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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

January 2006




In the last issue we read the mo‘olelo (story) of Kākuhihewa and his contributions to the prosperity of O‘ahu. Over the next three generations, the Ali‘i Nui gradually lost power and control to the Ali‘i of the other districts on the island. The Ali‘i of Kona and ‘Ewa districts appeared to have functioned independently. From the mo‘okūauhau (genealogy) of Kākuhihewa, a ruling chief of the O‘ahu Kingdom, Kūali‘i emerges.

According to the mo‘olelo, Kuali‘i’s birthplace was at Waiomuku in Waiahole where he was born in 1655. The heiau or temple Alala where the traditional ceremony of cutting the navel cord took place was at Kalapawai in the Ko‘olaupoko district of the island. There are many name chants (mele inoa) composed for Kūali‘i that tell the mo‘olelo of his birth, his role as an Ali‘i and his death.

As a young boy, Kuali‘i spent time at Kailua and Kualoa. At Kualoa he was trained, just as his ancestors had done, for leadership. He was taught the skills to use weapons such as spear throwing, the effective use of war clubs and the ‘īkoi or stone slinging. He would also memorize the mo‘okūauhau that tell the story of his kūpuna (ancestors). His training also included rigorous training in techniques required in order to face difficult challenges and to attain self-discipline and perseverance.

Kūali‘i came to power in 1700 and ruled for twenty years. He re-established the power of the Ali‘i Nui which had been dismantled as each district on the island was ruled independently. In pursuit of his goal of unification, Kūali‘i first defeated the district Ali‘i in fierce and decisive battles. In the Kona district of O‘ahu, a battle at Waolani in Nu‘ uanu Valley above Honolulu was a decisive encounter. It was here that the sacred heiau Kawaluna was built and only the Ali‘i Nui of the island was allowed to perform the sacred rituals each year. Kūali‘i asserted his authority, performed the rituals and then defeated the Kona warriors in battle. These warriors eventually subjected themselves to Kūali‘i.

He then turned his attention to the ‘Ewa and Waialua chiefs and was able to have them submit to his authority. The battle took place on the lands of Kalena and the plains of Hale‘au‘au, close to where Schofield Barracks is located today. Another difficult battle ensued with the ‘Ewa chiefs at the place of Malamanui near Kalena. This decisive battle finally secured the authority of Kūali‘i as Ali‘i Nui of O‘ahu.

Part of his mele inoa tells the mo‘olelo of the battle at Kalena:

Ihea, ihea la ke kahua
Where, where was the field?

Paia ao o ke koa-a?
On which the warriors fought?

I kahua i Kalena
There the field is at Kalena

I manini, i hanini
Scattered about, overflowing [bodies]

I ninia i ka wai Akua
Poured out is the godly fluid [blood]

I kou hana i Malamanui
By your work [battle] at Malamanui

We continue the mo‘olelo of this Ali‘i Nui in the next issue.

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

  • the lands of Kalena were used as a school for the art of lua or martial arts.
  • the mountain Ka‘ala is the tallest on the island of O ‘ahu
  • Līhu‘e is the place name of the area on O`ahu that includes Kalena and Kūkaniloko, the birthplace of high ranking ali‘i.

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