R. Bordner, Anth/Geog, Chaminade Univ. of Honolulu

We are in the initial phase of a comprehensive historical, biological or cultural study conducted by Saint Louis School and Chaminade University of Honolulu on Palolo Valley.  The only summative work work to date is a collection of student papers published in 1993 (A Study of Palolo Valley: Ethnicity, class, and spatial identity (Katharine Tehranian ed., UH Manoa’s Dept. of American Studies.)).

A key component of this project is the engagement of the local community.  A central part of this will be this website where we will reporting on the work done to date and the state of the project research.  We will be updating the website as new research becomes available.  The eventual goal is to provide the Palolo-Pukele community with a repository for information reflecting on the past, present and future of Palolo Valley.  As we complete various tasks final formal research reports will be generated reflecting the contributions students, staff, faculty and community members involved in the research.


The campuses of Saint Louis School and Chaminade University of Honolulu are located on the slopes of Kalaepōhaku, within the area of Pālolo Valley. While the campus (then of Saint Louis School) moved to Pālolo in 1927-28, there has never been any comprehensive historical, biological or cultural study done of Pālolo Valley. In 1993 a series of papers by graduate students in American Studies at Univ. of Hawai’I Manoa looking at various aspects of Palolo was published, edited by Katherine Tehranian (1993 A Study of Palolo Valley: Ethnicity, Class, and Social Identity).  A historical survey of Kaimukī was published by John Takasaki in 1979 (Hawaii Journal of History) which mentions some sections of Pālolo, but that is the extent of overall survey material to date.

As Saint Louis School and Chaminade University both seek to more closely align their academic goals with engagement with the local (Pālolo) community, the need for a comprehensive study of the past and present cultural landscape of Pālolo has become clear.

From the academic perspective, this allows faculty to engage students in meaningful place-based learning, which is central to the Native Hawaiian educational logic we support and encourage. This also provides a venue for faculty to engage in advanced research, based on their areas of expertise within a common research topic.

From the student’s perspective (at both secondary and university levels), this project is an opportunity to relate academic subjects and concepts to real-world scenarios based in their local community.

For the Pālolo community, this will provide detailed documentation of the past and current conditions in Pālolo Valley. This project will be a valuable resource for contemporary and future discussions about land use and decision making in Pālolo.

We are currently working on the following interrelated themes:


Specific Tasks

  1. Develop a detailed description of the Kaau volcanics event(s) and related Kaimuki-Kaau Rift.  This includes specific impact areas, types of impacts (including detailed morphology if available) and a summary to timeline estimates (which I suspect vary).
  2. Complete a geologic description of Palolo valley from the mauka end of Pukele up to Waialae Avenue.  This will include a description of streamflow patterns and stream flooding.  This will examine issues of soil slump and ridge instability with a focus on landslides-landslips in the valley historically.
  3. Complete a detailed soil map/description for Palolo-Pukele, including both soil morphology and agricultural implications.
  4. Complete an inventory of the flora in Palolo-Pukele, with emphasis on near-stream flora.  There will be an emphasis on species indicative of past and present human (both subsistence and commercial application).
  5. Complete an inventory of fauna in Palolo-Pukele, with emphasis on in-stream and near-stream fauna, including aquatic species.  Of interest will be habitats and range of stream-related fauna.

ORAL TRADITION THEME: A compilation of all available Hawaiian oral traditions based in Palolo or linked to Palolo.  The key resource is the online historic newspaper archives.

Specific Tasks

  1. 19th century Hawaiian language stories related to Palolo in online newspaper archives.
  2. 19th-20th century stories in English-language media tied to Palolo and the surrounding area (St. Louis Heights-Maunalani Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Kaimuki).

SOCIAL HISTORY THEME:  Compile a social history of Palolo-Pukele including any events that have taken place in the valley and surrounding area from the earliest print accounts up to 2020.  This will be compiled from the various newspaper archives.

Specific Tasks

  1. Actual events recorded in Hawaiian language newspapers.
  2. Actual events in English-language newspapers.
  3. When did the residential developments in Palolo (and the surrounding area) take place and who was responsible for the developments.  What were they called and what was offered (lot size, buildings, cost)?

LCA-BIOGRAPHICAL-GENEOLOGICAL THEME:  This will be based on the L.C.A. (Land Court Awards from the Mahele) claims for Palolo-Pukele.  This will include post-Mahele significant residents such as the Cooke family in the back of Palolo and G. Tongg (a famous architect).

Specific Tasks

  1. Details on LCA land claims including any claims that were not approved.  This includes all details from the Native and Foreign Testimony records.  Who were the claimants, and what was their history from the Mahele on—how much land did they get (including other LCA awards)?  How long did they keep it—what was their subsequent history? 
  2. Research the larger post-Mahele land owners (including Cooke, Tongg…).  This should include Maunalani Heights-Wilhelmina Rise (Matson) and the Marianist impact in St. Louis Heights.

LAND USE AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN PALOLO VALLEY THEME: The past and contemporary land use in Palolo-Pukele, with emphasis on changing patterns of agricultural use along Palolo-Pukele Stream.  This will be expanded to the history of agricultural production of traditional dryland/wetfield systems and 19-20c truck farming in kona areas.  This will include a chronological analysis of economically significant species.  This will depend in part on the knowledge of contemporary farmers in Pukele and neighboring valleys.

Specific Tasks

  1. Compile a detailed history of farming in Palolo-Pukele in the historic period including specific crops, farmers (who) and where in the valley.  How did it change over time?  What is it now?
  2. Complete a history of 19th-20th century truck farming in urban Honolulu.  What specific crops were grown, who were the major farmers and where.  How did it change over time?  What remains today? This will be limited to the East Honolulu kona valley areas.
  3. Compile a technical analysis of commercial farming activity in the East Honolulu kona area.  What are the limitations?  What crops have been most successful?  What crops are best for the land? 

NEIGHBORHOODS IN PALOLO THEME:  Tehranian’s 1993 book has several chapters on differing aspects of vernacular architecture in Palolo.  Given the public availability of Google Earth and Zillow we will examine the relationship (if any) between built environment and perceived value of property.  This will include research on how property values are assessed in Honolulu in 2020.

Specific Tasks

  1. Compile a detailed summary of block-based real estate valuations in Palolo with the goal if identifying clusters of size-values. 
  2. What are the visible consistent residential architecture themes found in Palolo?  How does it vary and do these variations reflect smaller neighborhoods within Palolo?
  3. Compare and contrast the Palolo data with that of the surrounding area.  How does Palolo differ from Kaimuki, Wilhelmina Rise and St. Louis Heights?

RELIGION AND BELIEF IN PALOLO THEME:  Summarize past and contemporary religious/belief practices in Palolo-Pukele.  What changes have there been in religious/belief practices in Palolo and how do these reflect changing ethnic residential patterns?  What religious/belief systems to we see in contemporary Palolo and how do they reflect perceptions of Palolo?

Specific Tasks

  1. Compile a historical summary of religious-belief practices have been present in the past in Palolo.  What religious structures or symbolic objects, what specific belief groups, when and where?  How have these changed over time?
  2. What less-formal belief practices existed or currently exist in Palolo?  How have these changed over time?

TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY MEDICAL-HEALING PRACTICES IN PALOLO THEME: Compile a summary of the past and contemporary healing and medical practices in Palolo.  This will include both formal and informal medical-healing practices with an emphasis on their place in the Palolo community, especially as they relate to the various ethnic groups in Palolo (past and present).  This will include analysis into patterns of changes in practices and how these reflect changing values and attitudes in Palolo and surrounding communities.

Specific Tasks

  1. What medical practices (both formal and informal) existed in Palolo historically?  How have these changed both in function and location?
  2. What is the history of existing (2020) formal medical practitioners/practices in Palolo?
  3. What is the history of existing (2020) informal healing practitioners/practices in Palolo?

FIELD SURVEY THEME:  Actual field data collection will not happen until Covid issues have been resolved.  The field survey will be largely limited to the Pukele Stream drainage with additional work downstream in Palolo Stream.  The boundaries of the field survey will be of Pukele Stream from the confluence with Waiomao Stream mauka to the end of Lai Road where the State Forestry Land begins.  The area under study will be roughly bounded by the high flood line for the stream but will include areas of human modification linked directly to the stream (such as remnant agricultural features).

Specific Tasks:

  1. BOTANICAL INVENTORY/SAMPLING:  A major focus of the field survey will the that of botanical inventory/sampling with an emphasis on identifying traditional botanical communities still extent in the valley.  A secondary emphasis will be on contemporary economically viable botanical communities.
  2. STREAM AND WATER QUALITY SAMPLING:  Water-quality sampling of Pukele Stream with an emphasis on the changes in water quality from mauka to makai in the stream.
  3. ZOOLOGICAL INVENTORY/SAMPLING:  A zoological inventory of Pukele Stream including both indigenous and exotic communities currently existing on and in the stream.
  4. ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVENTORY:  An archaeological inventory survey that will identify visible indicators of past land use along Pukele Stream.  This will include both pre-contact and historic features.  Where possible this survey will extend up the valley slopes to include as much of the Pukele Sream watershed as possible with the intent of identifying indicators of non-irrigated dryland agricultural use.  This survey will also record the extent of 20th century flood control work on the stream.

A Short Social History of Palolo Valley:

Palolo was an ili in the ahupua’a of Waititi, moku of Honoruru, island of O’ahu in the pre-Contact period, usually under control of the Ali’I ai Moku (the last independent one being Kalanikupule).  In traditional Hawaiian land use the ili  was a specialized area within the ahupua’a which was the basic bounded land unit, one that provided most sustainable needs for the resident population.  This makes traditional Hawaiian land boundaries somewhat unique from those found in Eurasia or the Americas as it was based on resource and sustainability, a very practical environmentally-driven way to divide up the land.  Palolo was one of the areas contributing the food and resources of the population living in the ahupua’a of Waititi. 

This system started to change in the early Monarchy by the 1820’s with the depopulation of most areas due to disease and outmigration.  The most dramatic single change occurred with the application of the Mahele (1850s) which shifted control of land from ali’i to individual land owners. 

During the Mahele 32 Land Claim Awards (L.C.A.) were given within the ‘ili of Palolo.  By the late 1800’s the makai part of the valley had become a suburb of Honolulu with low-cost housing for those moving away from the plantation-based workplace into urban living in Honolulu.  The mauka portion of the valley (the Pukele side) was converted into “truck farming” providing produce to the growing Honolulu urban population.  According to Jarrett Middle School, the first public golf course on Oahu was opened in the 1920s, was converted to War Emergency Housing in WWII as part of an airfield complex and eventually become Palolo Valley Homes.   With introduction of public housing along with new subdivisions such as the Carlos Long subdivision Palolo evolved into a complex multi-ethnic neighborhood with a very different ethos than that found in surrounding sections of Honolulu, with a higher population of lower socio-economic and new immigrant families than in neighboring Kaimuki or Manoa.  In the 1960-70s drug and gang activity centered around public housing gave the valley a stereotype of a “tough” neighborhood, and real estate values are lower in Palolo than Kaimuki or Manoa even in 2020.