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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

December 2005

In this issue we continue with Kākuhihewa and his accomplishments as the ali‘i of O‘ahu.

Of the many teachers that Kākuhihewa had, Ma‘ilele was his teacher in the art of shooting with bows and arrows. The bow was never used in warfare, but was used in the sport of pana ‘iole, the shooting of rats and mice, as a favorite pastime of the ali‘i (chiefs). Since there were no beasts of prey or wild animals on the islands, rats provided the thrill of the chase. It was fascinating amusement and heavy bets were placed on the skilled shooter. The bones of birds or of human beings were used for the points of the arrows, an occupation that was time consuming and required patience.

It was also the custom to secretly hide the bones of high ranking ali‘i so the bones would not be used to make arrows to shoot rates or into fishhooks. ‘Umi’s bones, a very high ranking ali‘i, were secretly hidden by his caretaker as well as Kamehameha, whose bones were also secretly buried and its location not known to this day.

During the reign of Kākuhihewa, the island of O ‘ahu was very fertile and productive. It provided the needed resources for the subsistent Hawaiian society. The ‘āina (land) was divided into pie shape divisions with the mountain as the narrow end, spreading out to the seashore and beyond. The uplands were fertile with the rich nutrients for the lo‘i (taro gardens) to grow kalo or taro, maia (banana), and ulu (breadfruit) and other useful plants. Those living in the deep mountain valleys gathered products necessary for daily living such as firewood, grass for thatching of roofs, and selected tree logs to build canoes. Those living near the seashore gathered ‘uala or sweet potato from the gardens, or seaweed from the shallow tide pools. Fishing was also done near shore or in the deeper ocean waters. All of these products were shared or given as gifts to each another.

As ruler, Kākuhihewa maintained residences in ‘Ewa, at Waikīkī , and in Kailua on the windward side of O‘ahu. In Kailua he built his court and named it Pāmoa, literally meaning chicken enclosure. His home, according to the legends, measured about 240 feet long and 90 feet wide which was not considered extravagant. It was here that learning took place: mo‘olelo (storytelling), mo‘okūauhau (memorizing or reciting genealogy), learning about the achievements of the kūpuna (elders or ancestors), practicing of warfare skills and learning new techniques in spear throwing or wielding war clubs. Skill in hand- to-hand fighting was taught as well as sports that strengthened the body. It was also the place to study land features and astronomy, observation of omens or ceremonial rituals.

Because of his caring of everyone, young and old, Kākuhihewa was highly respected. He was known to not have resentment against anyone nor express anger. He was always accommodating. Many of the chiefs from the other islands would spend extensive time with Kākuhihewa. The open hospitality of the O‘ahu chiefs caused many of the chiefs from Hawai‘i Island , Maui , Molokai to become relatives through intermarriage. This was one common thread that bound the chiefs together.

In the mele or songs of the chiefs of Hawai‘i Island , Kaua‘i and Maui , Kākuhihewa is included. It is believed that he was an ancestral chief of the chiefs from the other islands. Because of his generosity and benevolence toward the prosperity of O‘ahu, the island was often referred to as O‘ahu-a-Kākuhihewa, that is, O‘ahu belonging to Kākuhihewa.


Ua ‘Ike Anei ‘Oe… (Did you know that…)

  • The early Hawaiians only used the resources of the land as was needed. There was no waste.
  • Conservation of resources was a common practice of early Hawaiian society.
  • The practice of replacing whatever resource taken from the land was an important Hawaiian value.

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