In the middle of Waikīkī, Hawai‘i’s most crowded, most photographed, most highly trafficked neighborhood, there is a monument to Native Hawaiian culture that is also, perhaps, one of our most overlooked. In plain view, between the ever popular Duke Kahanamoku statue and elegant Moana Surfrider hotel, are four large, but otherwise unassuming stones that hold a powerful and misunderstood history.
Known as Ka Pōhaku Kahuna Kapaemāhū (“the healer stones of Kapaemāhū”), these ancient stones, which have been sanctified in a fenced enclosure since 1997, represent four respected healers who were māhū, the Hawaiian word for a person of dual male and female spirit. Any ascription to their māhū association, however, is glaringly absent from the monument’s signage. The omission isn’t surprising: More than two centuries after Christian missionaries first arrived in the archipelago, many Native Hawaiian histories and traditions continue to be erased and obscured, deemed too unpalatable for Western mores.