The Kelekomas’ priest house 

In 1933, Henry D. Sloggett, then active in locating, setting aside and restoring heiau and other historic sites in the Wailua River area, asked Charles Lono Kelekoma to construct a grass hut to represent a priest’s house in the Holoholoku Heiau.

The authentic Hawaiian hut Lono built lasted 18 years, until 1951, when the County replaced it. But the County’s hut — not constructed with materials and by methods as was done in old Hawai‘ i — became dilapidated in just a couple of years.

Meanwhile, Lono had passed away, but his nephew and foster child, Franklin Mano Kelekoma, who’d helped build Lono’s hut, agreed in 1953 to build a proper hut with his sons and some friends. 

Mano used mountain apple — a native redwood that withstands weather, rain and insects — for the upright posts.

For the lighter cross pieces, he selected tough, crawling hau branches — light, sturdy and resistant to insects.

Finally, he lashed pili grass thatching to the wooden frame with hau bark to complete an 8 x 10 model priest’s house that stood for many years. 

Long ago, the Holoholoku Heiau in which Lono’s and Mano’s huts were built was a place of monthly human sacrifice.

 Entrance was gained through the low opening visible today, and inside were statues, an oracle tower and the priest’s grass-thatched house. 

If prisoners of war were unavailable to sacrifice, a priest would select a victim and an executioner would go out at night to strangle the chosen one and carry the corpse to the heiau.

The body would then be hung on the oracle tower until morning, when it would be taken down and lain on a sacrificial stone.

After the flesh had decomposed and had fallen off, the bones would be buried by the Wailua River. 

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