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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

February 2009


As the mo‘olelo continues, Kamehameha’s desire to take control of the islands in accordance to the prophecy of his kahuna required engagement in several fierce battles against the Maui warriors.

“I mua e nā poki‘i a inu i ka wai ‘awa‘awa, ‘a‘ole hope e ho‘i aku,” (forward my little brothers, and drink of the bitter waters, there is no retreat) became the motto of Kamehameha during the battle of ‘Īao on Maui. Upon hearing this from their Ali‘i, the warriors of Kamehameha understood that the battle would be fought until the bitter end. As the Maui forces moved toward the valley of ‘Īao with precipitous pali or cliffs, the loud sounds of the battle could be heard. As barbed spears darted quickly and clubs with stone heads struck the heads of the enemy, the sounds of loud cannons, commanded by Isaac Davis and John Young, moved closer and took aim at the fleeing Maui forces attempting to climb the pali to escape certain death.

The thundering sounds of the cannons caused terror amongst the Maui warriors. They were slaughtered by the hundreds. The sheer number of bodies piled upon each other soon created a dam across the ‘Īao Stream which backed up the waters that had become crimson red. Witnesses at the battle recount men’s bodies torn apart by the strong hands of the Hawai‘i Island warriors. The battle became known as Kaua i Kepaniwai o ‘Īao or Battle at the dammed waters of ‘Īao.

Kamehameha was victorious and soon proclaimed his kanawai (law) that everyone live in peace and bring the lands involved in the fierce battles to provide the resources to ensure the health and well-being of everyone. With his cousin Kalanikūpule fleeing to O‘ahu, Kamehameha lived for some time near Wailuku. Because of his good will peace soon descended upon the land of Maui. When he saw that all was well with the people, he began preparations for battle against Kahekili, who was ruling the island of O‘ahu

However, any plans to invade O‘ahu was interrupted from word that all was not well on Hawai‘i Island. Keōuakūahu‘ula, cousin of Kamehameha, were mistreating the supporters of Kamehameha near Waimea and other parts of the island. When Keōuakūahu‘ula heard that Kamehameha had landed at Kawaihae, he led his warriors back to Ka‘ū. While passing near the area of Kīlauea Crater, they were soon showered with rocks and volcanic ash from an explosive eruption. Those who escaped the wrath of the goddess Pele saw this as her display of anger against Keōuakūahu‘ula for his apparent mistreatment of women. Others saw Pele as a supporter of Kamehameha.

Ever since his first battle at Moku‘ōhai in 1782, Kamehameha was engaged in several battles in order to take complete control of Hawai‘i Island. It became apparent to him with the advice of his kahuna that in order to defeat his cousin a new heiau dedicated to the war god Kūka‘ilimoku needed to be built at Pu‘ukoholā in Kawaihae. By invitation from Kamehameha, Keōuakūahu‘ula prepared to visit his cousin. As he entered the bay and stepped ashore, he was killed by a spear thrown by Ke‘eaumoku. Kamehameha stopped his warriors from harming those who had arrived with his cousin. But, he took the body of Keōuakūahu‘ula and placed it on the altar as a sacrifice dedicated to the god Kūka‘ilimoku. Now, the entire Hawai‘i Island was under Kamehameha’s control. His direction now returns to prepare for the invasion of O‘ahu.

The mo‘olelo continues in the next issue of NWHT.

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

  • the Battle of ‘Īao was also referred to as the Battle of the Clawed Cliffs because of the attempts by the Maui people to escape death by climbing the sheer cliffs of ‘Īao.
  • Isaac Davis and John Young were important military advisers to Kamehameha in his quest of conquering the islands.
  • Kamehameha eventually frequently relied on the diplomatic and political expertise of foreigners in the islands.

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