I’ve just returned from a vacation on the island of Kauai, one of the most beautiful islands on the planet to be sure, but also a place where the original Hawaiian culture is now being protected and respected as it exists alongside the present. And that is largely due to an amazing entrepreneur who has made it his life’s work to restore ancient and sacred native Hawaiian sites so they are not forgotten.
Billy Fields is an icon in the Hawaiian Islands, and his company, Fields Masonry, which is based in Kailua-Kona, has been doing unique and difficult work that no one else does. At the heart of that work are the pohaku (rock or stone) used to build walls that incorporate an ancient locking technique where the stones are set in “tapered formations that use weight and gravity to lock into place.”No mortar is used, yet the walls can withstand the elements. Billy’s first restoration was the Hulihe‘e Palace in 1989, and the success of that work led to a constant stream of restorations including burial platforms, terraces, and fish ponds. Before he does any work, he conducts research to understand the history of the area as well as the genealogies tied to it. There is a sense of urgency in what he does. Because Billy wants the work to continue beyond his lifetime, he is teaching others how to do it and in doing so is preserving an important part of the Hawaiian culture that was in danger of being lost.