THE HISTORY OF THE STONES – FROM RESPECT TO NEGLECT TO RECLAMATION
After the healers left Hawaii, the stones remained in Waikiki for centuries and were revered by Hawaiian nobility. One of the stones was partially exposed on the beachfront property of Princess Likelike and her daughter Kaiulani, the sister and niece of Queen Liliuokalani, who prayed and placed seaweed lei on them before bathing in the sea.
Their devotion led Likelike’s husband, Governor Archibald Scott Cleghorn, to excavate the four stones in 1905, and his son-in-law, James Alapuna Harbottle Boyd, to convey their story to the publisher of the Hawaiian Almanac.
But colonization and the introduction of foreign religion led to neglect of the stones, and disrespect for mahu, and in 1941 the stones were buried under a bowling alley.
The stones were recovered in 1963. Fortunately, preeminent Hawaiian authority Mary Kawena Pukui knew the story of the stones, which she defined as “a row of mahu,” and insisted they be preserved.
This was a period of great discrimination in which mahu nightclub performers had to wear a button proclaiming their biological sex to avoid arrest. Not surisingly, the connection of the stones to gender fluidity was suppressed, and the role of mahu hidden. One self-proclaimed clairvoyant known as the “Lady in Red” even claimed the healers were ordinary men and women, while a tourist promoter mistranslated Kapaemahu as “not homosexual.”
In an an effort to restore Hawaiianness to Waikiki, a major restoration was undertaken in 1997. Led by traditional healer Papa Henry Auwae, the stones were placed on an elevated platform, surrounded by a fence, and given a new name: “Nā Pōhaku Ola Kapaemāhū ā Kapuni.” A stone from the healers’ home was also placed in the enclosure. But despite this attention, their full story and connection to gender diversity was omitted from the accompanying informational plaque.
Today the stones occupy a protected location in the heart of Waikiki beach. For those who know their history and understand their meaning, they are a permanent reminder of the skills and accomplishments of the four mahu healers. You can help preserve the honor and dignity of this storied site of the Hawaiian people by sharing their story.