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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

December 2007


In this issue of NWHT, we take a look at some of the noted events that took place after Cook died and his remaining crew and ships left the islands.

In the case of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, he resided in Kailua for some time after living in Kainaliu and Keauhou. At the time of Cook’s visit, Kalani‘ōpu‘u was described as old, perhaps senile, at about 5’8” tall and slender with scaly skin; the result of awa drinking over a long period of time. As ali‘i, he engaged everyone in dancing the hula, the most popular being the ka la‘au (dancing with the beating of two sticks against each other), and apparently exhausted the natural resources of Kona, as well. He later moved his residence to North Kohala where he continued to enjoy the different games, many of which were played during time of makahiki, and again demanded food resources from the other districts.

While in Kohala he was informed of a planned rebellion against him by ‘Īmakakoloa, district ali‘i of Puna and Nu‘uanupā‘ahu, an ali‘i of Ka‘ū, both former supporters of Kalani‘ōpu‘u during his battles on Maui. However, Nu‘uanupā‘ahu’s demise came from a shark attack while surfing. According to the mo‘olelo, he was able to fend off the shark by striking the fish in its eye then reaching in and grasping the gills and pulling it out of the shark. But, as the wounded shark left, another shark appeared. Nu‘uanupā‘ahu struck the shark with his fists, but the shark turned and bit him on his thigh. When he reached shore there were shouts of approval by onlookers for his strength and escape from near death, but Nu‘uanupā‘ahu lay on the beach suffering in pain from the wound. He soon died and was buried at Polulū.

‘Īmakakoloa in the meantime, went into hiding after hearing that Kalani‘ōpu‘u was in search of him, but was soon caught and brought to Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who had already moved his court from Kohala to Hilo then to Ka‘ū. His punishment for the planned rebellion against Kalani‘ōpu‘u was death with his body offered to the gods after the ceremonial installation of Kīwala‘ō, son of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, as heir to the kingdom. It was agreed to by Kalani‘ōpu‘u and the ‘Aha Ali‘i or Council of Chiefs that at the death of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, the rule over the kingdom be given to his son who would then have the legitimate right to perform the rituals to dedicate a heiau (temple). However, to his nephew Kamehameha he gave his war god Kūkā‘ilimoku.

On the day that Kīwala‘ō would dedicate the heiau, supporters of Kamehameha took a bold step by telling Kamehameha that if he listened to their advice he would become an ali‘i of great wealth. Kamehameha agreed. As Kīwala‘ō offered the pua‘a (hog) to the gods and was preparing next to offer ‘Īmakakoloa, Kamehameha boldly stepped forward, took the body and made the offering to Kūkā‘ilimoku, god of war. This act by Kamehameha violated protocol and many of the Ali‘i wanted him killed. But instead, Kalani‘ōpu‘u ordered his nephew to return to Kohala with the god Kūkā‘ilimoku. With the split of land and god the seed was planted for future conflicts between Kīwala‘ō and Kamehameha.

In the following issues of NWHT, we delve into the conflicts that eventually led to Kamehameha I unifying the islands under one ruler.

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

  • before Kalani‘ōpu‘u died in 1782, Kahekili of Maui reclaimed the lands of Hana and Kīpahulu from Hawai‘i island control.
  • Kalani‘ōpu‘u had several wives. Kalola, sister of Kahekili of Maui, was the high ranking wife.
  • Kalani‘ōpu‘u also had twin sons, Keōua Kū‘ahu‘ula and Keōua Pe‘e‘ale with his wife Kānekapolei.



Photo by Roy Alameida

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