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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

March 2007



We continue the mo‘olelo of the political struggle between chiefly rivals and families on Hawai‘i island. This political struggle eventually extends to the other island kingdoms.

Although Keaweikekahiali‘iokamoku, also referred to in the mo‘olelo as Keawe, may have ruled with a strong arm, the mo‘olelo tell of his ability to maintain control of the government and rule Hawai‘i island without rebellions or bloodshed. There is also the belief that his wife Kalanikauleleiāiwi, his half-sister, may have indirectly influenced the political control of the island. She was considered to have equal status with Keawe, but was known to be of higher rank than he because of her descent, on her paternal side, from Kākuhihewa, ali‘i nui of O‘ahu.

In addition to Keawe, Kalanikauleleiāiwi had other husbands. Apparently at an early age, she was the wife of Kaulahea, ali‘i of Maui. Together they had a daughter, Keku‘iapoiwanui, who later became the wife of her half-brother, Kekaulike of Maui. But the mo‘olelo is silent as to reasons for Kalanikauleleiāwi leaving Kaulahea and returning to Hawai‘i island where she then marries Kauaua-a-Mahi, son of Mahi‘olohe, a well-known chief of the ‘Ī ‘ohana (family) and moku (district) of Kohala. With him she had two sons, Alapa‘inui and Ha‘ae, also known as Ha‘aeamahi, grandfather of Kamehameha through his mother Keku‘iapoiwa. She also married Lonoikahaupu, a kapu or sacred ali‘i on Kaua‘i, great-grandfather of Kaumuali‘i, and with him had a son, Keawepoepoe.

Keawepoepoe was the father of Ke‘eaumokupapa‘iahiahi, and twins Kame‘eiamoku and Kamanawa. They, along with Keaweaheulu, became the advisors and strong supporters of Kamehameha during his conquest to consolidate the island kingdoms under one ruler. In the mo‘olelo of Kamehameha, they are fondly referred to as his four Kona uncles.

At this point, we take a short detour and talk about Alapa‘inui, the ali‘i of Kohala. When Keaweikekahiali‘iokamoku died, Alapa‘inui was visiting his sister Keku‘iapoiwanui, wife of Kekaulike, on Maui. When he heard the news that the ali‘i of Hawai‘i island were challenging each other in battles in order to justify rightful control of the government, he quickly returned and entered into the battle himself. He first fought Kalanike‘eaumoku, son of Keawe who controlled the moku of Kona and parts of Kohala. After the victory with his first battle, Alapa‘inui then challenged Mokulani, another son of Keawe who ruled over the districts of Hilo, Hāmākua, and part of Puna. Alapa‘inui finally declared himself Ali‘i Nui of the island.

Having established himself as the ruling Ali‘i of the island, Alapa‘inui resided and set up his seat of government at Kailua in Kona. For political reasons and to maintain peace among the rival families, he left the control of the Hilo district to Ululani, daughter of Mokulani, whom he had killed in battle. Throughout all the battles between the ali‘i to establish control of the island and moku, it seemed that Ka‘ū escaped these battles after Keawe’s death. The mo‘olelo tells us that Kalani‘opu‘u, the grandson of Keawe, was the ali‘i of the moku and later passed on that control to his son Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula.

As we read the mo‘olelo of our ali‘i, we find that one trait common among them is the continuous warfare between their rivals and their families. This continues further with war between Alapa‘inui and Kekaulike of Maui, husband of his sister Keku‘iapoiwanui. While the battles on Hawai‘i island were taking place, Kekaulike saw that it was an opportune time to invade Hawai‘i island as one move toward total conquest of the island. After months of preparation, he sailed for the Kona coast of Hawai ‘i island and destroyed many of the villages. Upon hearing this, Alapa‘inui, who was also in Kona, engaged in a naval battle with Kekaulike and was able to defeat him. Retreating hastily northward, Kekaulike pillaged several villages along the Kohala coast before returning to Maui with intentions to return to Hawai‘i island with a larger force.

Mo‘okini heiau near `Upolu Point. `Upolu is the northernmost tip of Hawai`i island and faces Maui across the
`Alenuihāhā Channel.
Photo from primelab.com

Hearing of the destructions caused by Kekaulike, Alapa‘inui hurried to Kohala and prepared for an invasion of Maui. He set up his military headquarters at Koko‘iki, near Upolu Point, the northwest point of Hawai‘i island that faces the island of Maui.

In the next issue of NWHT, we begin to look at key players and their role in the rise of Kamehameha and his conquest to control the Hawaiian kingdom.






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

  • Mo‘okini heiau is said to have been built by Pa‘ao, the kahuna or priest, that is known to have sailed from Kahiki or Tahiti to Hawai‘i.
  • the location of the heiau has a panoramic view of Kohala and the shoreline to the south and north, and of Maui.
  • Koko‘iki was the political center of the windward side of the Kohala district.



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