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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

June 2005


In the last issue of Mo‘olelo o Nā Ali‘i, Ka‘ililauokekoa, ali‘i nui wahine of Kaua‘i, had died childless. Because there was no direct heir to the chiefdom of the Puna district, the position of ali‘i nui was offered to the oldest son of La‘amaikahiki, Ahukini-a-La‘a, who accepted.

When Ahukini-a-La‘a took control of the government, the districts of Puna and Kona were still at war with each other just as they had been under the rule of Ka‘ililauokekoa. Although the mo‘olelo is silent concerning any significant event during his reign, Ahukini-a-La‘a had an heir, Kamahano. During Kamahano’s reign as ali‘i nui , war between the districts continued. The mo‘olelo is also silent as nothing is known whether he had made any accomplishments or achievements to achieve peace between the districts.

For at least three generations, from La‘amaikahiki to Kamahano, war continued. It wasn’t until when Lu‘anu‘u, Kamahano’s son, became ali‘i nui that Kaua‘i began to prosper. He had a progressive style of government and the people, in spite of the continuing war between the two districts, respected him. When the leadership was passed on to his son, Kūkona, the Kaua‘i mo‘olelo praises the accomplishments of their ali‘i nui . Kūkona left the island united as one kingdom when he died. The two districts, Puna and Kona, merged into one. And to cement the unification, Naekapulani, daughter of Makali‘inuikūakawaiea, ali‘i of the Kona district, was married to Manokalanipō, son of Kūkona. With the unification of the districts, Kaua‘i was free from any threat of invasion from its neighbors to the east. Attention focused on developing a strong political system. The foundation of this new political system continued for generations to follow.

This new political system established by Kūkona gave the ali‘i nui control of the entire island. Since he was considered the personal representative and direct descendant of the gods, it was natural that he controlled all the land with all living things upon it, including the maka‘āinana (commoners) who could not and did not own anything. The ali‘i nui also had the responsibility to perform the proper prayers and present the proper offerings to the gods to ensure the well being of everyone. His kahuna nui (high priest) who advised him on all religious matters and kālaimoku (prime minister) who advised him on all political and civil matters supported him. Any ali‘i nui who neglected his duties could and sometimes was deposed by the people and either killed sent into permanent exile.

The island was also divided into six moku (districts), each governed by an ali‘i ‘ai moku (chief who leads the land), who were selected based on their loyalty and close relationship to the ali‘i nui . The ali‘i ‘ai moku was responsible for the well-being of his district and ensured that the yearly taxes of food, from taro to pigs, from bananas to fish, were paid to the ali‘i nui . The districts were further divided into smaller pie-shaped land units called ahupua‘a , that extended from a point in the mountains, down two ridges surrounding and containing a constant flowing stream, and reaching out into the deep-sea fishing grounds offshore. The ali‘i ‘ai moku appointed a konohiki (supervisor) to run the day-to-day operations of the ahupua‘a. The ‘ohana (family) living in the ahupua‘a had access to the many resources within this land unit. In return the ‘ohana was required to work on a fixed schedule in the lo‘i kalo (taro fields) set aside for the government. Annual taxes were paid to the konohiki in the form of pigs, dogs, vegetables, seafood, mats and baskets, cordage, tools, gourds and feathers which were used to make the cloaks, lei , and helmets used to indicate ali‘i status.

The island of Kaua ‘i prospered. The population increased and the long years of destruction of people, resources, and land were over.

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

  • In this story of Kauai , the name Puna refers simply to the windward or wetter side of the island, and Kona is the leeward or drier side. On Hawai`i island however, Puna and Kona are the names of specific districts today whose climate conforms to these earlier references
  • the name ahupua‘a is derived from ahu , an altar of stones, upon which was placed a pua‘a (pig) or other tribute as tax to the ali‘i .
  • the altars marked the boundaries between ahupua‘a and served as the collection area for the annual taxes.

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