From the earliest of human times, the Hawaiian landscape has been alive with spiritual beliefs, traditions, customs, and practices. Unfortunately, with the passing of time, irretrievable traditional knowledge has been lost. This is in part a result of the rapid decline of the native population, and enforcement of restrictions placed upon Hawaiians in education and all facets of life which culminated in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government in 1893. By 1900, English became the official language of the schools and government, and native Hawaiian children were punished at school for speaking their olelo makuahine (mother tongue/language). Thus, slowly but steadily, children and grandchildren were distanced from their elders, and the passing on of moolelo (traditions) of place, family, and practice—traditional knowledge—was largely cut off.1
The loss of language, practice, and land were accompanied by changing demographics and the development of large plantations, sprawling communities, military complexes, and resorts. These changes led to the destruction of noted traditional places, or loss of access to sites where traditional and customary practices occurred. Thus, it became difficult, if not impossible, to pass on the experience of practice and familiarity with wahi pana—those sites which would qualify in their native culture and communities as “traditional cultural properties.”
Even with all that has been lost, research in Hawaiian-language materials, historical literature, and in the knowledge of families descended from traditional residents of the land reveals a wealth of history through place names, and in some instances through ongoing practices. Through place names, many wahi pana (storied and sacred places) are found to exist, and for Hawaiians today, those wahi pana remain important. In this modern age, and often in the context of historic preservation, it is the biggest sites and features—such as heiau and mass ilina—that are determined to be the most significant. But Hawaiians have observed that “The land is not sacred because the heiau is there. The heiau is there because the land is sacred.” This sacredness is conveyed in the cultural attachment shared between Hawaiians and the aina (land/natural environment) that nurtured and sustained them and their relationship with the ilina of their ancestors who rose from and returned to the embrace of the aina. This living and ongoing sacredness also implies that there need not be physical remnants of “traditional properties and features” on the ground. When all else is lost, it is enough to speak the names and pass on the knowledge of place.
Inoa Aina: Place Names
By learning place names and their traditions, even if only fragmented accounts remain, one begins to see a rich cultural landscape unfold on the lands of Honouliuli Ahupua‘a. There are a number of place names that have survived the passing of time. The occurrence of place names demonstrates the broad relationship of the natural landscape to the culture and practices of the Hawaiian people. In A Gazetteer of the Territory of Hawaii, Coulter  observed that Hawaiians had place names for all manner of feature, ranging from “outstanding cliffs” to what he described as “trivial land marks” [7:10]. In 1902, W. D. Alexander, former Surveyor General of the Kingdom—and later government—of Hawai‘i, wrote an account of “Hawaiian Geographic Names” . Under the heading “Meaning of Hawaiian Geographic Names” he observed,
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to translate most of these names, on account of their great antiquity and the changes of which many of them have evidently undergone. It often happens that a word may be translated in different ways by dividing it differently. Many names of places in these islands are common to other groups of islands in the South Pacific, and were probably brought here with the earliest colonists. They have been used for centuries without any thought of their original meaning. 
History further tells us that named locations were significant in past times, and it has been observed that “Names would not have been given to [or remembered if they were] mere worthless pieces of topography” [14:412].
In ancient times, named localities served a variety of functions, telling people about (i) places where the gods walked the earth and changed the lives of people for good or worse; (ii) heiau or other features of ceremonial importance; (iii) triangulation points such as koa (ceremonial markers) for fishing grounds and fishing sites; (iv) residences and burial sites; (v) areas of planting; (vi) water sources; (vii) trails and trailside resting places (oioina), such as a rock shelter or tree-shaded spot; (viii) the sources of particular natural resources/resource collection areas, or any number of other features; or (ix) notable events which occurred at a given area. Through place names, knowledge of the past and places of significance were handed down across countless generations.
1J. W. H. I. Kihe, “Na Hoomanao o ka Manawa,” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, June 5th and 12th, 1924.