Saturday, May 29, 2010

Iosepa: Utah's Hawaiian Ghost Town

When my two young nieces saw the flower in my hair as I met them to attend a Hawaiian celebration in Utah's west desert, they wanted a flower in THEIR hair too. Fortunately, they were staying with their Grandma Ruby, who is an expert at improvisation. Grandma Ruby quickly pulled two daffodils off her silk flower arrangement, grabbed a glue gun and some barrettes, and soon the little girls had flowers for their hair too:

Three-year-old Paul didn't want to be left out, but doesn't have long enough hair for a barrett, so he got to have a flower hung over his ear:

Before leaving my parents' Salt Lake City apartment for our 70-mile drive to the Memorial weekend celebration held at the Hawaiian ghost town of Iosepa, I snapped this photo of my parents with my sister Julie and her five children, who are visiting from Maryland.

There's not much to see in Iosepa, the former site of a town settled by Hawaiians in Utah's barren skull valley, but it is interesting to visit because of its story.

In a nutshell, the town was established in 1889 by Hawaiian converts to the LDS Church who migrated to Utah so they could be close to a temple, which offered sacred ordinances that promised them the opportunity to be together as families in the afterlife. They valued these promises so highly that they were willing to leave their homeland, face discrimination (which is the reason their settlement was out in the desert), and eke out a home in the dry, barren landscape. They named their town Iosepa, the Hawaiian word for Joseph, after Joseph F. Smith, one of the earliest LDS missionaries in Hawaii.

Iosepa became a ghost town around 1917, when the Church built a temple in Hawaii, and all of the residents of Iosepa returned to their their beloved islands. The only thing that remains in Iosepa from those original days is the cemetery. Our unusually cold and wet Spring weather has left the area beautifully green this year.

Each Memorial Day weekend, the descendants of those who lived in Iosepa and other interested folks gather to remember and honor the faith of their ancestors and to celebrate their Hawaiian heritage. Among them are my parents' friends, the Colemans:

We were grateful that the Colemans invited us to join them, and had fun interacting with the others who were attending:

This man saw the Idaho license plates on my parents' vehicle, and came to ask if we knew his Idaho friends. He was preparing to place his homemade yarn lei on the main Iosepa monument. When I commented on his beautiful feather lei hat band, he mentioned that his sister had spent $500 to purchase it for him.

These kids entertained us with their cup game:

Ada enjoyed checking out the crafts:

We loved watching these men use the traditional methods to prepare taro roots into the purple poi paste. First they cook and peel it: (they use EVERY part, even what seems like the waste)

Then they slice it into smaller pieces:
(By the way, this man told me that the tattoos he had on his wrist were meant to protect him from negative energy that might come from others. He explained how this is especially important when you are preparing food.)

Then they use a stone tool to mash it:

They were kind to tell us about their cool tatoos.

We enjoyed sampling the sticky poi, but couldn't detect a taste!

We enjoyed watching some hula dancers perform:
In this one, they are doing a traditional hula as their teacher sings a traditional chant:

Here, they are using sticks as props:

Here, the props are gourds:

This dance, which includes some of the young children, features feather shakers:

Who'd have thought you could find hula in a Utah desert!? Here's a photo of a few of the dancers for those who can't view video:

Here are some images of my sweet family:

We loved getting a taste of Hawaii in Utah's west desert!


Anonymous said...

you have a very successful business............................................................

Lori said...

Who knew you could find such diversity in the dessert. You Mom looks exactly like I remember her! What an angel she is!!

Joseph said...

That picture of Dad in front of the monument is a real keeper! How often do you get a picture of him making a face like that? :D

Anonymous said...


HW said...

I'm so glad you're still having adventures! Thank you for writing about them. I especially liked the post about Parker. And I like your family. I am so pleased to share some DNA with them.

Paigeo said...

Wonderful way to celebrate. We just did yard work. Tell your mom I want a yellow hair flower someday. My favorite color.

Sandy said...

Cindy! Love your adventures! I really love the photos on this post of your parents! The one with your Mom in her straw hat is a work of art! I love her!!!!! Give her a huge hug from me!!!
Keep traveling and keep blogging!!! Some of us live through you!!!

Anonymous said...

先為別人的快樂著想,是超人;先為自己的快樂著想,是凡人;使別人不快樂,自己也不快樂的,是笨人。 ....................................................

Anonymous said...

As a man sows, so he shall reap...................................................

Fritz said...

It is sad that this Iosepa has brcome a Gohst town. I lived the first ten years of my life in Iosepa. They were very happy and enjoyable times. I attended the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades there in a one room schoolhouse with one teacher who taught 1st through the 9th grade. Her name was .Laura Cassidy.
Francis (Fritz) Wilson