Gaspar, Joseph Keanini with Weston Leslie (Part 1)

Kepā Maly -- February 15th, May 3rd & Jun 14th, 2001


The following is an excerpt from He Wahi Mo‘olelo no nā Ke‘ei ma Kona Hema, a collection of traditions, historical accounts and kama‘āina recollections of Ke‘ei, South Kona, Hawai‘i. It is used with the permission of Kepā Maly, Cultural Historian and Resources Specialist.

The excerpt has been edited by Ka‘iwakīloumoku for typographical errors only; the orthography is presented exactly as it is found in He Wahi Mo‘olelo no nā Ke‘ei ma Kona Hema

Mr. Joseph Keanini Gaspar was born at Nāpo‘opo‘o in 1905.  His mother's family is descended from the famed Kamakau, who was konohiki (land overseer) of the Ka‘awaloa and Kealakekua lands in the time of Kamehameha I, Nāihe, and Kapi‘olani.  Kupuna Gaspar has lived at Nāpo‘opo‘o all his life, and lives on the same land on which he was born.

Kupuna Gaspar recalled that when he was a youth, people from the mauka lands of Kealakekua still walked the Kealakekua Pali section of the old Alanui Aupuni.  Over the last 96 years, kupuna Gaspar noted that he had observed many changes on the land and in the environment.  One of the most significant changes he spoke of was the decrease in rainfall and long periods of drought.  He believes that they drying out of the land is in part the result of the impacts of development on the landscape - clearing the land dries up the water sources.

During the interview, kupuna Gaspar shared his thoughts regarding various aspects pertaining to traditional Hawaiian practices and the cultural landscape.  Among his recollections are:

Places names are important, and should be preserved and spoken.  Every place has a story, a reason for the name being given.  While we may no longer know many of these traditions, their perpetuation is important.

As a youth, the Nāpo‘opo‘o community (Ka‘awaloa-Ke‘ei region) was closely knit.  Families worked together and cared for one another.

Sharing resources between families from near-shore and upland communities, and taking only what could be used to sustain a family was a way of life.  Kupuna Gaspar expressed concern that many people who fish today, have no thought for tomorrow.

While he did  not personally walk the Kealakekua Pali and Ka‘awaloa trails, Kupuna Gaspar heard of the trails and travel on the land from his elders and others who walked the land.  He noted that in his youth, it was no uncommon to see huaka‘i pō (processions of night marchers) descending from Kealakekua Pali down to Ka‘awaloa Flats.  He has not seen this for many, many years.  He also heard elders speak of there being certain nights when pahu (drums) were beard being beaten at Hikiau Heiau. 

Elders in his family also spoke of Captain Cook's reception as a "god" at Ka‘awaloa-Kealakekua, and subsequent death.  He was also told that Puhinaolono, a small heiau along the Ka‘awaloa Road was where Cook's body was prepared for burial - the flesh removed from the bones, and that a part of him had been eaten (this account is consistent with some historical accounts written by both native and foreign writers).

This interview was conducted as a part of a study prepared at the request of the State of Hawai‘i-Nā Ala Hele Program (Maly 2001 - KPA HiAla40-061501), and the narratives are given verbatim-as released below.  Arrangements for the interview of February 15th were coordinated by kupuna Gaspar's nephew, Weston Leslie.  Kupuna Gaspar gave his personal release of the interview to Maly on May 2, 2001.  Kupuna Joseph Keanini Gaspar passed away on October 7, 2001 - Aloha 'oe.

KM: Mahalo!  It's so nice to see you.  I hear your name often, and your brother Charles was the one who was interviewed in the 1980s.  He spoke just like what we going to do, oral history.  Just talk story about the land and some of your recollections.  You were just talking with brother Weston about the trail come off the pali?

JG: Yes.

KM: Kapalikapu or Manuahi?

JG: Yes, that's where all the kids come from mauka.  Kealakekua.

KM: ‘Ae.

JG: They walk down, walk up, in those days no more car.

KM: ‘Ae.  Was that an old Hawaiian trail?

JG: I think.

KM: You can see the trail comes off on top of the pali?

JG: Runs this way [gestures diagonally to mauka and then to makai] then comes down.

KM: Comes down and what somes out by here?

JG: By the bay.

KM: Right by the bay, behind by the heiau?

JG: Yes.  In those days before, they would walk down the old Kealakekua trail, the pali trail, go back and forth.  The kids from mauka, wanted to go swimming, they'd come down the trail like that.

KM: Hmm.  [pointing to several historical maps]  These are old maps of the ‘āina here.

JG: Yes.

KM: And this packet is for you to have.  It's nice, when you look at these old maps, you'll see the old family names and some of the places from before days.  So you'll enjoy that.

JG: Sure, thank you.

KM: Thank you.  I know for your ‘ohana, it's good for people to see these things.  Uncle, what is your full name?

JG: Joseph Keanini Gaspar

KM: Ah, Keanini?

JG: Yes.  My mother is Hawaiian and my daddy is part Hawaiian.

KM: When were you born?

JG: In 1905.

KM: Look at you, maika'i ke ola kino!

JG: I'm ninety-five now [chuckling]

KM: ‘Ae, what a blessing!  What was the month and date of your birth?

JG: June 11th.

KM: Nineteen-hundred-five, maika‘i, u‘i ‘oe!

JG: Kamehameha was my grandfather I think [chuckling]

KM/WL: [chuckling]

JG: Yes, that's what we say.

KM: Who was your mama?

JG: She's a Kamakau girl.

KM: Oh Kamakau?  That's a famous family here in the Kealakekua-Ka‘awaloa Section.

JG: Yes.

KM: What was mama's first name?

JG: Martha.

KM: Martha Kamakau married Gaspar.  She married your papa, Gaspar?

JG: Yes.

KM: Where was mama born, right down here?

JG: [thinking] I'm not sure.

KM: I know that the Kamakau name, they're kama‘āina to this place, yeah?

JG: Yes.

KM: Do you remember who was her papa...did you know your tūtū?

JG: No, the only tūtū I know is the Gaspar.

KM: Gaspar, oh.  Who was your dad?

JG: Joseph.

KM: Joseph, oh.

JG: Same like me.

KM: Oh, Where was he hānau?

JG: That I don't know, I cannot tell you.

KM: Hmm.  Joseph, was part-Hawaiian?

JG: Yes.

KM: He was Hawaiian, too?  Do you know who was his ‘ohana, his Hawaiian family?

JG: I don't know.

KM: Don't know, poina.  Were they from here or somewhere else?

JG: I think from here.

KM: Okay.  You hānau down here?

JG: Yes.  Nāpo‘opo‘o.

KM: Nāpo‘opo‘o, right by this hosue where we are now?

JG: Used to be old house, right below here.

KM: Makai, just down here?

JG: Yes.

KM: Uncle, I have this old map from about twelve years before you were born, 1892.

JG: Yes.

KM: I'm going to look to see if we can find where your house [opens Register Map 1595].  This is the Nāpo‘opo‘o vicinity map it's Register Map Number...

JG: [looking at map] Our hosue is in here, right next [pointing to map].

KM: ‘Ae.  We're right here now.  Before this was Kau‘i and there's Kaikua‘ana, and Kaha [LCA No.'s 7898, 11175 & 9745].

JG: Uh-hmm.

KM: See the alanui comes down here?

JG: That's this road, here [points to road in front of his house}.

KM: Yes, this road right here.  In 1892, this is what the village looked like, the families over here.  Do you remember Papa‘ula family?

JG: No.

KM: You know where aunty Momi (Leslie-Coito) lives, across the street?

JG: Yes.  Maybe those people passed away before I was born.

KM: Yes, that's right, they were gone before you were born.  That's where we are here.  Here's the heiau, here Hikilau.

JG: That's the one right in here on the bay.

KM: ‘Ae.  Did you hear anything about it.

JG: No, I don't know anything about it.

KM: Hmm.  [pauses] Now a little earlier, we were talking about the Kealakekua Pali trail.  The trail off of the pali.  It cuts in back and then up on top of the pali?

JG: All I know the one the kids use coming down.

KM: Yes.  So it goes up?

JG: Then there's a place like how you see now.  The trail is on the cliff above us.  It goes in first and then comes down to the sea.  [gestures down to a point with a sharp turn, and continues down]

KM: Zig-zag, yeah.  So what you see now, that's the old trail?

JG: Yes.  I think that's the only trail.

KM: You used to walk that trail?

JG: No, I never did.

KM: You never walk ' come, you no need go?

JG: Never did, we always stayed around here.

KM: So you stayed down here.

JG: That trail is for the kids walk down when they want to go swim.  Those days, the beach was all sand before.

KM: Oh, so by the heiau, down at Kealakekua?

JG: Yes, all sand!  Then we have one bad storm that brought that stone from the pali.

WL: Yes.

JG: That's right, eh.  The current, I think, came this way.  That's how.  Underneath that rock in the bay there now, it's all sand.

KM: All sand underneath?

JG: Yes.

KM: Loli ka ‘āina...

JG: Yes, that rock is just floating on the top.

KM: Has a little fishpond behind there too?

JG: Yes, get shrimp like that.

KM: Shrimp, oh.  Did you hear the name Kalua‘ōpae?

JG: [thinking] No.  A Japanese was taking care of it.

KM: Japanese family was taking care?

JG: ‘Ōpae.

KM: In Greenwell's time?

JG: Yes.  I don't know, I think it's all State now.

KM: I think you're right, down there is probably all State.

JG: All State.

KM: So what did you do when you were growing up?

JG: You know this yard here [pointing area just above his house]?

KM: Yes.

JG: This is where we had a coffee mill.

KM: Oh, right out here?

JG: It belonged to my grandfather.  This property used to be my mother's.

KM: I see, Kamakau.

JG: Yes.

KM: Okay.  So had a coffee mill down here?

JG: Yes.

KM: You were growing coffee down here too?

JG: No, they don't grow, the get 'em from the farmers.

KM: Mauka.

JG: Bring all down.  Those days wagon.

KM: Wagon, come down the old cart road?

JG: Yes, we had dirt road.

KM: Amazing!  You've seen 95 years of history and change in this land, yeah?

JG: Lot of change.

KM: Yes, a lot of change.

JG: Looks like the land is going backwards instead of going ahead.

KM: Yes.  Well, earlier, you said that "today the weather is different."

JG: Very much different.

KM: How was it when you were growing up?

JG: See, the dry weather, used to before, it didn't burn your skin.  Now going in the sun...I guess the vog change 'em to.  You know the vog?

KM: ‘Ae.

JG: That's what makes 'em burn.

KM: Different yeah?

JG: Yes and you look the plants, how they burn.  Just like when you burn fire close to them, they come like that.  Before, gradually the leaves get yellow before they get dry.

KM: ‘Ae.  Now comes all crispy.

JG: Yes.

KM: It wasn't like that when you were young?

JG: No.

KM: You knew when the rain would come and...

JG: Yes, every time.

KM: Not long dry malo‘o and...?

JG: Yes.  Oh we used to have plenty rain.

KM: Plenty rain before?

JG: Plenty rain.

KM: The grass, the yard all nice and green?

JG: Always green.  Usually we get culverts all on the road, in those days, no rain, you still get water.

KM: For real?

JG: Yes.  I guess mauka.

KM: Comes off the mountain?

JG: From the mountain.

KM: Amazing!  When you were young, the gullies, the kahawai all get water?

JG: They all flow.

KM: Amazing!  So different times.  Now you look malo‘o ka ‘āina.

JG: Yes, dry.  I think rain goes because the development of the land too.

KM: Hmm.  So when you knock out forest on the mountain side?

JG: You going get hardly any rain.

KM: Yes, that's right.  What did you do when you were growing up?

JG: Well when we had this... My grandfather had this mill.

KM: Who was your grandfather?

JG: John.

KM: John Gaspar?

JG: Yes.  We walk up to school.

KM: Nāpo‘opo‘o?

JG: You seen the old school up here?

KM: ‘Ae.  And has it on the map you'll see in here too.

JG: About three miles, three and a half miles.

KM: You would walk up to school?

JG: Yes.  Work one hour in the morning with the mill, walk up to the school.  After school work again, another hour.

KM: What was the name of the mill?

JG: [thinking] They never have no name, I don't think.

KM; No name?

JG: Yes.  Those days they had steam.  Before the gasoline, and then diesel came in.

KM: They got to make fire?

JG: And the store down in this corner [pointing to area across from his home], was H.H. Hackfeld.  Before the first World War.

KM: ‘Ae.  And then the first World War, what, change the name?

JG: Yes.  That's when they were called American Factors.

KM: American Factors

JG: What I heard, they were talking, that was a German name.

KM: That's right Hackfeld.

JG: Yes.

KM: And because of the war with Germany...?

JG: Amax bought the place.

KM: Hmm, interesting.  Did you go fishing?  When you grew up did you used ot go out lawai‘a, holoholo?

JG: Oh, yes.

KM: What did you fish for?

JG: All the fish home for eat.

KM: Home for eat...

JG: Just for kaukau.  Of course everybody goes, it's all free you don't have to buy.

KM: ‘Ae.  Everyone go out holoholo, lawai‘a?  You go out for ‘ōpelu?

JG: No, just bamboo.

KM: Kamakau?

JG: Yes.

KM: You go along the lihikai, you go out?

JG: Yes.

KM: You no go out on canoe, fish?

JG: I go with my uncle.

KM: Who was your uncle?

JG: James Kahilahila.

KM: Kahilahila.  He was a lawai‘a, goes out holoholo on canoe?

JG: Yes, on the canoe.

KM: Ku‘u ‘upena?  He go ‘upena?

JG: Yes, throw net.

KM: Amazing!  When you were growing up though, they didn't talk about the heiau too much over here?

JG: No.

KM: Did you used to go over to Ka‘awaloa?

JG: Yes.

KM: You go...

JG: Go on the canoe.

KM: So you ride canoe.  What did you do?

JG: Just go, you know when you were kids, holoholo.

KM: Holoholo.

JG: Yes.

KM: That was how it was in the old days though I guess everybody...they go fishing?  And did you folks kanu?

JG: No matter what you do, when the old folks are eating, as long you walk on the road, they tell you come in.  That's up to you, go eat or not.

KM: ‘Ae.  So they call you, "Hui hele mai ‘ai.  Hele mai ‘ai..."

JG: ‘Ae.  Not today though [chuckling].

KM: No, today different, yeah?

JG: Even they eat in front you, they ain't inviting you [chuckling].

KM: [chuckling] You just stand there nānā ka maka.

JG: Right...! [mentioned that he used to go to Ka‘awaloa area to fish] ...You know what they call ‘upena ku‘u?

KM: ‘Ae.

JG: Set net, yeah.

KM: ‘Ae.  So there were certain places where you would go set net?

JG: Yes.  Cannot set any place, the fish won't go there.  They have a trail on the water.

KM: how the fish go?

JG: Yes.

KM: They follow their trail.

JG: They follow their own.

KM: Just like us yeah?