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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

March 2006


In the last issue we ended the mo‘olelo (story) of Kūali‘i with his death. His son, Kapioho‘okulani, continued what his father began, that is, the expansion of the O‘ahu kingdom. He was slain in a battle on Moloka‘i against the Hawai‘i Island warriors. At this time, we now turn our attention to the ruling ali‘i of Maui island.

The mo‘olelo and ruling ali‘i of Maui Island begins at Kau‘iki, an extinct crater almost four hundred feet high on the south side of the entrance to Hana Bay. Kau‘iki appears to be an island but a narrow strip of land connects it with the shore near Hana. The place is key in telling the mo‘olelo of Māui, the demi-god, for whom the island is named after. Kau`iki, an extinct crater at the entrance to Hana Bay on the island of Maui.

Some say that the demi-god Māui once lived on Kau‘iki hill and it was he and his brothers who pulled the Hawaiian Islands up from the ocean floor while they were fishing near Hana. Māui was also known to have improved the world which had been left half-finished by the gods. For one, the sky was so low that people had to crawl like animals. Māui stood atop Kau‘iki to lift the sky so people could walk upright. He also slowed down the sun because it traveled too fast across the sky which caused the days to be too short and the people were always cold and had no time to finish their work. His mother, for one, could not dry her kapa (tree-bark cloth) because of the short days. Māui stood at the top of Haleakalā and lassoed the sun’s rays as it rose over the top of the mountain. He released the sun only after it made a promise to move more slowly across the sky.

It was also known in the mo‘olelo that, “At the hill of Kauiki the heaven is nearer the earth than elsewhere, in fact so close that it could be reached by a good strong cast of the spear.” But the ali‘i Kaeokulani saw differently. While recruiting men for an army of warriors to help Kahekili oppose Kamehameha’s invasion of Maui, he climbed the hill and threw his spear up into the air and called out, “It is said of old that the sky comes down close to Hana, but I find it quite high, for I have thrown my spear, Kamoolehua, and it did not pierce the sky, and I doubt if it will hit Kamehameha.”

For years, Hana bore the brunt of the battles between the ali‘i of Maui and Hawai‘i. Its strategic landing place located just 35 miles across the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel from Hawai‘i Island was the bone of contention for control between the ali‘i of the two islands. In recounting political control of Maui, we look at the Kumulipo. It recounts 20 generations before the great Maui ali‘i Pi‘ilani ruled in the 16th century. Mauiloa was the first independent ali‘i of Maui . Born in Kaupō, he engaged in many battles against the district ali‘i, establishing his rule at a young age. His uncle Haho, the king of Hawai‘i Island, was instrumental in helping him establish his authority. In gratitude, Mauiloa ceded the district of Hana to his uncle thus, setting the stage for centuries of warfare between the two islands.

Like Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i, Maui was also at one time an independent kingdom with ali‘i in control of all the districts. Thus, from the time of Mauiloa there must have been continuous social and political conflicts. The mo‘olelo tells of Kamaluohua, great grandson of Mauiloa and reigning ali‘i of Maui, who was defeated and taken captive by Kalaunuiohua, ali‘i of Hawai‘i Island, but was later liberated. Except for this incident, for three generations following Kamaluohua, the mo‘olelo is silent and nothing worthy to note.

In the next issue, we will look at the Maui ali‘i following Kamaluohua.

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

  • the legends say that Kau‘iki was the placenta of Pu‘uhele, sister of Pele and Hi‘iaka.
  • because of its natural surroundings, Kau‘iki was viewed as a place of refuge and safety.
  • Kau‘iki was, and still is, a favorite place for planting sweet potatoes because of the rich fertile cinder soil.

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