What is Ka’ōhao?

Ka’ōhao is the actual name of the area between Kailua Beach and Waimanalo Beach. It is commonly, but incorrectly, called “Lanikai”.

Ka’ōhao means “the tying” and takes its name from the tying of two women by Hāuna, kahu to high chief Lonoikamakahiki of Hawai‘i Island, after the women were beaten at a game of kōnane. The women were led to Hāuna’s canoes, released, and — against all expectation — rewarded with the feather wealth that the wa‘a contained.  That place was named Ka’ōhao in commemoration of the incident.  (The complete story is told in Fornander’s Collection, IV:314-315.)  “Lanikai” is the 1920s concoction of Charles Frazier, the district’s developer who was under the mistaken impression that he was naming the place ‘heavenly sea’ (Honolulu Advertiser, 8-15-1948). His word order, however, was hemahema; “in Hawaiian the modifier commonly follows the noun; hence Lanikai means ‘sea heaven, marine heaven’” (Pukui, Place Names of Hawai‘i, 129).

In 1926, Frazier and the Trent Trust Co. subdivided the 100-plus acres that he had bought from Maunawili Ranch, put up the lighthouse-shaped monument at Alāla Point, and announced the sale of thirty-two vacation home lots. Ka‘ōhao was actually the name of the northernmost of two land divisions bordered by Alāla and Wailea points; the second of these is identified on the old maps as Mokulua. Frazier and Trent bought Mokulua shortly after their initial purchase of Ka’ōhao, and both old names were swallowed up by the misnomer Lanikai. (John Clark, Beaches of O‘ahu, 175; Jiro Tanabe, personal communication, 1983.)

The Renaming of Lanikai Elementary School

The Governing Board of Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School hereby resolves that the legal name of Lanikai School shall become Kaʻōhao Public Charter School (aka Kaʻōhao School) effective July 1, 2017.

Historical Background

Historically, the geographic area that is currently known as Lanikai had a different name. According to Hawaiian tradition, as far back as the 1500’s the name of the area between Kailua Beach and Waimanalo Beach was Kaʻōhao. However, in 1926 Charles R. Frazier and the Trent Trust Co. bought and developed the area, renaming it Lanikai, intending to describe this beautiful land as “heavenly sea.” When our school opened its doors in 1964, it adopted the name Lanikai. Now the time has come for Lanikai School to recapture the historic and culturally significant name of its setting.

The original meaning of Kaʻōhao is “tying together” or “joining together,” representing the rich stories of Hawaiian history. To capture the essence of the history of the ʻāina (land), the Manoa family gifted a special rock to the school etched with the name Kaʻōhao. Sitting at the entrance to the campus, it represents a bridge from the past to the future, and reminds all who enter that we are a part of a larger, more complete

history that should not be forgotten. This history has been shared with students, staff and parents by Kīhei and Māpuana de Silva, themselves former parents, who are respected kumu (master teachers) in moʻolelo (history, stories, legend, genealogy and tradition) and hula in our community and at large. The mele (song), “Hanohano Wailea” was written by Kīhei de Silva urging us to simply “name the old names of Kaʻōhao. Put them back in our mouths and ears where they belong.”[1]

Our School’s Journey

The genesis of the name change came from a place of learning and understanding over time. First, we as a staff were very clear that a new capital improvement project building would be dedicated as the Kaʻōhao Enrichment and Arts Center, to express support of our history and culture. Then in 2015, our Kumu ʻIke Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Studies Teacher), Ms. Lilinoe Sterling, came to us and re-shared the names and stories of Kaʹōhao with students and staff. The keiki at Lanikai School started to put Kaʻōhao in their mouths and ears once again. The students began to inquire about the name Kaʻōhao. They expressed confusion and disappointment that the history and the old names of this land were not common knowledge. Their conversations reflected concern for the ease by which these old names hand been ignored and subsequently forgotten. Their inquiries developed into a teaching and learning opportunity, and a movement was born.

The decision to rename our school is supported by the students, staff, and families and follows our mission as a school. We strive to empower our students to solve real-world problems; we respect our community and cultural values; we endeavor to develop children who are confident and creative builders of their futures.

We believe that our name change represents much of what we stand for as a school. In many ways, we are tying and joining together the past, the present, and the future. We do this humbly, with cultural respect and understanding; and applying knowledge from awareness to action, the chief aim of education.

Our students, staff and Governing Board stand unified with our families and community in support of the name change to Kaʻōhao School, an institution dedicated to inquiry, learning and personal growth. We hope that as we progress, others may also “join together.”