Ahupua’a, Hawai’i Land Division

video by Kumukahi

Learn more about ahupua’a from HawaiiHistory.org

Ahupua’a is a Hawaiian term for a large traditional socioeconomic, geologic, and climatic subdivision or section of land. An ahupua’a usually extends mauka to makai, top of the mountain crest down to the coral reefs in the sea. Ahupuaʻa vary in size with borders made of natural boundaries such as mountain ridges and streams.

Ahupuaʻa are self-sustaining units with the necessary foods and material resources for ʻohana (families) within each of the communities to live in comfort. Mountain rain forest provided koa trees for canoes and building materials.

Flatlands provided streams which nourished agricultural ponds for kalo and land cultivation of other produce and vegetation as well as farming pigs and fowl. River mouths allowed the opportunity to control fish ponds, coral reefs provided fish and various seafoods.

Ahupua’a is derived from the Hawaiian language ahu, meaning “heap”, or “mound,” (also alter or shrine) and pua’a means pig. The boundary markers for ahupua’a were traditionally heaps of stones used to put offers to the island chief, which was often a pig.

 

The traditional Hawaiian land subdivision system has four hierarchical levels:

 

  • Mokupuni – whole island
  • Moku – island district, islet
  • Ahupua’a – climatic division of moku
  • ʻIli – subdivision of an ahupuaʻa