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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

February 2008

 


The mo‘olelo continues with the battle of Moku‘ōhai at Ke‘ei on Hawai‘i Island.

The mo‘olelo tells of the loyal support among the Ali‘i for Kīwala‘ō. But there was also support for his cousin Kamehameha whose core supporters were initially his uncle Kaha‘i (half-brother of Keōuakupuapaikalaninui, Kamehameha’s father) and Kānekoa, a well-known Ali‘i of Waimea, as well as, the twins, Kame‘eiamoku and Kamanawa and Kekūhaupi‘o, the warrior ali‘i of Ke‘ei. In addition, the Ali‘i of the Kealakekua Bay area, Ke‘eaumoku, Kalanimālokuloku also known as Keli‘imaika‘i, the full younger brother of Kamehameha, and half-brothers Kala‘imamahū and Kawelo‘okalani joined forces with Kamehameha. From all accounts, Kamehameha had a powerful contingent that included ali‘i from Kona and Kohala who were well trained and ready for battle against Kīwala‘ō.

As the warriors from both sides prepared for battle through small skirmishes for several days, the major battle at Moku‘ōhai began, according to Kamakau, on the 5th day. Kamehameha and his forces were defeated. In celebratory rituals, Kīwal‘ō offered bodies of the enemies to the gods to validate his victory. But, his kahuna, Kalaiku‘i‘ana, confided with Kīwal‘ō to postpone further fighting because the possibility exists that he would be defeated. Boastful and filled with pride, Kīwal‘ō would not listen to his kahuna, certain that his cousin would eventually be defeated and he would have control of the war god Kūka‘ilimoku.

The turning point of the battle took place when Ke‘eaumoku got entangled with his long wooden spear or pololū and was struck in the back. Around his neck was the highly prized whale’s tooth (lei niho palaoa) worn by Ali‘i to show their high status. When Kīwala‘ō saw his uncle lying on the ground close to death, he yelled at his warriors to save the necklace which showed no respect for his uncle. As he stood, staring at the prized ornament, Kīwala‘ō was struck in the head by a slingstone or pohaku ‘alā o ka ma‘a flung by Keakuawahine. When he fell, his warriors fled. Seeing his nephew lying prostrate on the ground, Ke‘eaumoku crawled over and slit the throat of Kīwala‘ō with the lei o manō or shark’s tooth weapon.

In the meantime, Kamehameha was also engaged in battle. Showing his strength, the young Kamehameha ended the life of his first victim. Noticing the fighting skill of Kamehameha, more of the warriors of Kīwala‘ō began to flee the battle ground. Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and his remaining forces also fled and returned to Ka‘ū where he declared the lands of Ka‘ū and parts of Puna under his control. Some of the other warriors and ali‘i fled to pu‘uhonua o Honaunau for safety while others were captured and killed by Kamehameha’s warriors. Keawemauhili, uncle and political advisor to Kīwala‘ō, was held hostage for several days. But, recognizing his high ranking status, his captors released him, perhaps a mistake, as it will later be discovered. Keawemauhili fled to Hilo and took control of that area and half of the Puna and Hāmākua districts.

The battle of Moku‘ohai was the first step for Kamehameha to fulfill the prophecy that he would eventually take political control of the islands. His control of the lands of Kona, Kohala and half of Hāmākua was the result of Kīwala‘ō’s sacrifice of Kamehameha’s warriors who were killed by Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula. This act was essentially a declaration of war. If you recall, his father, Kalani‘ōpu‘u, entrusted the war god Kūka‘ilimoku to Kamehameha. The sacrificial offerings by Kīwala‘ō were an insult to the gods according to the kahuna (priest) Keaulumoku.

In the next issue of NWHT, we continue with the mo‘olelo.

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

  • pu‘uhonua (place of refuge) was a place to which one could escape to and be saved from being taken captive or from being put to death.
  • a person could also be pu‘uhonua, such as Ka‘ahumanu (favorite wife of Kamehameha I).
  • Ke‘ei, an important place in mo‘olelo Hawai‘i, was the home of Kekūhaupi‘o who taught Kamehameha the skill and art of warfare.

Ke`ei,in the area where the major battle of Moku‘ōhai took place.
In the foreground is `a`a -- jagged lava.
Photo by Roy Alameida

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