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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

May 2006


Let us make a brief stop and look at our ancestors with respect to political alliances through relationships of the reigning ali‘i ‘ohana throughout the islands. This was an important part of the culture for in many situations, the mo‘okūauhau determined one’s legitimacy to rule.

In the mo‘olelo of Pi‘ilani of Maui, we find that he married his cousin Laielohelohe, the daughter of the chiefs Kelea and Kalamakua of O‘ahu. He had several children: Lono-a-Pi‘i, who succeeded him as ali‘i nui of Maui; Kiha-a-Pi‘ilani who was raised with his mother’s relatives on O‘ahu until he became a young man; and daughters Pi‘ikea and Kala‘aiheana.

With another wife, Moku-a-hualeiakea, a Hawai‘i Island ali‘i and descendant of the Ehu family of Kona, he had a daughter, Kauhi‘iliula-a-Pi‘ilani who married Laninui-a-kaihupe‘e, an O‘ahu ali‘i, a descendant of Māweke. And with another wife, Kunu‘unui-a-kapoki‘i, he had a son Nihokela.

The marriage among the chiefly families was not only to maintain the purity of bloodlines but also to attain political relationships. A classic example of domestic relations is told through the mo‘okūauhau of ‘Umi. After the overthrow of Hākau, his brother ‘Umi becomes the ali‘i nui of Hawai‘i island. Disgusted with the tyrannical and cruel rule of Hākau, the the ali‘i, kāhuna and maka‘ainana fully acknowledged ‘Umi as their supreme ruler. His mo‘okūauhau is extensive and his descendants, numerous and powerful, spread throughout all the islands.

‘Umi was known to have at least six wives. Kulamea, whose mo‘okūauhau is not known, was the mother of Napunanahunui-a-‘Umi, a daughter. Another wife was Maka‘alua, who was the mother of Nohowa‘a-a-‘Umi, a daughter. His half-sister, Kapukini, daughter of ‘Umi’s father Līloa with Pinea, was his wife as well. Through this union one daughter and two sons were born; Keli‘iakaloa, a son, Kapukini, a daughter and Keawe-a-‘Umi, a son, who later rules Hawai‘i island in the same fashion as his father.

In order to extend his relations, ‘Umi married Pi‘ikea, the daughter of Pi‘ilani of Maui . Through that marriage, there is a daughter, Ainakoko, and Kumulae, a son. Kumulae is later referred in the mo‘olelo of Hawai‘i island as the grandfather of I, a strong and powerful ali‘i of Hilo. To further cement relations with Maui island, ‘Umi also married Mokuahualeiākea, a wife of Pi‘ilani and descendant of the Ehu family of Kona. There is one child, Akahi‘ilikapu, a daughter. According to the mo‘olelo, she became the wife of Kahakumakaliua, son of Kalanikukuma, ali‘i of Kaua‘i, while he was traveling through the islands. He stopped to visit with ‘Umi and the beauty and charm of ‘Umi’s daughter caught his attention. They had two children. Koihalauwailaua, a daughter, who was also known as Koihalawai, and Keli‘ihoihoi, a son. After living on Kaua‘i for some time, Akahi‘ilikapu returned to Hawai‘i island with her children. Kahakumakaliua remained on Kaua‘i. Another wife of ‘Umi was Henahena, the mother of Kamolanui-a-‘Umi, a daughter. There is no later reference in the mo‘olelo regarding this relation.

In order to understand Hawaiian culture, one needs to understand the importance of the mo‘okūauhau. It is the mo‘olelo of families; it is their story; it is their history. The ali‘i had several wives for reasons. One reason was to attain relations with chiefly families and political control.

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

  • Hawaiians believe that a person who doesn’t know their mo‘okūauhau, does not really know who they are.
  • the mo‘okūauhau was a tool to determine a chief’s right to rule
  • today, we make connections with others by asking where they are from, what high school they attended or if they know so and so.

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