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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

February 2006


In the last issue we began the mo‘olelo (story) of Kūali‘i and his contributions to the prosperity of O‘ahu. We continue with the leadership of this Ali‘i and the beginning of territorial expansion of the O‘ahu Kingdom.

As you recall in the last issue of the Northwest Hawai‘i Times, the mo‘olelo ended with part of the mele inoa for Kūali‘i that tells about the decisive battle at Kalena. It was this battle that acknowledged and secured Kūali‘i’s sole authority as Ali‘i Nui of O‘ahu. However, the idea of supreme control did not end with the O‘ahu battle. Whether or not Kūali‘i had the notion that the possibility of supreme control over all the islands was feasible is not certain, but he considered that idea with an exploratory raid of Hawai‘i island. This event may be viewed as just an exercise in preparing his warriors for battle or making himself known of his intention of territorial expansion.

Since this exploration took place in the earlier year’s of Kūali‘i’s life, it probably occurred while Keakealaniwahine was the Ali‘i Nui of Hawai‘i island, and before her son Keawe took control. With a well-equipped fleet and highly trained warriors, Kūali‘i landed at Laupāhoehoe, on the northeast side of the island. After challenging and defeating Ha‘alilo, ali‘i of that area, Kūali‘i then prepared to make his next move to the Puna district. But, before advancing any further, he received news that the ali‘i of ‘Ewa and Waialua on O‘ahu had revolted again. Hastily he returned to O‘ahu and in several fierce battles was able to subdue the hostile ali‘i near Wai‘anae. After defeating the O‘ahu chiefs, Kūali‘i once again returned to Hawai‘i island to complete what he started. Whether he was successful in his efforts to take control of Puna is not revealed in the mo‘olelo but it can be assumed that he was not victorious.

During his return to O‘ahu, Kūali‘i stopped at Ka‘anapali on Maui to recruit warriors. While there, he was asked by a group of Moloka‘i ali‘i to assist in settling territorial disputes with the Ko‘olau ali‘i of that island. With his superior forces, Kūali‘i met the opposing forces on the plains of Kalaupapa. A hard fought battle ensued with the Moloka‘i ali‘i on the losing end. Having satisfactorily settled the dispute, Kūali‘i finally returned to O‘ahu to carry out his duties as Ali‘i Nui.

Kūali‘i is said to have lived to the age of ninety and still possessed to the very end the strength and stamina of a young warrior. According to the mo‘olelo, his son, Peleioholani, arrived from Kaua‘i to visit his aging father. Apparently an argument took place in which the son assaulted the father. At his advanced age, Kūali‘i was able to hold a lua (martial arts) grip on his son so severe that when the son was released he quickly left and never returned to O‘ahu until after his father’s death.

Shortly before his death, Kūali‘i called his trusted kahu (attendant) and gave him the duty of hiding his bones after death so that no one would have access and desecrate them. After his death, the kahu dutifully wrapped the bones in a bundle and started off, as everyone thought, to hide them in a secret cave or sink them in the ocean. Instead he found an isolated area and began to pulverize the bones into a fine powder. When he returned, he ordered everyone to prepare for a large feast in commemoration of the death of the Ali‘i Nui, Kūali‘i. The night before the feast, the kahu secretly mixed the powdered bones of Kūali‘i in the poi. When asked the following day if he had faithfully carried out the wishes of Kūali‘i, the kahu pointed to the stomachs of everyone present at the feast and said that he had hidden the bones in a hundred living tombs. The mo‘olelo doesn’t describe the reaction but certainly the kahu was applauded for fulfilling his duty.

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

  • the mo‘olelo of Kūali‘i is similar to that of Kamehameha.
  • the idea of territorial expansion was attempted several times before Kamehameha’s time.
  • Kūali‘i was successful in territorial expansion of the O‘ahu kingdom.

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