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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

July 2008


In this issue of NWHT, we continue the mo‘olelo of the battles that paved the way for Kamehameha to eventually take control of Hawai‘i Island.

It was during the battle of the Bitter Rain where it became clearly obvious that the Hilo warriors largely outnumbered Kamehameha’s forces. But Kamehameha and his warrior trainer, Kekūhaupi‘o, were able to outmaneuver and ward off the large number of spears flown by the enemy. Their alertness and strength kept the battle alive for three days, but by the third day, fatigue set in. Kamehameha and his forces were tired and weary which gave the Maui warriors the chance to organize an ambush. But seeing the strength of Kekūhaupi‘o when he seized a Maui warrior and lifted him and whirled his body toward those who stood close by, terrified those who saw what happened. Seeing the fearlessness of his training instructor, Kamehameha joined in the fight. This caused the Maui forces to quickly retreat, but their quick reinforcements caused Kamehameha to give the order that his men retreat and reorganize.

In the meantime near Kapāpala in Ka‘ū, Ka‘iana, with a contingent of Kamehameha’s Mahi warriors met Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula whose forces outnumbered the men led by Ka‘iana. However, with the arrival of fresh reinforcements to support Ka‘iana and his warriors, a hotly contested battle took place between both sides causing Keōua’s men to also slowly retreat. The bitter cold heavy rain that fell created obscurity that aided Keōua and his warriors in their escape. These warriors of Ka‘ū were familiar with their land and the many hidden caves which saved them from being killed by Kamehameha’s fearless warriors. When Keōua and his men disappeared from sight, Ka‘iana divided his men and ordered one group to return to Kona in the event that Keōua was moving there. The other group would locate Kamehameha and report on their battle of the bitter rain.

Photo by NWHT
The rugged coastline of Laupāhoehoe on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawai`i island.

Kamehameha and his forces had retreated to Laupāhoehoe where he sought the advice of the ‘Aha Ali‘i (Council of Chiefs). He had made up his mind to carry out war against Kahekili of Maui who had supported the forces of Keawemauhili and Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula. In conference with the ‘Aha, the Council agreed, especially Ke‘eaumoku, father of Ka‘ahumanu, that war against Kahekili must be carried out. But, Kekūhaupi‘o advised Kamehameha to delay his move against Kahekili. From his own experience, Kekūhaupi‘o knew that Kahekili was skilled and seasoned in warfare after he witnessed the slaughter of many young Hawai‘i island warriors under the leadership of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who had to seek truce with his brother-in-law Kahekili in order to end the battle. Kekūhaupi‘o also advised Kamehameha to have his kahuna (priest) Holo‘ae find out the wish of the god, Kūkā‘ilimoku.

After spending time at Laupāhoehoe, Kamehameha decided to return to Kohala and prepare for the pending battle against Kahekili. On the way to Kohala, a messenger arrived and told Kamehameha that warriors from Maui had arrived at Kohala while he was fighting at Hilo. These Maui warriors plundered and roused the maka‘āinana to consider rebelling against their Ali‘i. The Maui forces had set up camp at a place called Hāpu‘u, near Hālawa, where Kamehameha, as a youth, was cared for by his kahu (guardian) Nae‘ole.

The mo‘olelo continues in the next issue of NWHT.

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

  • Hawaiians named events according to natural phenomena that occurred. For example, the Battle of the Bitter Rain was so named because, at the time, the rain that fell heavily was very cold and stinging as it touched the naked body of the fighting warriors.
  • experienced warriors like Kamehameha named their forces according to their skill, for example, the Mahi warriors were strong in hand-to-hand combat
  • Kamehameha’s strategic plans always included advice from his mentor Kekūhaupi‘o, kahuna, and Council of Chiefs; characteristics of an inclusive leader.

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