Uncovering an Ancient Village

The meadow below David and Wendy’s house site, with old Hawaiian rock walls and ti plants. On a clear day you can see the ocean, too.

“I’ve long held a vision of creating a place where people could come and learn where they are, about the ‘aina, about Hawaii,” Wendy Vance told me, regarding the off-the-grid homestead she and husband David Vance have been creating over the past six years in the remote and magical wilds of the Ka’u District, near the southernmost point of Hawaii Island.

Wendy’s deep into the ‘aina, both as an environmental activist from ‘way back, and as a practitioner of Hawaiian traditional culture, including chanting, drumming and dance, which she studied for many years with a respected Hawaiian kumu hula (teacher of dance).

Ohia trees surrounded by other Hawaiian native plants, including ti, mamaki, and fern.

When they bought the seven acres across the highway from the rented home where they lived outside Waiohinu, it was covered in Christmasberry bramble. Anyone else would have hired a bulldozer. Over a period of years, David painstakingly cleared the Christmasberry by hand, and underneath it, discovered the rock walls and house foundations of a Hawaiian village. As they cleared the land, Wendy and David planted Hawaiian native plants that had once been replaced by more aggressive alien species. In some areas, once they cleared the Christmasberry, the native plants simply reappeared and flourished.

The ruins of an ancient wall beside a wood pile and a very old tree.

As they continued to uncover and preserve the ancient village, to their astonished delight, the land adjacent on the ocean side of the land was cleared of Christmasberry for a twenty year cattle operation, and miraculously, the bulldozer driver left standing all of the native ohia trees on it. It was as if the peaceful force of their creativity and respect for Hawaii had rolled out beyond the boundaries of their land.