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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

July 2007

 



We continue the mo‘olelo of the chiefly rivals between families and the influence of Western technology in the movement for control of the
Hawaiian Kingdom.

The months following Kīwala‘ō’s death was a time of many battles, both on the field and politically. When the news that Kīwala‘ō was dead and Kamehameha had become ruling chief on Hawai‘i island reached Kahekili, ruling chief of Maui, he sent messengers to Kamehameha requesting for canoes to assist him with the invasion of O‘ahu and battle against its ruling chief Kahahana. Kamehameha refused since he didn’t have control of Ka‘ū and Hilo districts. Instead, he insisted that the Maui messengers not return to Maui but remain on the Hawai‘i island; which they did.

In the meantime, Keawemauhili, uncle of Kamehameha, on hearing the news that the messengers from Maui failed to get canoes from Kamehameha, sent double-hull canoes together with several ahu‘ula as a gift of affection to Kahekili. When Kahekili saw these gifts of friendship, he was overwhelmed and in turn sent warriors to support Keawemauhili in potential battles that may occur. Keawemauhili was the half-brother of Kalaniōpu‘u and Ali‘i of the Hilo district. He was killed defending Hilo against his nephew Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula.

At some point thereafter, Kānekoa, Kamehameha’s uncle who had supported Kīwala‘ō just before the battle of Moku‘ōhai, failed in his battle against Keawemauhili and Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula, younger brother of Kīwala‘ō. He was killed. When Kamehameha heard the news, he prepared for retaliation since he was still fond of his uncle Kānekoa. In the battle called Kama‘ino because of bad weather at the time, Kamehameha sent warriors to attack Hilo and Ka‘ū while he led a contingent of warriors from Kohala over the mountains between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and into Kapāpala, an ahupua‘a in Ka‘ū, then toward Hilo. His plan was to join forces that traveled from Kohala down the windward side of Hāmākua. But they were met by the highly trained Maui warriors at Pua‘aloa, just outside of Pana‘ewa near Hilo and were defeated. The Hawaiian historian, Samuel Kamakau, provides the account of Moa, an eyewitness to the battle:

The pololu [long spear] spears and the ihe [javelin] spears rained down like bath water; blood flowed like water and soaked into the dry earth of that hill. The spears were entangled (hihia ana) like a rainbow arched on both sides.

This short account reveals the extent of the battle and the number of warriors involved. As a result, Kamehameha and his warriors retreated to Laupāhoehoe, raided Hilo for a short while, and then returned to Kohala. In 1785 there was another failed invasion of Hilo, known as the battle of Hāpu‘u. The mo‘olelo says little about this battle, but eventually Kamehameha’s forces once again withdrew to Kohala.

A lull ensues until late 1788 and early 1789. The trading ship Iphigenia commanded by Captain Douglas, arrived off Hawai‘i island and anchored in Kealakekua Bay. On board was Keawe Ka‘iana‘a‘ahu‘ula or Ka‘iana, a high chief of Kaua‘i. He had left Kaua‘i in 1787 and traveled to India and the Far East and was returning to Kaua‘i with European weapons, ammunition, other goods and knowledge of foreign ways. Ka‘iana was of Hawai‘i island lineage, being the grandson of Keaweikekahiali‘iokamoku through one of the junior sons ‘Ahu‘ula. Keawe was also the great-grandfather of Kamehameha. Apparently Ka‘iana was no longer welcomed back to Kaua‘i. Thus, he allied himself, his weapons, and his knowledge with Kamehameha. Apparently, he was given a position of rank in the court of Kamehameha.

Sometime in March of 1789, Kamehameha received information that his cousin Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and perhaps his uncle Keawemauhili, as well, had entered in an alliance with the Ali‘i of Maui and Kaua‘i. Kamehameha asked Captain Douglas for guns and men. Douglas had a carpenter go ashore and mount a swivel gun on a double-hull canoe and leave firearms with Kamehameha.

With this added dimension to island warfare, Hawaiian society enters a new era of supplementing traditional weapons with Western guns and ammunition. In the next issue of NWHT, we look into the effect of Western technology and control of the Hawaiian kingdoms.

Left: Symbols of Hawai`i's past, from 1781.

Right: Two cannonballs retrieved from Maui's shores, 1791

 

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

  • Keōpūolani, wife of Kamehameha, was the daughter of Kīwala‘ō, the cousin of Kamehameha.
  • the battleground of Moku‘ōhai in Ke‘ei, Kona is a historic place and archaeological site today.
  • in 1785, Kamehameha took Ka‘ahumanu as his wife.

Back to Hawaiian History

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