By walking into the pond, visitors time travel and step back into the footsteps of the ancestors. “So, as we repair the land, we restore its nature … and we become restored ourselves. Everybody, I think, who I have met, feels a peace inside there… It’s like you’re walking back hundreds of years because the ʻāina gives you that feeling. The birds, the fish, the water, the land. You feel a peace there that is of heaven. Man is not fighting with it, man is in communion with it.” - Kehaulani Lum
The ʻāina responds when lōkahi, the balance between all elements of nature, is restored. Since they restored the wall and removed the mangrove, not only the fish, but also the birds, limu, shrimp, ducks, and coral have been spawning and regenerating naturally. Native species, many listed in the Kumulipo chant, can be seen returning to the pond and thriving, such as limu, ko‘a, ‘auku‘u, ae‘o, alae ke‘oke‘o, kōlea, ākulikuli, makaloa, kou, milo, niu, hau, hinahina, wauke, and kī. Since the ʻāina and creation are part of the Hawaiian’s ‘ohana as the elder sibling, taking care of it is a form of honoring family.
Up until 1945, the abundant pond had been cultivated by Native Hawaiians and settlers (likely lastly by a Chinese family, unknown at the moment). After December 7th, and for the next 70 years, however, mangrove, an invasive species, established a dense and thick forest in its place. The schools of fish were unable to come into the pond. In May 2001, the restoration of Pā‘aiau was included in the Honolulu City and County Master Plan of the Pearl Harbor Historic Trail, advocated by President Claire Tamamoto and the ‘Aiea Community Association.
13 years later, hope was renewed, in 2014, while the Navy archeologist, Jeff Pantaleo, was clearing the mangrove, he discovered remnants of the old wall. Results of carbon dating determined the wall to be 400 years old, but there were only roughly 100 original of the original stones left. This discovery led the Navy to list the pond on the National Historic Register and further develop restoration plans for the pond. As a Section 106 site, it required collaboration with a Native Hawaiian organization. On behalf of the Navy, Uncle Shad Kane came to Ali`i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club President Kehaulani Lum’s home, in ‘Aiea, to invite their partnership. With roots that extend to before Māhele time, her family was chosen as one of the last remaining in ‘Aiea. At the same time, no organization from Kalauao had stepped forward, as a lineal descendant. Afterwards, the Navy hired Pono Pacific and Nohopapa to remove the mangrove and conduct archaeological studies of the area. Finally, with the help of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Navy created a Preservation Plan and Memorandum of Understanding with the Aliʻi Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club, to begin restoration.
"I have been told, "Aunty, it's going to take a long time and $5 million to be able to restore the rest of the wall and pond," remarks Ali‘i Pauahi President Kehaulani Lum. "And I said, no it won't, it won't take that long. And not that much, if everybody comes together, it will cost nothing. And it will be done. This is generational work," Kehaulani states. "In addition to our ‘ohana, our civic club and dear friends, kōkua has come from the ‘Aiea Community Association, Living Life Source Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, lineal descendants, KUA and our fellow hui members, ‘Aiea High School, Pearlridge Shopping Center, the Honolulu Friends, residents of ‘Aiea and Kalauao, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Holani Hana, residents of McGrew Point, and many many children and families of `Ewa, we have cleared 50% of the invasive plants, rebuilt half of the original wall, and constructed a new hale for educational and healing purposes. Yet, there is more to do."
Loko Iʻa Pāʻaiau is a type of Loko Kuapā, which includes an outer stone wall, sluice gates, or mākāhā, and the shore as the inner boundary. The mākāhā and walls are how smaller fish pass into the pond, how bigger fish are trapped, and how the pond is filtered and circulated. After they built the wall, oysters started coming back, and can be found along the bottom of the wall. During Kalanimanu‘ia’s time up into the 1900s, nehu fish were raised in the pond both as baitfish and for eating. With a small canoe full of nehu, one would be able to catch 400 to 500 aku from the deep ocean.