UH Tandem Map Traditional Puna Landscape

November 25, 2019, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated November 24, 6:11 PM
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The map details of the ahupuaʻa (traditional land divisions) that make up the moku (district) of Puna. (Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri)

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo senior geography student Kaylyn Ells-Hoʻokano co-created a map that details the ahupuaʻa of Hawaiʻi Island’s moku of Puna alongside her mentor and Hawaiʻi Community College geography instructor Drew Kapp.

Ahupuaʻa are traditional land divisions and a moku is a district. The map is a free resource for the public.

The map was presented in October at the annual meeting of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers in Arizona, where it garnered several views and questions, a University of Hawai‘i press release said.

Kapp noted that mapmaking is both artistic and highly technical, but Ells-Hoʻokano quickly developed the required expertise.

“The cartographic piece is the art of the map, and that has to do with perspective, the language, fonts and colors that you choose and where you place the text and background imagery,” Kapp said. “We made an east arrow instead of a north arrow because the sun first rises at Kumukahi in Puna, and this shape of the east arrow reflects the rising sun, too. The map is in Hawaiian and English, and that makes it special.”


Ells-Hoʻokano was asked by Kapp to be an intern on the project because of her geography major and Hawaiian studies minor, the release stated. Additionally, both Ells-Hoʻokano and Kapp have a rooted connection with the Puna district and view the map as an opportunity to give back to the community and foster pride in their moku.


“She had the passion to not only deepen her knowledge of the district of Puna, which we both love, but also to outreach to the community about the importance of knowing your ahupuaʻa and traditional names,” Kapp said.

The mapping project helps clarify misconceptions and inaccuracies of Puna, whether it be about the folklore and traditions, the current residents or the landscape that was greatly affected by volcanic activity.

“We want residents to know which of these traditional land divisions they can affiliate themselves with and honor those original names and ways of understanding the landscape,” Kapp said.


“During the Kīlauea eruption people responded to it in different ways, but we also recognize that if you are familiar with what the traditional place names tell you, then you would know to expect that kind of activity,” he continued. “The place names tell us what to expect and how to interact with those places and how to conduct ourselves. That’s why for us the place names are really significant.”

The next phase of the project is to build a web-based interactive map featuring oli (chants), ʻōlelo noʻeau (poetical sayings) and information known about a particular ahupuaʻa, the release stated.

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