Sacred Landscape

Learn more about the cultural resources of Mauna Kea.

sacred summitsFor people all over our planet, summits represent the sacred. Pictured here are sacred summits from every continent, representing 15 cultural/religious belief systems, including Buddhism, Christianity, and Hindu. Sacred mountaintops around the planet face threats from climate change, desecration from inappropriate use, and degradation from inappropriate development.

Like the summits in this picture, Mauna Kea and Haleakalā, along with other summits of Hawai`i, are sacred space. Numerous burials,  ahu, heiau, cinder cone pu`u (hills), and other cultural resources are found on these summits. Hawai`iʻs sacred summits are also important centers of Hawaiian navigational, astronomical and meterological knowlege.

Embedded in the landscape of our sacred summits, are stories of our origins, epic narratives fundamental to our identity and understanding of our place in the world. When sacred landscapes are fundamentally altered or destroyed, we lose our ability to see the stories told in them. An important context for understanding our mo`olelo (stories) is forever lost.

Preserving the integrity of these wahi pana (sacred places) and our right to access them, is of the utmost importance.

Mauna Kea

F3CulturalLandscape2.jpg"The summit of Mauna Kea represents many things to the indigenous people of Hawai’i. The upper regions of Mauna Kea reside in Wao Akua, the realm of the Akua-Creator.

It is home of Na Akua (the Divine Deities), Na `Aumakua (the Divine Ancestors), and the meeting place of Papa (Earth Mother) and Wākea (Sky Father) who are considered the progenitors of the Hawaiian People. Mauna Kea, it is said, is where the Sky and Earth separated to form the Great-Expanse-of-Space and the Heavenly Realms. Mauna Kea in every respect represents the zenith of the Native Hawaiian people’s ancestral ties to Creation itself.

Poliahu, by Herb KaneMauna Kea is a Temple or House of Worship. It is, in our cultural understanding and cosmology, a temple of the highest order. The Temple of Mauna Kea differs from other temples because it was not created by man. Akua built it for man, to bring the heavens to man. Therefore, the laws of man do not dictate its sanctity, the laws of Heaven do.

For it is here that the very life breath can be seized in a moment never to return. It is only here that the life-giving waters originate. Only here do the heavens open so that man can be received, blessed, freed and transformed in the ways of Heaven.

hookupuAs kahu (religious guardians) of this place, our kuleana (responsibility) to this temple is ancient. It is our duty to proclaim its sanctity and work to protect it, so that its greatness and purpose can be shared with all of mankind. Our duty to Heaven cannot be abridged."

- from "Mauna Kea -- The Temple", Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Heiau Helu Elua, and Mauna Kea `Ānainahou

"Is it a sacred mountain? Yes, we can use the word sacred, sacred, sacred. But just look at each place name. The fact that families still take their piko, the afterbirth, the piko of their children to that mountain, right to Pu’u ‘o Kūkahau’ula. Some take it to Waiau. These are important stories that have been recorded. It's important that they be acknowledged. Don't ignore the wealth of information."

- Kepa Maly, Kumu Pono Associates in testimony to Hawai`i Island Burial Council, 3/30/00

For more on Mauna Kea, you can see:, by Na Maka o ka `Āina

From 2002 Mauna Kea huaka`i


"This is where the demigod Maui lassoed the sun so his mother, Hina, could dry her tapa cloth. This is the former home of Pele, the goddess of the volcano who created 16 cinder cones, looking for a permanent home to live. Pele and her younger sister, Hi`akaikapoliopele, died at Haleakalā later in mythological history in a battle between her rival sister, Namakaokaha`i, where their iwi (bones) were scattered through the crater and the hill at Aleamae named Kaiwiopele. This place contains the mo`olelo (stories) of our Hawaiian race and should be protected at all cost for the generations yet to come, so they know what their past was to prepare them for the future as Kānaka Maoli of Hawaii Nei."

- Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., Maui Times Letter to the Editor, 6/6/04

For more on Haleakala, you can visit

Document Actions
Follow Us