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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

May 2007


We continue the mo‘olelo of the chiefly rivals between families and move closer to the time of changes in the Hawaiian kingdom as a result of foreigners and Western ideas.

Alapa‘i is said to have spent his remaining years in Hilo, but frequently traveled around the island to ensure all affairs were in order. It is believed, but not proven, that he was responsible for the death of Keōuakupuapāikalaninui, his nephew and father of Kamehameha I, by either poison or sorcery. Kalani‘ōpu‘u, half-brother of Keōuakupuapāikalaninui, and his followers attempted to remove his nephew Kamehameha from the court of Alapa‘inui but was initially unsuccessful. After several battles between the warriors of Alapa‘inui and Kalaniōpu‘u near Hilo, Kalani‘ōpu‘u eventually retreated with his nephew to Ka‘ū and remained there for some time.

After a year’s residence in Hilo, Alapa‘inui moved to Waipi‘o and later to Waimea. Shortly after moving to Kawaihae, he died. Prior to his death, he named his son Keawe‘opāla, the eldest of his children, as heir and soon found himself faced with a revolt from some high ranking ali‘i. In following the tradition of land redistribution by a new ruling ali‘i, Keawe‘ōpala failed to satisfy several of these high ali‘i. Among them were his cousin Ke‘eaumoku and uncle, Keawepoepoe, a brother of Alapa‘inui. Having been defeated by Keawe‘ōpala’s forces Ke‘eaumoku retreated and sought help and shelter from Kalani‘ōpu‘u. After joining forces, they met Keawe‘ōpala’s forces on the battlefield between Ke‘ei and Hōnaunau. The battle lasted several days and finally ended with the death of Keawe‘ōpala which allowed Kalani‘ōpu‘u to regain control of Hawai‘i island. His name translates to mean “the whale tooth pendant of the high chief” and the name signifies the mana (divine power) of the person. The word ‘ōpu‘u refers to the whale’s tooth shaped like a bud and not to be mistaken with the tongue shaped whale’s tooth, lei niho palaoa, that was worn by high ranking ali‘i.

In the reunification of Hawai‘i island, Kalani‘ōpu‘u placed his supporters in charge of districts and apparently all were satisfied as there were no resistance or none dared to resist. In the early years of his reign, Kalani‘ōpu‘u held his court in Ka‘ū. It was here that the warrior and trainer Kekūhaupi‘o was brought to the court of Kalani‘ōpu‘u and given the responsibility of training, in addition to other tasks, Kamehameha. This young man, Kamehameha, was the nephew of Kalani‘ōpu‘u and was treated and cared for as his own son.

John Webber, who was on Captain James Cook's 3rd voyage to "Owyhee," drew this tattoed Hawaiian warrior. Kahekili, ali`i of Maui, would have been similarly tattoed.

During his reign as ali‘i nui, Kalani‘ōpu‘u spent much of his time in battles against Kamehamehanui of Maui and his warriors. After several battles, Kalani‘ōpu‘u was able to hold ground and take control of Kauwiki hill in Hana, despite several attempts by Kamehamehanui to remove him. It wasn’t until about 1775 that Kahekili had succeeded his brother Kamehamehanui as ruler of Maui. In a raid by the Hawai‘i island forces, Kahekili attempted to rout those warriors but they were saved in time by Kekūhaupi‘o, and in turn he was saved by his student Kamehameha. This raid known as Kalaeoka‘iliō or the cape or point of the dog is where both Kekūhaupi‘o and Kamehameha established their reputation as skilled warriors.

After many unsuccessful attempts to defeat the Maui warriors under Kahekili, Kalani‘ōpu‘u sent his highly sacred son Kīwala‘o, nephew of Kahekili through his high-ranking sister Kalola, wife of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, to negotiate for peace. When Kahekili and the warriors on both sides saw Kīwala‘o and his entourage in procession, they immediately prostrated themselves on the ground, thus putting a stop to the fighting. After meeting with his uncle, Kīwala‘o was able to negotiate a truce and end the bitter rivalry. But that truce was soon broken several years later when Kalani‘ōpu‘u once again invaded Maui in 1778 and raided the areas of Kaupō, Kaho‘olawe, and slaughtered many of Kahekili’s forces at Lahaina. It was also at this time that the arrival of James Cook would forever change the Hawaiians’ view of their world.

In the next issue of NWHT, we continue the mo‘olelo of our historical past.

Lei niho, a tongue-shaped whale's tooth that hangs from strands of braided human hair, was worn by high-ranking ali`i.

From www.bishopmuseum.org

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

  • Alapa‘inui searched for the new born child, Kamehameha, to have him killed because according to the prophecy this child would one day be a strong warrior and unify the Hawaiian islands under one ruler.
  • Kahekili, ali‘i of Maui, tattooed half of his body to show his mo‘okūauhau (genealogy) connection to Kanehekili, god of thunder.
  • According to sources, Kahekili may have been the biological father of Kamehameha and not Keōuakupuapāikalaninui.








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