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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

July 2006


We continue with the mo‘olelo of the Ali‘i and look at a contemporary of Pi‘ilani, Līloa of Hawai‘i island. It is from the rule of this ali‘i that we begin to see a movement towards the idea of unification of the island kingdoms with one supreme ruler.

Līloa was an ali‘i of high ranking lineage. His father, Kihanuilulumoku, and his ancestors, were high ranking ali‘i while his mother, Waiolea, also of high chiefly lineage, came from families of the ‘Ewa district on O‘ahu. Līloa’s wife Pinea, the sister of his mother, was from the ‘Ewa and Ko‘olaupoko districts on O‘ahu as well. From this union, a son, Hākau, was born who was designated heir to the kingdom. Līloa also had a daughter, Kapukini, born of Haua, a chiefess from Maui. Līloa who succeeded his father as ali‘i of the island was, from all accounts, a wise and just ruler.

During his reign of Hawai‘i island, the names of the ali‘i for Kohala and Hāmākua are not mentioned in the mo‘olelo which indicates that perhaps Līloa was in direct control of those districts since his seat of government was located in Waipi‘o Valley. However, we know the names of the chiefs in control of the other districts on the island: Kulukulu‘a in Hilo, Hua‘a in Puna, Imaikalani in Ka‘ū, and ‘Ehunuikaimalino in Kona. He also strategically placed sons of these chiefs in his court at Waipi‘o.

The beach of the famed Waipi`o Valley as seen from the lookout. The valley is accessible only on foot, mule or 4 wheel drive. Photo by NWHIT

It appears that Līloa was an ali‘i who frequently moved around the island to ensure that all was in order while at the same time checking on the well-being of the chiefs and common people. Evidently he was successful in preventing any disputes among the chiefs from erupting into warfare because the accounts in the mo‘olelo mention continuous peace on the island during his reign. And one means of keeping peace was through a rigid religious system as a support base. Līloa built and rededicated many heiau during his time. But the main heiau was Paka‘alana in Waipi‘o Valley where Līloa held his court. Although he did not build this heiau, (it was already present from a century earlier), he certainly added to it for he had the task of annually rededicating the heiau to the gods Kū (god of war) and Lono (god of peace).

Another means of consolidating his power was through his marriages. His high ranking wife Pinea with lineage ties to the O‘ahu chiefs and Hua`a of Maui reflected ties with the high ranking families beyond the boundaries of Hawai‘i island. This was a common practice to extend one’s political support base.

Although these women were Līloa’s high ranking wives, he also had a child from an affair with a common woman named Akahiakuleana. The mo‘olelo tells us that while on his way to dedicate the heiau Manini in Kohalālele in Hāmākua, Līloa encountered a young beautiful woman. In his eyes, she had beauty beyond comparison that he thought of concealing his chiefly regalia. But he could not restrain his lust for this woman and did what he desired without concealing his identity. Both knew that a child would be born. Before he left, Līloa told ‘Akahiakuleana that if the child is a girl, give a name from her side of the family. But if it’s a boy, name him ‘Umi for his side of the family. In addition, he left an ahu‘ula (feather cape), lei niho palaoa (ivory pendant), mahi‘ole (feather helmet), and spear (la‘au palau) as tokens for recognition when the boy is older and desires to search for his father. The story of ‘Umi is well-known in the mo‘olelo of Hawai‘i. We will continue with his mo‘olelo in the next issue of the Northwest Hawai‘i Times.

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

  • Waipi`o Valley is a mile wide at the coastline with a stretch of black sand beach and almost six miles deep with many cascading water falls along the valley cliffs.
  • Waipi`o means "curved water" or “arching water.” The Waipi`o River flows through the valley until it enters the ocean at the beach.
  • there may have been as few as 4000 or as many as 10,000 people living in Waipi`o before 1778.

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