The ongoing question of what to call fissure 8 could be resolved next year as the Hawaii Board of Geographic Names determines its naming process.
Fissure 8 is the most prominent new landmark formed during the Kilauea volcano eruption in lower Puna earlier this year. However, it still has no official name, with the term “fissure 8” only a designation used by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to indicate when the fissure was formed: It was the eighth of 24 fissures to open during the eruption.
Following a resolution introduced by County Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, however, the Hawaii Board of Geographic Names will solicit naming recommendations from the public and Hawaiian cultural practitioners, with a final name to potentially be determined by the end of next summer.
“If it appears as though there’s no process in place for this, it’s because we’ve never done this before,” said Leo Asuncion, director of the State Office of Planning, which oversees the Board of Geographic Names.
Asuncion explained that the original purpose of the board was to clarify spellings on official documents. Hawaiian names on older maps often were missing ‘okina and kahako, which the board would rectify.
While the board has granted official Hawaiian names to landmarks that previously only had Western names officially recognized — typically combing Hawaiian cultural records to determine what the landmarks might have been called in the past — this is the first time the board has been called upon to name a newly created landform, Asuncion said.
Lee Loy’s resolution, which passed in August, calls upon the board to determine a name for the fissure by consulting with community members “who have direct traditional, cultural and familial ties to the district of Puna.”
Lee Loy,who represents Hilo, said she discussed the naming process with the board in September, with both parties concluding that the responsibility to name the new features created by the eruption falls upon the local community. To this end, Asuncion said the board will host a community meeting in Pahoa next year to gauge the community’s opinions on suggested names, as well as suggest names of its own.
Lee Loy said she and newly elected Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz will work to find residents with strong cultural ties and historical knowledge to assist in the process.
After the results of the community meeting, Asuncion said the state board will make a final decision, ideally by the end of the summer. That decision will then be passed on to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names for its approval.
So far, three name suggestions for fissure 8 have been submitted to the board, Asuncion said, although only one is from a Puna resident: Mahealani Kaiwikuamo‘okekuaokalani-Henry suggested the name “Keahiluawalu O Pele,” a name he said was communicated to him by his ancestors.
The other suggestions are “Pu‘u o ‘Aila‘au” (meaning “Hill of ‘Aila‘au”), as suggested by a Kauai resident, and “Pu‘u Leilani,” as suggested by a Nevada resident.
The board is in communication with “two or three” other parties who expressed interest in suggesting names.
Public applications for naming suggestions can be found online at planning.hawaii.gov/gis/hbgn. According to the board’s official guidelines, non-Hawaiian names, overly long names, names using hyphens or apostrophes and names commemorating living people are highly discouraged.
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