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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

October 2008


 The mo‘olelo of Kamehameha’s challenges for political control of Hawai‘i Island continues with his battle against the warriors of his uncle, Keawemauhili of Hilo, at Laupāhoehoe.

With his well-trained warriors prepared to battle against the warriors of Hilo and Hāmākua, Kamehameha led one division called the malana of twelve hundred men. The other division known as Kīpu‘upu‘u was under the command of Nanuikaleiōpū, a well-known and trained warrior who was trusted by Kamehameha. They moved together as one force until they reached ‘Umikoa where they divided and descended during the night toward Laupāhoehoe.

In the morning when the warriors led by Nanuikaleiōpū emerged from the forest, they were seen by lookouts from the opposing forces who quickly reported their position. The warriors from Hāmākua and Hilo were ready at predetermined positions. As the Kīpu‘upu‘u forces moved into position, those trained in the use of the bow and arrow were the front line, followed by those experienced with the use of sling stones. The last in line were those carrying the pololū (long spears) and the pāhoa (short stone dagger). The warriors from Waimea displayed their proficiency with their weapons and efficient warfare strategies. They displayed speed and deftness while running after the opposing warriors along the Hāmākua cliffs. After two days of battle, the warriors supporting Kamehameha were victorious. They soon began to search for the warriors of Hāmākua and Hilo who hid in secret caves in the sea cliffs.

In the meantime, the warriors led by Kamehameha were divided and appointed their leaders. The warriors proficient with the sling were led by Kekuapāni‘o, former student of Kekūhaupi‘o and a member of Kamehameha’s bodyguard called Nā Koa Huelokū. Combined with the ko‘i pāhoa (battle-adzes) of the warriors led by Kamehameha, and the strength of Kekūhaupi‘o, these forces of Kamehameha proved to be a formidable foe facing the enemy. Throughout the battle, Kamehameha shouted out words of encouragement: “I mua e nā poki‘i, e ho‘omau ‘ia (forward my young brothers and persevere). He would quickly move among his warriors to support any potential weak spot in the line of defense.

The strength of Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o in the midst of the battle warding off spears and grabbing the enemy with their bare hands and breaking them like pieces of wood, electrified these warriors of Kamehameha and renewed their strength to move forward in the battle. Observing their leader Kamehameha seize and dodge spears thrown at him without thinking about his own life, served as an example to his warriors.

The forces on each side held firm. But on the third day of battle, Keawemauhili’s forces began to show signs of weakening. The death of their leaders led some of Keawemauhili’s warriors to leap over the sea cliffs into the ocean below while others escaped into the hills.

According to the mo‘olelo, this battle at Laupāhoehoe revealed the warfare skills of Kamehameha. In addition, it showed his care and concern for the lives of his men and also the inspiration of his fearless words as their leader. The well-known words “I mua e nā poki‘i” (forward my young brothers) would become a motto in later battles.

After his victory at Laupāhoehoe, Kamehameha stayed there and began preparations to meet his opponents again. Ke‘eaumoku arrived shortly with his fleet of canoes as did the ground forces under the command of Nu‘uanuakalani‘ōpu‘u at which time they celebrated Kamehameha’s victory.

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


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

Warrior with pololū
  • although not common in battle, the bow and arrow was used, in some cases, as the first line of defense in battle.
  • the sling, which required deftness and proficiency, was another deadly weapon used in battle.
  • the warriors with the pololū spears ranging in height from six to ten feet were able to whirl these spears with agility and efficiency against the enemy.

Source: Desha, S.L. (2000). Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o. Honolulu, HI: Kamehameha Schools Press.

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