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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

May 2008


This issue of NWHT continues with the mo‘olelo of potential war between the Ali‘i of Kohala, Hilo and Puna.

Although Kamehameha’s advisers continued to insist that preparation for war against Keawemauhili was necessary, he would not give consent, but continued to listen to the demands. Kaleipaihala, son of Keōuakūahu‘ula, but a strong supporter of Kamehameha, had recently returned from Hilo with a fleet of peleleu canoe built specifically for use in warfare. Ke‘eaumoku, uncle of Kamehameha and father of Ka‘ahumanu, believed that if the canoes were not used for fishing they should not sit idle. Thus, war would put the canoes to a worthwhile use.

As the ali‘i continued to insist that war was necessary against Keawemauhili of Hilo and Keōuakūahu‘ula of Ka‘ū, Kamehameha began to realize that not consenting to the demands of the Ali‘i could cause internal conflict amongst the Ali‘i who had many supporters and might attempt to assassinate him. Their continuous demands caused Kamehameha to be concerned for the safety of Kānekapolei and their new born son, Ka‘ōleiokū. Without the Ali‘i knowing, Kamehameha sent Kānekapolei and their son to Ka‘ū to live with her older children, the twins Keōuakūahu‘ula and Keōuape‘e‘ale, sons through her marriage to Kalani‘ōpu‘u, uncle of Kamehameha. She became the messenger for Kamehameha and secretly disclosed to her sons that the Ali‘i warriors of Kamehameha insisted that war be declared against them and their uncle Keawemauhili of Hilo.

When her sons heard the news, they told her that they had felt an instinctive sense that war was brewing because they knew that Ke‘eaumoku, father of Ka‘ahumanu, was a war loving Ali‘i. Kānekapolei insisted that their cousin Kamehameha was against war unless there was good reason. However, in spite of what their mother said, the twins began preparations for battle.

Meanwhile at Kawaihae, the demands for war continued. After listening to the advice from his mentor and warrior Kekūhaupi‘o, Kamehameha spoke to his Ali‘i that there was no reason for war and that their patience was needed until such time in which there was good reason to go to battle. It was believed that Kamehameha’s success at the battle of Moku‘ōhai was a result of listening to the advice of his kahuna (priest) Holo‘ae. The Ali‘i recalled that battle as they listened to Kamehameha, “...if we instigate war without a good reason on our side, then it will be a war with no result which will cause the god [Kūka‘ilimoku] to desert us. However, let us question the desire of our war god, then, we shall truly receive victory. Remember, O chiefs who are demanding war, if we go to war without good reason, then it is a war of persecution, a ferocious war which our ‘aumakua (ancestral gods) will not approve” (Desha, 2000, p. 167).

The rugged and windy coastline of Kapa`au in Kohala, the birthplace of Kamehameha I, on the island of Hawai`i.
Photo by Roy Alameida

Upon hearing the thoughts of Kamehameha, the Ali’i contemplated and agreed that he was right; there were no good reason for war. Again following the advice of his kahuna, Holo‘ae, Kamehameha, followed by the Ali’i and warriors, left Kawaihae and returned to Kohala, the land of his birth. After settling in at Kohala, he helped his people tend the lo‘i kalo (taro farms) to increase food production to feed his large number of supporters. Later, Kamehameha learns of the reason why war will take place in which he will eventually be involved with and fulfill the prophecy of his kahuna.

The mo‘olelo continues in the next issue of NWHT.


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

  • in early Hawaiian society, the knowledge and words of the kahuna was highly respected.
  • the source of knowledge for the kahuna could be from dreams, observation of cloud formations and from other forms of natural phenomena.
  • the Ali‘i highly respected the prophetic wisdom of their personal kahuna.


Source: Desha, S. L. (2000). Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press.

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