I realized then that the National Park Service and the Hawai‘i Natural History Association (which runs the park shops) were implementing a program I had heard about years ago to educate the public that Haleakalā Crater is not a true volcanic crater. It seems that it matters not at all to them that it has been called Haleakalā Crater for nearly 200 years. If you tell anyone in Hawai‘i—from Hanalei to Hilo—that you’re going to the crater, they know what you mean. If you tell them you’re going to the valley, they’ll think, “Are you lolo or what?”
Haleakalā Crater has been a part of the history and culture of Maui and the rest of Hawai‘i for many, many generations. Way back in 1828, when explorers made the first recorded trip to the top, they used the word crater. For example, they wrote, “The circumference of the great crater, we judged to be no less than 15 miles.” Maybe technically it’s not a true volcanic crater, but in our common and traditional language, it has always been and should always be that beautiful, spiritual place that is the crater—the one and only Haleakalā Crater.
Although I was born and raised on O‘ahu, Maui has always been nö ka oi. And I have had many, many wonderful days on Haleakalā and in the crater. My first memory of Haleakalā is the night our family spent in the old Kalahaku Rest House after the road was opened in 1935. After I retired and moved to Maui, I became involved with the park through volunteer projects in the crater and on the slopes of Haleakalā. I know Haleakalā and I love it.
I have great admiration for what the park service has done for Haleakalā. Most important was building the fence around the crater to keep out feral animals and the removal of goats and pigs that had devastated the crater for years. I can still see and hear the hundreds of goats pouring down Hanakauhi on their way to the mamani trees at Na Mana o ke Aku. The National Park Service is doing a great job protecting Haleakalā’s natural and cultural resources for future generations. This is its mandate.
But it doesn’t have the right to change history. This is a place name that has been in use for generations. It belongs to the people of Hawai‘i. It’s been on maps starting with the first one ever drawn back in 1896. I doubt if many of the people who have called it a crater all their lives know that the park service has unilaterally decided to change the name.
Come on, National Park Service, give us back our crater. We don’t need an “erosional depression,” and we have lots of valleys. There is only one crater on Maui, and everyone knows where it is.