'Iliahi (Sandalwood)
'Iliahi (Sandalwood) - Silver Gelatin Photography by Gwen Arkin

Santalum ellipticum, S. freycinetianum,

S. haleakalae, and S. paniculatum (Hawaiian sandalwood)

The Hawaiian sandalwood trade was brief but potent. King Kamehameha bought the brig Columbia for two shiploads of sandalwood in 1817. Nine years later, the Hawaiian kingdom enacted its first written law—a sandalwood tax. To pay off increasing foreign debts, Hawaiian royals required commoners to cut and carry trees to waiting boats. Harvesters were nicknamed “kua leho” (callous back); logs often arrived stained with blood. By 1840, the sandalwood supply was exhausted.

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

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