Places and Place Names

Āina Kūpuna o Nā ‘Īlioholoikauaua. There are places throughout the pae`āina (Hawaiian archipelago) with names that likely reference the Hawaiian monk seal. These include: `Īlio-pi`i, Lae o Ka `Īlio, and Holoikauaua. Each place possesses significant ecological importance for the monk seals.

Observation and anecdote lend to the conclusion that `Īlio-pi`i is named for the monk seal. Pūkui speculates the name to mean literally, “climbing dog” (Pūkui et al., 1974). When visiting the bay, which is where monk seals now commonly climb up onto the beach to pup, the name seems obvious. Pupping has become so common on the beach that according to Park officials, seven of the thirteen monk seal pups born in the main Hawaiian islands last year were born in Kalaupapa or Kalawao.

Holoikauaua is a modern Hawaiian name for the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Although used commonly within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the origin of the name is unclear, although it is stated that it is in reference to the Hawaiian monk seals that frequent the area. The Management Plan reads: “The name Holoikauaua celebrates the Hawaiian monk seals that haul out and rest here” (PMNM, 2008).

Carlos Andrade provides valuable information about Lae o Ka `Īlio in the Hā`ena region on Kaua`i. He writes:

Providing shelter from the wind to the canoe landing at Kē`ē, Lae o Ka `Īlio (the headland of the dog) refers to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal known to Hawaiians as `īlio hele i ka uaua (dog running in the rough seas). Residents saw seals there even in the days before the federally established laws now protecting them caused a dramatic increase in their numbers in the main Hawaiian islands (Andrade, 2008).

The presence of Lae o Ka `Īlio on Kaua`i would suggest further investigation into the possible relationship between Lae o Ka `Īlio on Moloka`i and monk seals. There is reason to speculate that the place name is a relation to the presence of monk seals in the area, although there are no known references linking this site to monk seals. Contrary, the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources has linked the site to another mythical `īlio: “Ilio Point, or Kalaeokailio, has an ancient legend of a red dog associated with it, which explains its name,” (DLNR, 2009, citing Ne et al., 2002). Although it is also possible the site was named for the frequent presence of monk seals, like its counterpart on Kaua`i.

There are numerous sites throughout Hawai`i that may warrant reconsideration: Kane`īlio, Kū`īlioloa, and Pu`uanahulu. Pūkui notes in her Place Names of Hawai`i that Pu`uanahulu was “Perhaps named for a supernatural dog of that name; see Ka-lae-o-ka-`īlio” (Pūkui et al., 1974). The reference to Ka-lae-o-ka-`īlio reads: “Points at Kona, Hawai`i; Kau-pō, Maui; northwest Molokai (also called `Īlio and Ka-`īlio). Lit., the cape of the dog. (At the Kona point in a sea pool is the body of Anahulu, a supernatural dog that was changed to stone by Pele. See Pu`u-anahulu)” (Pūkui et al., 1974).

There is a story about the monk seal at Ka Lae o ka `Īlio on Hawai`i Island as told by kupuna there.

It is obvious from observing the animals that monk seals preference certain areas and certain types of areas. It also perhaps reveals insight to the origin of their name: `Īlioholoikauaua. Monk seals enjoy swimming along shore break. This perhaps provides insight into their name, but it may also provide helpful insight as to their limited presence in the main Hawaiian islands and increasing difficulty with local fishermen.

Finding Balance

Nā Mea Hulu is a project by Honua Consulting, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The goal is to find ways to protect the dwindling monk seal population without impacting the practices and livelihoods of Hawaiians and fisherman.



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