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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

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Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Kauai's West Side - A Rich Historical & Cultural Tradition

 Imagine a time when the foothills of Koke'e ended abruptly at the ocean, and Barking Sands did not exist. And, Hanapepe, the second largest community on Kauai, was known predominately for its hula dancing and taro growing, in that order. Based on excavations, archeological digs and extensive research of  old land records, an interesting history of the West Side emerges..

            The density of population and settlement of Waimea to Mana in the mid-19th century was the the most populous area of Kauai during the period.  "A row of  grass houses extended all the way along the foothills from Waimea to Mana. Every house site had a name. To find a man, you had to find a house name. The native seemed to know every name and would keep sending you along until you finally came to the spot you were looking for," one archaeologist wrote.

            "Inside, the women beat the tapa cloth. As they beat their tapa, they talked to one another in the tapa beater's code. They could send a message with great speed from Waimea to Mana. When the men returned from the  mountains with firewood or canoes, the women who saw them coming, at once tapped out the news and it flew from house to house, with the result that every man found his house in order and no surprise visitors hanging around. The men had tried for years to learn the secret of the tapa code but were never able to do so."

Today, the land of Kekaha and the Mana Plain has been so dramatically altered that it makes it hard to imagine how it once looked.

            The settlement pattern of Waimea, Kekaha, Polihale and Mana was based upon various ecological zones. Originally, the ocean came up to the foothills of Kokee. AS time and elements worked on the geology of the area many changes came about including the formation of the Mana Plain. 

            The formation of the Mana Plain occurred over millions of years as run off from Waimea River that was spread westward by the ocean currents. Pleistocene sand dunes, dating back 12,000 to 25,000 years have been found.

            "Through time the sand bar grew and grew, but it didn't connect with the land.  This delta built up into a sand bar upon which the ocean was on one side and fresh water lay at the base of the mountains. The dunes, of which Nohili Dune is an original developed from sand shifting and blowing about in the steady trade winds

 Waimea is the classic valley ahupua'a House sites and taro patches were found as far up into the back of Koaie Canyon, a valley that lies in the far reaches at the back of Waimea Canyon. Here lived the back country people, Hawaiians who rarely saw the ocean because of the severity of the hike out of the valley. Settlement patterns and taro terraces have been found as far as 12 miles into the valley. It is thought that these back country people in the far reaches of Waimea Valley had more contact with villagers on the North Shore.

"They traveled up through the Alakai Swamp and down into Hanalei and Wainiha Valleys and traded with the people there. People who lived closer to the ocean in Waimea Valley traded with people who lived near the shoreline and Waimea Bay.