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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

September 2006


We continue the mo`olelo of `Umi with the downfall of his brother Hākau. In the last issue of NWHT, we ended with `Umi and his friends leaving Waipi`o to escape the cruelty of Hākau.

Hākau, whose mother Pinea was from Maui, and `Uni were half-brothers. In the last issue of NWHIT, we read about `Umi’s birth and the symbols left by his father Līloa as tokens for identity. Before his death, Līloa passed on the control of the government to his son Hākau and to `Umi, the possession of the war god. We see here an example of dual political control of Hawai`i Island instead of total control by one ali`i. According to historical accounts, usually the ali`i with possession or control of the war god would eventually become the supreme leader.

Perhaps because of his jealousy of `Umi and to reinforce that `Umi was born of a low rank through his mother, Hākau was known as the most despised ali`i of the time. His own kahuna who were insulted by him, deserted Hākau and sought and gave their support to `Umi. A plot was planned to overthrow

The War God Kūkā`ilimoku Ki`i Hulu Manu (feathered image) with dog teeth and mother of pearl.
Photo from www.hawaii.edu

Hākau as ruler. Unbeknownst of their support for `Umi, Hākau listened to their plan of attack against `Umi. They told him it was important that his kia manu (bird catchers) and warriors gather bird feathers in order to refurbish Hākau’s god as the initiation to prepare for war. Somewhat surprised, Hākau questioned the reason to prepare his god since that meant that war was imminent. When he was told that `Umi was preparing his warriors for battle, Hākau followed the advice of the kāhuna and ordered his warriors into the mountains to gather the feathers needed. The plot worked. The day the men were sent into the mountains is the day that `Umi and his warriors arrived at Waipi`o. Hākau was found and killed along with his close supporters. Thus, `Umi became supreme ruler of Hawai`i Island.

There are some differing accounts on `Umi’s ability to take full control of the island. Some accounts reveal that some of the district chiefs resisted and battled with `Umi’s warriors. But other accounts point out that the chiefs and people, relieved that they were no longer under the tyrannical and barbaric rule of Hākau, gave their full support and recognized `Umi as the ruling ali`i. Rectifying the differing accounts is difficult. But what is known is that `Umi quickly moved to subdue any resistance from Hākau’s supporters.

One of his first deeds as ruler, `Umi, according to traditions, was to offer the body of Hākau and his supporters to Kū, the god of war, who readily swept down from the heavens and quickly consumed the victims.

A noticeable change in `Umi’s rule was the relocation of his residence and seat of government. Instead of staying in Waipi`o, he moved to the Kona district and as is the custom, built a heiau, Ahua`Umi, on the cold, cinder plateau between the mountains Hualālai and Mauna Loa in the ahupua`a of Keauhou. Yet, `Umi claimed residence in Kailua. The reasons for his move is unknown although accounts say that he wanted to be near the fishing grounds of Kona which also later became the residence of other ali`i lasting through Kamehameha’s time.

In the next issue, we will look at the reign of `Umi and his descendants.

Ua `Ike Anei `Oe…(Did you know that…)

  • In order to validate his rank as one of high status, `Umi married his half-sister Kapukini as one wife.
  • He also took Pi`ikea, sister of Pi`ilani, ali`i of Maui, as another wife.
  • Mokuahualeiakea, a relative of the important Kona ali`I `Ehunuikaimalino was another wife.
  • These marriages helped to seal his connection with the different chiefly families.

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