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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

January 2009


The last issue of NWHT ended with Kamehameha declaring Ka‘ahumanu off limits to anyone, especially any male Ali‘i. According to the kahuna (priest) Holo‘ae, if Ka‘ahumanu became interested in a high ranking Ali‘i or surrounded herself with an entourage of male admirers she would possibly have enough support to take control of the Kingdom from Kamehameha. For fear of this happening, the law was declared and inadvertently challenged.

According to sources, a young Ali‘i was smitten by the physical beauty and grace of Ka‘ahumanu and pursued his advances toward her. Hawaiian historian, Samuel Kamakau, recorded that while Kamehameha was away, Ka‘ahumanu, on several occasions, drank rum at several lū‘au (feast) and apparently under the influence of alcohol met up with the young Ali‘i, Kanihonui, at the hale moe (sleeping house). Luheluhe, a guard, who witnessed the rendezvous, was hesitant in informing Kamehameha. But, because he feared being killed for withholding such information, the guard told Kamehameha that the kapu (prohibit) on his wife was violated. The young chief was immediately put to death.

The handsome young chief of nineteen was the nephew of Kamehameha. He, Kanihonu, was raised by both Kamehameha and Ka‘ahumanu and a favorite among the chiefs. Although it was considered wrongful for Kamehameha to have put the young man to death for breaking the law, his fear was that Ka‘ahumanu, by having suitors among the chiefs, would have enough supporters to lead a rebellion against him. To challenge the rumors of rebellion and to raise fear among the Ali‘i, Kamehameha put his foster son to death.

In the meantime, the foreign ships King George commanded by Captain Portlock and the Queen Charlotte under Captain Dixon sailed into Kealakekua Bay. It was the year 1786. These two captains had sailed with Cook in 1778 and were somewhat familiar with the place. Soon trading and barter began to take place as canoes with Hawaiians and their goods reached the ships. In the midst of trading, the crew noticed aggressive behavior among the Hawaiian men similar to the commotion they observed at the time of Cook's death. The ship’s cannons were fired to frighten the people who quickly fled in their canoes toward shore. The captains then sailed their ships towards Maui and O‘ahu.

During the stop at Maui, Portlock writes in his log that the King, Kahekili, had a good physical appearance and appeared to be greatly trusted by the people. He appeared to be fifty years of age, but in reality was eighty years of age. Samuel Kamakau place Kahekili at thirty years of age when Kamehameha was born. At the time of Portlock’s arrival in 1786, Kamehameha was fifty years old. Portlock also wrote that he observed some foreign swords and knives in the possession of some of the Ali‘i. While at Wai‘alae, O‘ahu, Portlock also wrote that the place was populated and the land cultivated and well-cared for. The ships were replenished with fresh food in exchange for nails and bead necklaces.

Between the years of 1786 and 1790, more foreign ships arrived in the islands. Shortly after Portlock and Dixon left, two French ships commanded by Captain La Perouse anchored off Lahaina. While foreign ships began to regularly appear in the islands, Kamehameha was preparing to make war on Maui. He was attempting to take control of the island from Kalanikūpule, son of Kahekili.

We continue the mo‘olelo in the next issue of NWHT.

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

  • it was not uncommon for a ruling Ali‘i to place a kapu on items of personal property. Women, at the time, were considered personal property.
  • Kamehameha was astute in his method of political control of the island.
  • the arrival of foreign ships began to influence Kamehameha’s movement toward unification of the Hawaiian Kingdom .

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