Kamaka Pili and I were classmates at Kamehameha Schools and have remained good friends because of the common ground we share. He studies lomi (Hawaiian healing, massage), la'au (Hawaiian plants, medicinal), and dances hula for Hālau Hula 'O Kawaili'ula, who killed it this year at Merrie Monarch 2013. His knowledge and experience in la'au has been getting a lot of praise from his Instagram followers. Scrolling through his feed you gain a new-found appreciation for Hawaiian culture and the mo'olelo (stories) that tie it together.

Having studied at University of Hawaii Hilo and now a current student at Windward Community College, the 26-year-old Kailua native is inspiring others to be more consciously aware of the "warriors" that surround us everyday. In ancient Hawaii, Natives went to the land for the answers--they didn't have pop-pill cures or western medicine.  Everything you needed was around you. For every illness and injury, the land provided a remedy.

Kamaka was generous enough to share his knowledge with me and show me the ropes. Literally!

Wa'ahila Ridge

Location:  End of Ruth Place, via Peter Street from St. Louis Drive off Wai'alae Avenue, St. Louis Heights, Honolulu.

Hours: 7:00am - 6:45pm (M-F)

Trail length: 2.4 miles

Elevation gain: 500 ft

Services: Restrooms, picnic tables, hiking trail, trash cans, drinking water

( from the ridge (Månoa Valley, Honolulu).More trees, less assholes.Like I said...

Some parts of the trail are very steep and muddy. There's rope to help you scale up and down.Untouched beauty at the top of the ridge.Kamaka teaches me a simple ho'okupu (offering).On the other side of the ridge are great views of Kāneo'he, Kailua, Lanikai, and Olomana.

Meet the Warriors:Liko 'ohi'a. This is the only part of the 'ohi'a tree that is medicinal. The red liko are used as an immune system builder (aka "blood" builder) to enhance the strength and pureness of "ka wai ola loa," the liquid of enduring life.

Some folks take it as a daily health tonic while others will use it when they begin to feel their system is compromised.Pala'ā. This la'au is used as a tea to cure headaches. You smash it up to get the blood (the juice) of the plant and mix with water, strain, and drink. Or you can steep it in hot water.Hāpu'u, 'Ie'ie, and 'Ōhi'a: There are a few plants that are natural indicators of a healthy and lively rain forest. These plants only can survive where water is plentiful and need consistent rainfall to flourish. The 'ohi'a is a very good adaptive plant. Over time, it can adapt to many different environments. Also, 'ie'ie and lehua flower of the 'ōhi'a are kinolau (manifestation) of the goddess of hula, Laka. Therefore, these plants are allowed to be placed on the hula kuahu (shrine) in the name of Laka. Only some plants are allowed on the kuahu, and these two are some of them.Pohekula. This is a non-native la'au. Its other name is Gotukola. In Hawaii, it is used for any type of memory problems (ADD, ADHD, short term/long term memory, depression, remembering dreams). You would grind up the leaves and stems to get the blood of the plant out, and drink it. In Chinese culture it was used for cuts and scrapes.


 Words and photography by Kawika Shook

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