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Fishponds
History and myths
Pond construction
Shore ponds
Inland ponds



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History and myths

The building of fishponds cannot be dated precisely but ancient chants and legends indicate ponds existed in Hawai`i as far back as the 14th century. In mythology, the builder of the first Hawaiian fishpond is Ku-ula-kai, "Ku of the abundance of the sea," a member of the Ku family of gods. As told in stories, Ku-ula-kai built the fishpond at Kaiwiopele in Hana on Maui. Legends also tell of menehune building fishponds, accomplishing their huge construction projects in a single night. Menehune are credited with building the ponds of Alekoko and Nomilu on Kaua`i.

In a culture that honored the earth's abundance, fishponds symbolized the connection Hawaiians forged between themselves, the `aina (land), and the akua (gods). Shrines at fishponds honored Ku - god of war, fishing and canoe building - and his wife Hina. Built at the eastern end of the pond, a Ku shrine was often an erect stone symbolizing the rising of the sun, procreation and the protection of the fish in the pond. The Hina shrine was placed at the western end, a stone lying flat to symbolize the setting of the sun, growth and procreation.

The cultural and religious importance of the fishpond was protected by kapu, or restrictions imposed by the ruling ali`i of the district and enforced by the konohiki. White strips of kapa tied to stakes along the pond boundary indicated restricted areas. Kapu usually forbade spitting, swearing, the presence of married or menstruating women, or the presence of maka`ainana not involved in cleaning or repairing the pond.

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