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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

June 2006


The April issue ended with the mo‘olelo (story) of Pi‘ilani as Ali‘i Nui of
Maui. Under his wise and organized leadership, Maui prospered and the connections among the chiefly families through marriage supported his political strength. We look at contemporaries of Pi‘ilani as we approach the last historical period of the ancient mo‘olelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian history) before the conquest of the Hawaiian islands by Kamehameha I.

The island of Moloka‘i, at this time, presented no historical evidence of importance except for the downfall of Kahokuohua from the invasion by Kalaunuiohua, ali‘i nui of Hawai‘i Island, whose goal was territorial expansion and total subjugation of all the islands. Moloka‘i was not of political importance. Its internal affairs did not attract the attention of the O‘ahu and Maui ali‘i. But the chants mention that Kupa, the brother of La‘amaikahiki from Tahiti, controlled the eastern part of Moloka‘i. His seat of government was at Mapulehu. It was devastated as a result of a flash flood that completely destroyed everything in its path.

On the island of Kaua‘i, Kahakumakapaweo, great-grandson of Manokalanipō and a contemporary of Pi‘ilani, was remembered with distinction and affection. Like his great-grandfather, he was just, liberal, and ensured the prosperity of the island. It is through this ali‘i that many take special pride in tracing their mo‘okūauhau to the pure-blooded ali‘i of Kaua‘i.

The island of Ni‘ihau, although at times politically independent, acknowledged the ali‘i of Kaua‘i as ruler of the island, just as Lāna‘i politically recognized the Maui ali‘i. No significant historical event during this time period has been preserved in the mo‘olelo. Although internal friction may have occurred, the continuous intimate connections with Kaua‘i ali‘i produced community and political adhesions.

O‘ahu was ruled for some time by Kūkaniloko, a female. Her firm and judicious political style of government was similar in fashion as her great-grandfather Ma‘ilikūkahi. That would have included the building of heiau (temples), loko‘ia (fishponds), lo‘i (taro farms), and other resources to mālama (take care) of the growing population. Although the mo‘olelo does remain silent regarding her reign she was known to have kept the kingdom prosperous and orderly. Her husband was a Maui ali‘i, Luaia, grandson of Kūka‘alaneo. From that union there were two children, Kala‘imanuia, a daughter, and Kauwahimakaweo, of whom nothing is known. The daughter, Kala‘imanuia, became heir and ruled O‘ahu following the footsteps of her mother. (In the October 2005 issue, we read the mo‘olelo of this female ali‘i of O‘ahu.)

Those readers familiar with Hawaiian history and culture may recall that the name Kūkaniloko is also the name of the sacred birthing place for the newborn of the high ali‘i. The place was believed to hold spiritual powers and children born there were believed to be fit to rule. Kūkaniloko, located in the Waialua district of O‘ahu on the plains between Schofield Military Base today and Whitmore near Wahi‘awa, is one of two sacred birthing place of the ali‘i; the other on Kaua‘i. Today, the place is a registered historical site.

Thus, we end this mo‘olelo with the understanding that the contemporaries of Pi‘ilani ruled in times of strife, dynastic internal and external wars between families, with disastrous consequences in loss of life, loss of knowledge, loss of liberty.

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

  • just as today, the ruling ali‘i generally set up their seat of government in the prime lands of the kingdom.
  • major heiau dominated the political centers on each island.
  • Kūkaniloko was considered the piko (navel) of the islands.

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