An ahupua’a (Hawaiian for “district”) is a small, kinship-based group of people who move over a particular territory. They are often referred to as an extended family or lineage and are the smallest political unit in traditional Hawaiian society.
These groups would typically be spread out over one or two miles of coastal land that includes fishing grounds, salt ponds, agricultural plots, and forested mountainsides. The most common use for an ahupua’a today is as a subdivision in urban Honolulu neighborhoods with large lots.
Traditional Hawaiian society is divided into four social classes, or ‘mo’olelo (tales): the kapu ali‘i (kings), nobles; the makaʻāinana (commoners); those who were not eligible for distinction between noble and commoner, usually because they had some mixed bloodline of high rank; and finally there are people without any status at all.
The boundaries of an ahupua’a often correspond to geographical features such as valleys formed by streams that would have been used by ancient Hawaiians in their travels from one place to another. This means many villages situated on hilltops could be reached only through a circuitous route around the valley floor below. These