PU'UKOHOLA HEIAU NHS KALOKO-HONOKOHAU NHP
PU'UHONUA O HONAUNAU NHP
A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island
Site Histories, Resource Descriptions, and Management Recommendations
PU'UHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (continued)
G. Significance of Resources and Establishment of a National Historical Park
Planning for the acquisition of land in the area and the setting aside of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau as a national park began as early as the late 1940s. The City of Refuge National Historical Park was established on July 1, 1961, persuant to an Act of Congress approved in July 1955 (Public Law 177, 84th Congress, 69 Statute, 376) after a decade of dedicated study and planning by a wide variety of interested private individuals, the Trustees of the Bishop Estate, institutions such as the Bishop Museum, and the National Park Service. The area set aside contained the ruins of the ancient pu'uhonua and the village of Ki'ilae. It was referred to as the City of Refuge in accordance with the name bestowed by William Ellis.
Most visible and impressive of the cultural resources is the pu'uhonua, enclosed on two sides by a massive stone wall, one of the largest stone constructions in the islands.  The primary visitor attraction is the reconstructed Hale-o-Keawe. In addition there are palace grounds, royal fishponds, stone platforms for the houses of chiefs, ancient trails and roads, canoe landings, burial caves, heiau temple platforms, house sites, cave shelters, holua, stone walls, and other typical aboriginal Hawaiian structures representing an extended time span. Within the pu'uhonua are two early temple sites, the Keoua and Ka'ahumanu stones, the remains of a Women's Heiau, petroglyphs, and a spring.
This park is considered one of the most significant archeological and historical complexes in the islands.  The adjoining village of Honaunau served as the cultural and religious center of the Kona District and eventually of the entire island until its ali'i moved to Kealakekua Bay. In addition, this was the early seat of the paramount chiefs of western Hawai'i Island descended from 'Umi and Liloa and was the ancestral home of the Kamehameha dynasty.
Within the park's 180 acres stretching southward for about three miles from Honaunau Bay are archeological and historical structures and features dating from pre-European contact times to the early 1920s and representing almost all phases of early Hawaiian religious, social, economic, and political life.  The park is especially dedicated to protecting archeological structures and features associated with the ancient Polynesian practice of asylum. The park's significance stems from the fact that "the archeological remains document various aspects of ancient Hawaiian culture which gave rise to a sophisticated and elaborate socio-political-religious system long before Captain James Cook rediscovered these islands in 1778-79."  The lands around Honaunau illustrate a now-extinct way of life the highly-structured society of aboriginal Hawai'i that began disappearing with Cook's arrival in Hawai'i and whose demise was speeded by the abolition of the kapu system. That lifeway included the concept and practice of refuge as well as a belief in the god-like status of chiefs and kings, a belief that reached its climax on the Kona Coast as an elaboration of an earlier Polynesian culture. The sites and features in the park also illustrate the rise of one chiefly family to power, their tie to the Kamehameha dynasty resulting in their being rather well recorded in early historical times. The cultural landscape of the park reflects Hawaiian society as depicted by early European visitors, retaining much of the flavor of its ancient setting and purpose.
Excavation and study of park resources has already added much valuable information to regional studies on the archeology and history of Hawai'i Island because all groups of Hawaiian society, including commoners, priests, chiefs, and royalty, took part in activities there. Also contributing to the research significance of these resources is their excellent state of preservation. The pu'uhonua has survived almost intact compared to similar sites on the island and elsewhere in Hawai'i. This park is an extremely significant component of our national park system.
In February 1976 the Statewide Association of Hawaii Civic Clubs requested a name change from City of Refuge NHP to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP. Upon agreement by the Regional Director, State Director, and Superintendent, the name was changed when Congress passed and the President signed the National Parks and Recreation Act on November 10, 1978. 
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