is in the District of Puna of Wailua Ahupua’a off of Kuamo’o Road, between the Wailua River and the Coco Palms site.
Over recent weeks, Kimberley Souza, with the occasional assistance of others, had been clearing years of overgrowth and rubbish up the hill from the birthing site, where the Pohaku Kani once stood.
They believed the bellstone to be missing and TGI reported on this on March 20.
Some say it’s buried at the site, while others say it was removed by artifact collectors.
Still, some say the Pohaki Kani is still there, “you just have to know where to look for it.”
It is believed that Kaua`i was home to 12 Pohaku Kani, more than any other Hawaiian island.
According to historical records, the Kaua`i bellstone near ‘Opaeka’a Falls is a rock formation that was built by the natives long ago to honor a historical or significant event. The rocks were placed so that a certain sound would be made once they were struck.
Bellstones can be found on all the main Hawaiian Islands. The bellstone in Kaua`i in question was reported to be located just off of Highway 580 in the Wailua area. The two boulders of bellstone are supposed to be located about 100 feet past a guardrail.
Born and raised on Kaua`i and former caretaker of the site, James Alalem recently toured the area with TGI. The stone, he said, was oblong and flat.
As a National Historic Landmark, Alalem said the Pohaku Kani area was maintained when he was growing up, but was eventually closed.
“They just let it overgrow and once they do that a lot of rubbish started to come up because nobody takes care of that place,” he said.
The site was also used as a dump-site for boulders removed during construction of the Wailua Bridge, he said.
There’s a pasture at the bottom of the area. Alalem said when they leased the pasture, a gate went up.
“They didn’t want anyone to go in there, but the gate never had any signs, keep out, anything just one gate was locked and all of a sudden the lock was gone and it was open and that’s when Kimberly took over the place because the state was not taking care of the area under historical preservation,” Alalem said.
Law enforcement officers recently removed Souza from the site, because she had been living there.
Alalem said he was ordained by the spirits to be the kahu of the area because when he was born his mom put his piko (umbilical cord) there.
“I was told a lot of times a spirit prepared this place like this and nobody ever helped me. I had a couple friends that helped me, God bless those guys if they’re still around, I love those people that they came and helped me that they put in the effort,” he said.
Alalem says he’s upset the sacred site hasn’t been maintained.
“If they put a sign up that says this is a historical preservation then it’s their responsibility to take care of it,” he said.
Victoria Stauffenberg, spokeswoman for the National Parks Service, said care and maintenance of properties designated as National Historic Landmarks are the responsibility of the property owner and participation in the NHL is voluntary.
Dennison said there’s a gate at the site to protect it from people causing damage while looking for the bellstone.
There are no restoration plans.
“The only maintenance that needs to be done there is keeping the vegetation and vandalism down,” Dennison wrote.