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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

November 2006


In this issue we continue with the mo‘olelo of ‘Umi, well-known in our history, a hero and mentor to many of the ali‘i that follow in his footsteps.

Although the mo‘olelo claim that not much is known about Keali‘iokāloa, snippets of his rule and deeds as ruler have been preserved. It is known that he took care of the common people, followed the rules of kapu and listened to the advice of his kahuna, but for whatever reason he did not follow his father’s advice to take care of the chiefs, the elders, or the orphans and destitute. He went on a rampage. For example, he seized lands belonging to the chiefs who were given the lands by ‘Umi-a-Līloa, father of Keali‘iokāloa, and took away property belonging to the commoners. His oppressive actions led the chiefs to offer the lands of Kona to Keawenui-a-‘Umi in Hilo and to seek his support to help remove his brother Keali‘iokāloa from power.

When Keawenui-a-‘Umi heard about the unjust actions of his brother, he prepared his warriors from Hilo, Puna and Ka‘ū for battle in Kona. They marched from Hilo and assembled near the lava bed just below Ahu-a-‘Umi, the heiau built by ‘Umi-a-Līloa on the north side of Hualālai. The warriors of Kona were no match and many fled. The battle was a two-prong strategy: warriors of Keawenui-a-‘Umi came from both the sea and from the uplands defeating the forces of Keali‘iokāloa. As he was fleeing over the lava bed, Keali‘iokāloa was killed. The spot where he was killed was called Pu‘uo Kaloa (Hill of Kāloa), located between Kailua and Honokohau. Upon the death of Keali‘iokāloa, his children did not inherit any lands, as the entire island came under the control of Keawenui-a-‘Umi.

Keawenui-a-‘Umi was known to be a just and fair ruler. His seat of government was primarily in Hilo, but he also had residence at Nāpō‘opo‘o at Kealakekua Bay and also at Waipi‘o Valley. A typical action for many of the ruling ali‘i of the time was to consolidate political power in various ways. Keawenui-a-‘Umi was no different from earlier chiefs in ensuring political control. For example, he appointed new chiefs to rule the island districts and his brother Kumalae controlled the Hilo district. In addition, Keawenui-a-‘Umi married high ranking women from each of the major islands which cemented the ties between the chiefly families on each of those islands. He also had his daughter marry his nephew, the son of his brother Kumalae, to ensure that control of Hilo would not be usurped by unsuspecting chiefs.

Before he died, Keawenui-a-‘Umi called upon his son Kanaloakua‘ana to rule the kingdom, until Lonoikamakahiki, the rightful heir, was properly trained and mastered the arts of warfare. Lonoikamakahiki was too young at the time to rule and was thus placed under the care and guidance of his older brother. Apparently, Lonoikamakahiki was able to learn and master warfare techniques and strategies within a year and was at an age where he was able to become ruler. He married his cousin Kaikilani who along with Kanaloakua‘ana became influential advisors in his court

At some point during his reign, Lonoikamakahiki and his wife traveled to the other islands; first to Moloka‘i. While he is gone, there is a movement on Hawai‘i island by his older brother Kanaloakua‘ana to regain control of the kingdom. Hearing this, Lonoikamakahiki returns to Hawai‘i island to fight his rebelling brother. Kanaloakua‘ana is able to gain support of his brothers except from Pupuakea, younger half-brother of Lonoikamakahiki and chief of Ka‘ū. He remains loyal to Lonoikamakahiki and joins forces in preparation for battle at Kawaluna near Kawaihae where many of the rebel forces were killed and sacrificed. This pattern of usurpation of power was common among the chiefly families in Hawaiian history.

In the next issue of NWHT, we continue the mo‘olelo of ‘Umi and his descendants.

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

  • it was common for an ali‘i taking political control of the kingdom to travel throughout the islands to meet the people as a way to establish relationships.
  • places also get their name from events that occurred there. For example, Pu‘u o Kaloa (hill of Kāloa) named after the battle between Keawenui-a-‘Umi and Keali‘iokāloa.
  • many of the battles on Hawai‘i island required skilled strategists because the volanic land features were a physical challenge in preparing for battle.


At left are Ki`i -- images of Hawaiian religion at Pu`uhonua o Honaunau, a place of refuge built over 500 years ago in Kona on Hawai`i island. A lawbreaker could stay here for protection and be freed by kahuna who specialized in ceremonies of purification. During times of war, those not fighting could also take refuge at this sacred place. Pu`uhonua o Honaunau is now a National Historic Park.

Photo by Roy Alameida

Click here for a larger photo

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