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After The war of Nu'uanu

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Photo: by Herb Kane

Originally published in
Ka Hoku o Hawaii
Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o
Written in Hawaiian by Reverend Stephen L. Desha
Translated by Frances N. Frazier
Produced with the assistance of the State of Hawai‘i Historic Preservation Division, DLNR
Kamehameha Schools Press Honolulu • 2000 pgs 419-428

After Kamehameha’s victory at the Nu‘uanu Gap, he ordered that the captives be released and that medical treatment be given to those injured on the battlefield. He also ordered the burial of the corpses strewn on the battlefield and consented to the O‘ahu people seeking their relatives who had fallen there and hiding (hūnā) these bodies wherever they thought of doing so.

This order was not only for the O‘ahu people, but Kamehameha also ordered the Hawai‘i people to seek their dead and those wounded on the battlefield, that the dead might be buried and the wounded taken to the Hawai‘i camp for medical care. Amongst Kamehameha’s people were some kāhuna lapa‘au who knew the appropriate medicines for those injured on the battlefield.

By these actions Kamehameha showed his concern for those who had received wounds. He greatly desired peace on the island which he had conquered.

He was concerned not only with the warriors, but also with the stomachs of his people. Because of his knowledge of the needs of his people, he immediately directed that food be cultivated in Honolulu, that sweet potato vines be planted and that the kalo patches be repaired. The cultivated plots in which the plants had been stupidly pulled up were to be replanted because care in these matters was what would assist the lives of his people on O‘ahu. They could not depend on what had been done previously by the O‘ahu people because the kalo in the patches had been pulled up heedlessly and had not been replanted.

Most of Kamehameha’s warriors worked in the numerous kalo patches and also planted sweet potatoes in the farm plots.

After some days of making these arrangements on the Honolulu side of the island, Kamehameha decided to make a circuit of the famous island of Kākuhihewa to inspire the minds of the kama‘āina of O‘ahu with his desire for peace and for the performance of work for the improvement of living conditions. The hard-striving days of warfare were past, and it was appropriate to live in peace and to do what was needed for life in the land.

This was not only talk by Kamehameha, but he commanded his own people from Hawai‘i to work together with them, so that when the kama‘āina of O‘ahu saw this, they would then work as one for their future welfare. That famous hill of ‘Ualaka‘a became a sweet potato farm for him, and he climbed up with his people to cultivate the sweet potatoes. (Perhaps because of the strength of the Hawai‘i people in the cultivation of sweet potatoes, that hill was afterwards called ‘Ualaka‘a because of the many potatoes which, when dug, rolled down in great numbers.) Also, the main reason that Kamehameha cultivated so many sweet potatoes was that he knew that this was a crop which matured quickly and would prevent famine.

At the same time, he replanted the kalo in the patches which had been stupidly pulled up during the time of fighting. When the people of the island of O‘ahu saw the good example set by this victorious ali‘i of Hawai‘i, they were inspired and ceased to feel abased (mana‘o hopepe), and they worked as they saw Kamehameha was doing. This was a very good example set by our famous ali‘i mō‘ī during the time he ruled this archipelago of Hawai‘i Nei.

At this time while Kamehameha was reinstituting farming, he did not neglect to seek the means of keeping peace in the land so that rebellion did not arise amongst O‘ahu’s people. Therefore he sent his ilāmuku to go amongst the villages of O‘ahu to seek out guns, and if they were found, they were taken from the people. Kamehameha knew that, if weapons were available, the people who had them might think of fighting the victorious ali‘i again. This was true political skill in this renowned conqueror from Hawai‘i Nui Kuauli. A great many weapons were gathered by his ilāmuku so that the thoughts of renewing war were extinguished amongst the O‘ahu people.

When Kamehameha knew that most of the weapons had been collected, he then inspired the idea of farming in order that there be abundance in the land and prosperity would return to the famous island of the royal sands of Kākuhihewa. He began his circuitous journey of O‘ahu on the west side, going from ‘Ewa and from Wai‘anae, arriving at Waialua and turning along the Ko‘olau cliffs.

However, before he began his journey, he commenced the planting of kalo at the place called Kapālama and Niuhelewai. He planted many kalo tops (huli kalo) in the kalo patches in which the kalo had been heedlessly pulled up during the time of war. In this he was greatly assisted by his warriors from Hawai‘i. Not only did his warriors participate, but Kamehameha encouraged his ali‘i from Hawai‘i to enter into this work of farming on the land over which they had triumphed.

Kamehameha and his ali‘i could not depend on the kama‘āina of the land as their minds were depressed and abased. They thought that perhaps there was no use to farm because what they planted would be plundered. The farming by Kamehameha proceeded from those previously mentioned lands to the places called Kuilinaue and Kuilika‘aiho‘opau and as far as Kuilikai. Because of the many hands engaged in this work of making the land productive, good progress was made. This was not the first work of this kind that Kamehameha had done for he had always done this on his own island of Hawai‘i Nui Kuauli.

Within the three days in which this work of many hands was accomplished, those places were completely planted with kalo. When Kamehameha saw the progress in this work which he and his own people had started, he began with his ali‘i and some of his people to make a circuit of O‘ahu to perform those tasks which they had begun at those places previously mentioned. When they arrived at ‘Ewa, he quickly began farming, starting at Hālawa and going as far as Honouliuli. When he was finished with farming at ‘Ewa, he moved to Wai‘anae. He took with him his god Kaho‘āli‘i who was his god of agriculture on the island of Hawai‘i and was called the Makahiki god of Kamehameha.

For only one day, Kamehameha and his people farmed at Wai‘anae and then moved to Waialua.

For three or almost four days, he and his people farmed at Waialua, commencing from the “finely patterned mat of Mokulē‘ia (ka moena pāwehe o Mokulē‘ia)” and going as far as the fresh water of Waimea. The kama‘āina of these places saw that this victorious ali‘i was commencing the farming, and it inspired them because they understood that Kamehameha had no thought of plundering their possessions.

When the farming at the Waialua district was completed, the agricultural procession moved to the upper land at Lā‘ie to stimulate agriculture at that place which was famous from ancient times because there was much water for farming. Kamehameha delayed there a little while seeking a sense of celebration between himself and the maka‘āinana who lived in this part of O‘ahu.

When Kamehameha first arrived at Lā‘iewai, the men were somewhat wild and afraid of him, thinking that perhaps he would enslave them, but such a thought never entered Kamehameha’s mind. His great desire was to arouse the thought of work in this captive people of O‘ahu and return them to those activities which would cause them to be favorable to him (e ho‘āla hou ‘ia ai ke alo o ka ‘āina i luna).162

The good will within this Hawai‘i farmer ali‘i brought about the end of fear in the O‘ahu kama‘āina. They began to support him and enter into farming on those parts of the land which had lain unused (waiho wale ana). After the passage of some days at Lā‘iewai, Kamehameha’s procession moved to Hau‘ula where they commenced cultivation as far as Kahana, and from Kahana, as far as the land of Kualoa. He encouraged the people of the land to perform their work of cultivation and did not disturb their crops because he desired the return of a prosperous existence for the people.

After some time Kamehameha again moved to He‘eia and as far as the land of Kāne‘ohe to farm and to rebuild the walls of the fishponds which had tumbled down. He encouraged the people to farm and to fish as this was what ensured a comfortable existence.

While Kamehameha was working on these lands of He‘eia and Kāne‘ohe, word reached Kailua, and as far as Waimānalo, of his prompt beginning of work on the land. Because Kailua was well supplied with food, the Kailua chiefs therefore began to prepare vegetable food, pigs, and fish for a great feast. They thought of entertaining Kamehameha and his ali‘i, including the men who had accompanied him on his journey of many hands, in order to gain the favor of the people of the land, end their abasement, and restore their customary way of farming and fishing.

On the arrival of Kamehameha’s procession at Kailua, everything was in readiness, and a magnificent feast was spread out before him, and truly everything was supplied. Kamehameha and the ali‘i sat down at this great feast which was so well prepared by the hospitable Kailua people.

This was perhaps the best of all the places at which Kamehameha had been entertained, and he saw that the kalo patches of these Kailua people were filled with kalo so that the ali‘i and people of that place were provided for comfortably.

However, there is a little story told by some of the old people concerning this hospitality at Kailua.

Because of the great number of people on this journey, as well as those of Kamehameha’s court, the food prepared for those at the first sitting was almost finished, and the fish baked in leaves was all eaten by the prominent ali‘i and their immediate followers.

After the ali‘i had finished their meal, Kamehameha’s warriors partook, joined by some O‘ahu warriors who, however, had some jealousy (nonohua) concerning these Hawai‘i warriors.

All the fish baked in leaves had been consumed by the ali‘i, leaving only the leaves in which those fat fish had been baked and which were shiny with grease. Perhaps because of the great desire of the Hawai‘i people for fish, some of them took the leaves and licked the grease. When the O‘ahu warriors saw this done by the Hawai‘i people, they said these annoying words: “Ea, the Hawai‘i people are licking the leaves which wrapped the fish.” Perhaps because of those words, until this very day, the people of Hawai‘i are called “-leaf lickers (po‘e palu lā‘ī).” 163 Because the O‘ahu people eyed askance and ridiculed the Hawai‘i people, some of the Hawai‘i people said amongst themselves: “Ea, what is this, those O‘ahu people are eyeing us askance (O‘ahu maka‘ewa‘ewa).” Because of this, those words spread until this very day: “O‘ahu of the averted eyes.”164 Also, in some stories which spread about in the old days, it was said that the Hawai‘i people were fed earth poi (poi lepo) by some Kailua people. In other words, this was the dirt brought from Kahiki by a certain ali‘i, Kauluakalana. That rich (momona) dirt was heaped up in the Kawainui fishpond, and this kind of dirt was eaten in ancient times.

Kamehameha did not stay long at Kailua because he realized that the people and their chiefs were well supplied with food and had good houses which he admired.

He left that place and proceeded to Waimānalo to encourage the people there to work as the Kailua people did and to bring an increase of food to the land and end destitution. The days of war were past, and the time for farming had arrived. Attempts were made in every way to return the maka‘āinana and the ali‘i to a comfortable existence. However, the thing which would accomplish this was putting the hands down into the earth and working the land. Kamehameha also told the chiefs and people of Waimānalo that the maka‘āinana would not be plundered; food (kalo) was to come only from the chief ’s tenant farm (kō‘ele), sparing the food which the maka‘āinana had grown.

These words by Kamehameha caused affection for him in the people of that place, and their life of abasement was ended. They carried out the desires of their new ali‘i ‘ai moku whose kind they had not formerly seen, who thought of the good of the people. The good actions by Kamehameha caused the O‘ahu people to follow him. Truly his fundamental law was triumphant. This law, which he always proclaimed, was the Kānāwai Māmalahoa which forbade the mistreatment of the weak by the strong and preserved the well-being of the maka‘āinana. The ali‘i who did not perform work had no right to just snatch away that for which the maka‘āinana had labored.

However, in these demonstrations, the ali‘i were not deprived of the lands which they had received, but they were instructed by these actions of Kamehameha to consider the welfare of the maka‘āinana.

After some days of staying at that end of the Ko‘olau districts, he turned by way of Makapu‘u for Honolulu. Along the way to Honolulu, he repaired the walls of the fishponds which had not been thought of in the days given over to war. Kamehameha also instructed the maka‘āinana that it was not good to dwell in idleness but to turn their hands to work to benefit their lives. Also, the konohiki, whom he had appointed, were told to look after the welfare of the people, to take their chiefly rights but not to oppress the people. The men were encouraged to perform those acts which would benefit the women and children.

While Pai‘ea Kamehameha was making this circuit of those parts of the Ko‘olau districts, some of the Hawai‘i people were attracted by these lands. They petitioned him for permission to live on these lands and perform the work which Kamehameha might wish. Kamehameha consented, and for this reason, some of the people of the Ko‘olau districts have ancestors who came from the island of Hawai‘i.

After this circuit of the island of O‘ahu, Kamehameha lived in Honolulu. He encouraged the people in the valleys of Mānoa, Pālolo, Pauoa, and as far as Kalihi to engage in a great deal of agriculture, and the chiefly konohiki were to look after the welfare of the maka‘āinana who lived under them. Because of these excellent instructions by Kamehameha, he quickly gained the trust of the O‘ahu people. They saw the difference between this life and that under the Maui ali‘i who had ruled them. Then the good of the maka‘āinana had not been considered. With this new ali‘i ‘ai moku, they were encouraged to work, and their konohiki were charged to care for their welfare, and for this reason they had affection for Kamehameha.

While Kamehameha was staying at Honolulu, the 4th of July arrived. As there were some Americans amongst his foreigners, Kamehameha held a great feast which was attended by some American foreigners and some British people who were also in the court of Kamehameha. They all celebrated together. At this time, Kamehameha spoke to the foreigners who were eating with him concerning the lives of his people, as at that time, some bad diseases had been noted amongst the Hawaiian people. It was known that they had come from the foreigners. Here is what Kamehameha said:

You foreigners from a foreign land, you are received hospitably here in Hawai‘i, and some of you live with us. Here is my thought to you: I do not wish to hear again that the Hawaiian women have gotten bad diseases of the foreigners, the sicknesses called the waikī [male gonor-rhea], palahao [gonorrhea], ka wikūlono‘ako‘ako‘a [syphilis], and haha‘ianana [form of syphilis]. These are sicknesses which harm the lives of the people of my land. If it is heard that some of the women of my land have gotten these foreign sicknesses, then the ship which arrived and spread this sickness amongst the Hawaiian women shall be burnt. This is my law which you, the foreigners, must hear [and therefore obey].

The person who translated these words of Kamehameha was Isaac Davis, one of the favorites at his court, who became the ancestor of a certain hapa haole [half foreign] chiefly line here in Hawai‘i.

By these words to the foreigners, they understood Kamehameha’s genuine concern for the lives of his people. These words truly entitled him to be called an ali‘i who cherished life, who did not want evil things to affect the life of the land.

These were portentous words spoken by Kamehameha to the foreigners at that feast, and they were discussed amongst those people gathered there at that time. At that time also, while Kamehameha was living at Honolulu, he set up a hard and fast rule amongst the people, which was spread around Honolulu and to the places adjoining it, which was a prohibition against lighting kukui torches at night. A house where this prohibition was not observed, where there was good reason for condemning it, was burned and became a dung-heap (ho‘oleina moka). Perhaps because of this prohibition by Kamehameha, that famous saying of Honolulu was originated which was always heard thereafter. This is what the old people of Hawai‘i Nei said: “The crabs of Honolulu grope in the dark (Hāhā pō‘ele‘ele ka pāpa‘i o Honolulu).” 165 Permission was not granted for any torches to be lit in the various places of the land, and if the people of a house opposed this order by Kamehameha, they suffered punishment. At this place, let us speak of the just nature of an act by Kamehameha when there was a good reason for lighting a kukui torch. The main reason for Kamehameha’s making this ruling was that he did not want rebellion, and he thought that, if a torch was lit at night, there might be discussions concerning rebellion against the new government he had set up on the famous island of Ali‘i Kākuhihewa.

While Kamehameha himself was staying in Honolulu, he saw a light glimmering at a certain place called Ka‘ihikapu. This was a famous fishpond ma kai of Moanalua. Kamehameha thought it was strange that the light would flash and then be extinguished quickly. Because of seeing this light flashing late at night at certain times, he decided to go secretly to see this place and find out the reason that his order was not being obeyed.

He went on a canoe at high tide, accompanied by one of his ilāmuku and taking the emblem of royal kapu (pūlo‘ulo‘u) of the ali‘i ‘ai moku in ancient times. When they arrived, Kamehameha stood close to the entrance of that house which was closed by a mat. He heard the wailing of a child, and after the child cried, the mat door was opened and he heard a woman call out: “E ‘alo a‘e ho‘i” [best to dodge], and at that moment Kamehameha’s feet were wet as were those of his companion who stood close by. They smelled the odor of the bundle which had been thrown out of the house. When his ilāmuku looked and quickly realized that Kamehameha’s foot had been soiled by that odoriferous bundle, he was enraged and whispered to Kamehameha that the house should be burned. But Kamehameha shook his head and ordered that the kapu sign (la‘au pāhoa) be set up outside of that house.

His command was carried out, and Kamehameha went into the sea and washed that baby’s sticky excrement from his feet. When the people of the house arose next morning and saw the kapu sign and the emblem of royalty (pūlo‘ulo‘u ali‘i), they were in fear of death and began to wail, beating their breasts, hither and yon. They well understood the sign of death as indicated by the kapu sign and the royal emblem, showing that this was from the ali‘i. When the ali‘i of the court heard that the ali‘i ‘ai moku Kamehameha had been befouled by the child’s excrement, they decided to entirely destroy that household where the child was cared for, where a light had been lit in opposition to Kamehameha’s law.

When this idea of the prominent chiefs of his court was told to Kamehameha, he said to them:

That mother caring for her child did no wrong. The wrongdoing was by the ali‘i because she called out to dodge, but I did not dodge. In regard to my being touched by the excrement of that child who will become a man for the ali‘i in the future, there is no good in punishing that blameless household with death. Let the kapu sign and the emblem of royalty be fetched, and I wish to appoint that woman and her husband as konohiki to tend that fishpond of the ali‘i.

Kamehameha’s words were carried out: the ilāmuku who carried out the orders of Kamehameha’s court took those things which had been set up in front of that house, and he appointed those people as guardians of Ali‘i Kamehameha’s famous fishpond of Ka‘ihikapu.

This story shows the justness and broad-mindedness of this famous conquering ali‘i of Hawai‘i Nei.

Here is another story pertaining to the just nature of Kamehameha although this was a time of ignorance in our land. A certain foreign ship with perhaps six foreigners on board sailed to a place close to Waimānalo on the Ko‘olau side. The men of that place went on board that ship, and when they realized there were only six foreigners on board, they beat them and plundered the ship and that ship was burned by those troublemakers.

When this news reached Kamehameha at Honolulu, he sent some of his ilāmuku and some warriors to seek out those persons who had beaten the foreigners and plundered the ship. The ilāmuku found some people, and Kamehameha ordered that those people be sentenced to death because the Māmalahoa Law had been proclaimed. The lives of everyone were spared under this law of peace which pertained, not only to the Hawaiian people, but also to the foreigners whose lives were protected when they arrived. No great ali‘i nor any favorite maka‘āinana could break that law of peace and escape punishment under this law which Kamehameha had established for the peace of his kingdom.

Perhaps the reason for the landing of that foreign ship at Waimānalo was the spread of measles (ūlāli‘i) amongst those foreigners. In other words, one of them had the measles, and the result of those men doing harm to the ship was that the sickness spread amongst the people and the ali‘i on the island of O‘ahu. Kamehameha also got this sickness; however, with the advice of Isaac Davis and some foreigners at his court, his life was saved. When he recovered, he quickly returned to Hawai‘i, landing at Kawaihae where he stayed a while. However, this caused grumbling amongst certain ali‘i from Hawai‘i who had been left on the island of O‘ahu by Kamehameha.

162 Here Desha uses the term which described whether a ruler would be receptive to someone by turning face up if he was reclining. If he did not accept the person, he would turn face down.

163 Pukui (1983:60, #503) summarizes these events in explaining this saying.

164 Another explanation for this saying is given by Pukui (1983:258, #2354).

She attributes the saying to an incident that occurred between Hi‘iaka and two of her kinsmen on O‘ahu.

165 Compare this with a similar saying discussed by Pukui. She explains the saying: “Hāhā pō‘ele ka pāpa‘i o Kou” as follows: “Applied to one who goes groping in the dark. The chiefs held kōnane and other games at the shore of Kou (now central Honolulu), and people came from everywhere to watch. Very often they remained until it was too dark to see and had to grope for their companions” (Pukui 1983:50, #407).

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