Exploring Kahoolawe: Could the island’s name be changed?

Standing on the highest summit of Kahoolawe, you can get a 360-degree view of the island and most others in the island chain.

It’s also a chance to experience the island’s strong foundation in Hawaiian culture. “You really feel connected to the islands when you are here,” said Mike Nahoopii, executive director, Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.

KIRC is the state agency managing the island. It, along with the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, wants to return further to Kahoolawe’s historical roots by changing the island’s name — one of many proposals aimed at guiding its future.

Kahoolawe is the only island with a tie to a major Hawaiian god, explains Nahoopii, which is why “one of the historical names was Kanaloa, or Kohemalamalamaokanaloa.”

In its strategic plan for the island through 2026, KIRC suggests several names. “We named it Iolakanaloa, Life to Kanaloa, with a reference that we would do this work to give life to Kanaloa. As we give life to Kanaloa, we give further life to the island of Kahoolawe,” Nahoopii said.

Another suggestion is to adopt the name Kanaloakahoolawe or just refer to the island as Kanaloa.

Kanaloa is the god of hidden knowledge. “As we heal and do activities on Kahoolawe, Kahoolawe becomes the point where the energy and knowledge of Kanaloa will spring forth to people of this realm,” said Nahoopii.

In order to elevate the status of the island, KIRC’s culture plan also recommends reconfiguring the ancient Hawaiian land division Kahoolawe from an ahupuaa to the moku of Kahoolawe and mokupuni of Kanaloa.

Read more about the state’s strategic plan here.

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