Bill Braden's Work - Trailmarker Project
The Trailmarker Project is a project that will celebrate the Hawaiian culture as well as mark sites of importance through out the state. The definition of a Trailmarker is a pile of stones stacked to mark the location and or directions of a trail used by ancients, as well as people today around the world. The Kupuna, the title given to elders in Hawaii, guiding this civic endeavor specifically chose the English word Trailmarker rather than a Hawaiian word to prevent misunderstanding.
The two core ideas of the Trailmarker project are to: 1) Use the knowledge of the community elders, Kupuna, and 2) Celebrate creativity and fostering cultural appreciation in our children. We accomplish this by having the Kupuna tell the children stories about sites and legends of cultural significance. The children in turn create petroglyph-like images of these stories, which are then incorporated onto the Trailmarker itself. Thus our children directly participate in having their heritage marked and written in stone, as a legacy to our descendents.
The Trailmarker concept has its origins in the so-called Kings Trail off the Chain Of Craters Road at Volcano National Park, in Hawaii. There, you can make your way across lava fields, following the stacked Pohaku (stone) from one to the next. The rock piles will lead you to one of the best petroglyph fields in the state. As former Waimea resident archaeologist Rudy Mitchell said, “When you come across a Trailmarker in the field, it means there is something of significance here.”
The Trailmarker Project is the only civic endeavor we have heard of that required an empaneling and authorization by the North Shore communities’ Piko families (original inhabitant families). The Kupuna mandated their MANA’O for this effort to be PONO.
The first Trailmaker project, “3 Generations Pohaku”, is well underway. The location is at the entrance to Waimea Valley, Oahu. This is a very sacred place and has only recently been returned to the Hawaiian people (administered by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs). In doing this project the Kupuna (Aunty Betty Jenkins, Uncle Jack Jenkins, Aunty Kanani Awai, Uncle Jimmy Awai, Aunty Honey Lennox, Aunty Coco Leong, Uncle Kawaika Au, and Aunty Sati Ulii) have provided invaluable knowledge and have directed the entire project. They have assigned a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, Rick Ortiz, to over see that the rocks and method of creation is culturally acceptable. Rick Ortiz was the official cultural monitor during the Waimea rock fall event that closed Kamehameha Hwy several years ago. At that time he was able to set aside the smaller Pohaku that is being used to fill the inside bowl of the Trailmarker. Pohaku from Kupuna, as well as from families that have at least three generations of being in Hawaii are being accepted for the inner bowl. The outer 24 foot diameter ring is made of 12 large boulders. Three Pohaku are stood up in the inner bowl. One of these Pohaku is 9’ 9” high and represents Kupuna or elders. A smaller Pohaku represents Makua, parents, and the smallest represents Keiki, children thus the title “3 Generation Pohaku.”
The current phase of the Trailmarker is as follows: The outer most ring of Pohaku will have petroglyph-like images of legends and cultural features of Waimea carved on them. Guided by the Kupuna these images will be created and submitted by children. These inscribed rocks will be separated from the inner structure as Kahu Butch Helemano suggested. The twelve or so Pohaku will be an on going project. Aunty Betty, Aunty Kanani, and Coco Leong have already organized a couple of drawing sessions with the keiki (children) in Waimea. The initial funder to get this Waimea Project started was the organization Alu Like, to which we are most grateful. Funding to continue the project is currently being sought. Please feel free to contact us for more information.
Other Trailmarker Projects / Sites That Are Currently Dormant Include:
- Kahuku High School- Principal Lisa Delong requested the project and the school funded the initial phase. The concept of this Trailmarker was boulders with features of each of the communities that represent the student body. This project was psotponed when it seemed that the Kahuku campus was going to be moved out of the flood plain.
- North Shore Gateway Feature- This will consist of two 30 feet Trailmarkers, made of petroglyph carved boulders. The petroglyph will display cultural features of the North Shore created by the children of the community. (Over $70,000 of city money was appropriated for initial design and planning, but we have yet to see any, i.e., snafu?)
- Wahiawa Hawaiian Civic Club, Kamehameha schools art teacher, Koolauloa Kupuna in schools have all expressed interest in having Trailmarkers in their communities/ curriculum. Haleiwa Arts Festival organization has funded us, as well periodically exhibited our progress. We have several hundred school children submitted petroglyph-like designs from all the schools on the North Shore of Oahu.