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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

January 2007


The mo‘olelo for control for Hawai‘i island continues between rival families.
As mentioned in the last issue, allies and families are in constant movement for political control as we look at two families, the Mahi and ‘Ī, as examples.

Lonoikamakahiki had no children with his wife Kaikilani-Ali‘i-Wahine-o-Puna. According to the mo‘olelo, neither of his two sons from Kaikilani-kohepani‘o of the Laea family of Kona inherited control of the kingdom for unspecified reasons. However, Kaikilani-Ali‘i-Wahine-o-Puna’s son, Keakealanikane, from her brother-in-law, became ali‘i nui after the death of Lonoikamakahiki. Although the mo‘olelo is silent regarding his reign, it can be assumed that his rule was uneventful. Although there were no known major battles, the district chiefs between the rival families of Hilo and Kohala ensured that their political boundaries were strictly observed. The ‘Ī family of Hilo and the Mahi of Kohala stopped short of claiming total political control of the island kingdom.

The marriage between Keakealanikane and Keali‘iokalani, his sister, was a sacred marriage or pi‘o (arched) because of the rank status of their parents. Such a marriage between brother and sister were encouraged to maintain the pure family blood lines and religious connection with the gods. The daughter, Keakamahana, born from this union, succeeds her father as ali‘i nui. She marries her cousin ‘Iwikauikaua whose life was spared as a young man when he was captured and taken prisoner during a battle between district chiefs. As he was being placed on the altar to be sacrificed to the gods, he asked the kahuna (priest) to allow him to say a short prayer before he was killed. The kahuna consented, but told him that if his prayer was interrupted by any unfavorable signs from the gods, he would certainly be killed. But, if there were no interruptions, then his life would be spared. Apparently, ‘Iwikauikaua was successful since his life was spared.

After his narrow escape from death, ‘Iwikauikaua went to O‘ahu and eventually married the daughter of Kākuhihewa, an ali‘i kapu of O‘ahu. According to the mo‘olelo, ‘Iwikauikaua is next heard of as having visited Maui where his sisters are known to have married kapu chiefs. He finally returns to Hawai‘i island where he marries Keakamahana mentioned above. They have a daughter Kalaiki‘iki who marries an ali‘i from the Puna district of Hawai‘i island which helps to extend family connections between districts.

One notable event during the reign of Keakamahana, who ruled Hawai‘i island except for the districts of Hilo and Hāmākua, is the mo‘olelo of Kanaloauo‘o, ali‘i of the Kohala district. He had two wives on Maui and a wife on Hawai‘i island, Ho‘ola‘aika‘iwi, the granddaughter of Keawenuia‘umi, mentioned in a previous edition of NWHT. From this marriage, he had two sons Mahiololī, who becomes a powerful chief of Kohala, and Mahikuku who eventually helped to politically strengthen the Mahi family in its move to ensure total control of the island kingdom. For whatever reason, Keakamahana had the oldest daughter and mother of her husband killed and desecrated their bones. Before leaving for O‘ahu, ‘Iwikauikaua plotted to betray his wife to the Hilo chiefs. When Keakamahana dies, there is no high-ranking male heir. Thus, Keakealaniwahine, who marries her half-brother, succeeds her mother as ruler. At this time, the Mahi family becomes more powerful, but the plot of betrayal against Keakamahana leads to battle with the ‘Ī family of Hilo. The mo‘olelo in the struggle for political control of Hawai‘i island will continue in the next issue of the NWHT.

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

  • the district of Kona on Hawai‘i island has a vibrant historical past.
  • the violation kapu or sacred laws of high ranking ali‘i was death by burning.
  • the kapu of the pi‘o ali‘i (chief of the heavenly arch or rainbow) were equal in status to that of the gods’.

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