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Ahia Chief of Puna

Updated: Oct 13

Kii: Ku'ialuaopuna

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. 133-137

It was said that the kahuna Kālaiku‘i‘aha wept as he called out to his chief who refused to heed him. He was scornful and euphoric because of the victory of his side in the morning, and so would not heed the call of his kahuna. We are able to remember the obstinacy of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, Kīwala‘ō’s own father, when the many, many bones of the Waimea chiefs were laid on the sand hills of Kama‘oma‘o. Here the son was following in that pattern of obstinate chiefly power, and we shall see the unfortunate result of this. Hawai‘i’s ancestors had a saying: “Deafness is death, and hearing is life (‘O ke kuli ka make a ‘o ka lohe ke ola).” Kīwala‘ō turned a deaf ear to the good advice of his kahuna who had seen the omens of what was to come, and was overcome by the bitter result.

Kīwala‘ō was encouraged in his stubbornness by High Chief Keawemauhili of the Hilo districts, because he was dominated by this rapacious chief. This was combined with his euphoria at the morning victory, and he failed to heed the voice of life. We shall see the outcome of this story.

Kīwala‘ō and his chiefs and the various armies under them were at Hōnaunau, and he moved his armies over that uneven lava to the boundary of Ke‘ei, moving along that side of Ke‘ei to a place called Hauiki, which is there at Ke‘ei until this very time. That place was covered over by the warriors of Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and his twin brother, Keōuape‘e‘ale, and when the armies met, Kamehameha’s men fell back and fled from Kīwala‘ō’s warriors.

In the middle of the day, when the sun stood overhead [being perhaps our lunch time in this era], there was a pause in the battle, and Kīwala‘ō’s men turned back taking the men they had killed for Kīwala‘ō to offer at the heiau, as told previously. When the sun turned seaward, at perhaps two in the afternoon, the battle resumed between the two sides. Kamehameha would not have been able to stir up the battle again if not for the arrival of the combined warriors of Kīwala‘ō and the two Keōua, and Hilo’s warriors under High Chief Keawemauhili, as well as Puna’s warriors. The Puna warriors were under the leadership of a high chief named Ahia, and it has been said that he was the grandfather of Reverend Ahia who went as a missionary to Micronesia under the Hawai‘i Board of Missions and perhaps descendants of that chief Ahia are now alive.

At this time in the afternoon, when the battle began again, Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o entered into the fray. When they reached a certain high spot on that battlefield, the unsleeping eyes of Kamehameha saw a certain young chief whom he had not seen before. He was an ‘ehu, with reddish hair, and wore a yellow-feathered helmet ornamented with the feathers of the ‘i‘iwi. Upon his shoulders he wore a short feather cloak, and he was girded in a red loincloth. Kamehameha gazed for a long time at this young warrior who was fighting on his side, observing his remarkable strength for where he was fighting Kīwala‘ō’s warriors lay dead in heaps. Kamehameha greatly desired to approach this young warrior whom he admired for his remarkable strength and for the skill with which he employed the strokes of his clubs amongst those who opposed him. The warriors of that place were put to flight, retreating because of the terror instilled in them by this young man in the striped helmet. However, while Kamehameha was moving to that place he heard one of his uncles calling to him: “E Kalani ē! Fetch the fish caught in the sluice gate.” When he turned to see where the call came from he saw Ke‘eaumoku with his head swinging down and his feet holding tightly to the throat of a very large man. Ke‘eaumoku’s toes squeezed the throat of that man while his head was hanging down behind the man’s buttocks. The man’s arms were stretched out and he was unable to do anything to his opponent. Ke‘eaumoku’s head was under the man’s thighs and he thought to scrape the “hala clusters of Puna” [testicles] with his leiomano made of shark’s teeth, and bring a terrible death to that large man. However, he saw Kamehameha and did not harm those swinging hala clusters of Puna. This incomparably large man was none other than Ahia, leader of the Puna warriors on the side of Kīwala‘ō. This famous warrior chief of Puna was held as though bound in the lua hold by Ke‘eaumoku and was entirely unable to do any harm to him.

Chief Ahia was famous for his strength in his land, and he inspired terror in other people, but with the knowledge of lua possessed by the father of Ka‘ahumanu, his large body was as a plaything to this war-loving chief on the side of Kamehameha.

When Kamehameha heard the call of his beloved elder, he and Kekūhaupi‘o moved to where Ke‘eaumoku was swinging upon that large-bodied Puna chief. Kamehameha deferred going to where that young ‘ehu chief was slaying Keōua’s warriors. At this point, the ideas of the writers of the story of Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o differ concerning Kamehameha and his famous warrior. Kekūhaupi‘o followed Kamehameha on all the battlefields until the final victory, and this is the story that follows. In another version of the story of the famous kingdom conqueror of the Pacific, it was said that Kamehameha himself laid hold of that large Puna chief and tore him apart like a young goat.

By the testimony of some older persons connected to Kekūhaupi‘o, they told the writer that it was Kekūhaupi‘o, the one of whom this story is written, not Kamehameha, who broke and tore that large-bodied Puna man. It was witnessed by many people who were in the battle. It was Kekūhaupi‘o himself who broke the man and then gave him into the hands of his chiefly foster son, saying to him: “E Kalani ē! Here is the man who has been broken.” His action was not well known because he wished to perpetuate the name of his chief to whom he had taught the ancient martial arts of the land. (In the year l885, when the person who is now editing this story of Kekūhaupi‘o came to the Kona districts, a certain old man named Kahunanui was living at Ke‘ei and he was the own grandfather of Keanu and Pelio and Mrs. Rickard, who are living at this time. She is the own mother of Jack Rickard who is deputy clerk of the County of Hawai‘i. This old man said that he knew Kekūhaupi‘o and he was related to him through their ancestors, and he followed the story the writer is telling here which is that the persons whom Kekūhaupi‘o grasped in his fiery hands, were given to Kamehameha with the above saying: “E Kalani ē! Here is the man.”) Also, Nāihekukui, the own grandfather of the wife of the writer, was one of the men closely related to Nāihekukui, father of Queen Kalama who was wife of King Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. His testimony agrees with that given by that old man of Ke‘ei, that is, it was the strong hands of Kekūhaupi‘o who conquered the men and gave them into the hands of Chief Kamehameha in some victorious battles by Kamehameha. Also, it was he who told the story of the profitless death of Kekūhaupi‘o at a place very close to the residence of Nāihekukui, whose name was shortened by the people of Nāpo‘opo‘o to Kekukui. Kekukui was the father of Kekumano of Nāpo‘opo‘o. This thought was not to deny support to High Chief Kamehameha, but was testimony of the love held by the ancients for their chiefs, always giving their assistance for the honor of their chiefs. Also this old man told the writer, “The man was first broken in the hands of Kekūhaupi‘o, and then given into the strong hands of Kamehameha, so that very large chief was in dire straits (‘a‘ole ‘ai i ka pāpa‘a).” They also said to the writer that the old people knew these things, but the name of the ali‘i was the important thing. This Hawaiian race loved its chiefs very much and were always ready to give their lives for them. Kamehameha was fearless, and by means of his bravery, he had saved Kekūhaupi‘o who had been surrounded by Maui’s warriors in that battle at Kaupō, Maui, making way to him with his spear. They had made their way together to the place where the canoes were floating and had swum out and boarded King Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s canoe. Because of this great act of bravery by Kamehameha, his instructor felt great love for him. Pai‘ea Kamehameha, the kingdom conqueror, never made war without Kekūhaupi‘o by his side, always watchful for the life of his chiefly foster son. However, forgive the writer for these explanations.

That large Puna chief was first gotten in the strong hands of Kekūhaupi‘o who then gave him to Kamehameha. It was said that Kekūhaupi‘o broke his back, and when Kamehameha received him in his hands, he thrust him up above and tore him apart in his strong hands. This awful death of the Puna chief was seen by Kīwala‘ō’s warriors and it terrified them and made cowards of them. After the death of Ahia, Kamehameha then moved to where the young ‘ehu chief had previously been seen, but the amazing thing was that he had disappeared into the tangle of battle. This caused Kamehameha regret as he greatly desired to observe the remarkable strength of this young man and to know his name and the place from whence he had come. However, O reader, we shall see this in the future of this amazing story.

At this place, it would be well perhaps for our readers to learn some things previously described by the old people of South Kona and of that lua fight between Ahia and Ke‘eaumoku which was told to the writer by that man Kahunanui. It was also told to Chas. K. Notley by another old-timer of Kona. That old man Kahunanui, the grandfather of Keanu and others of Ke‘ei, lived very close to the place where Ke‘eaumoku fought with Ahia. The story of their fight is as follows: Ke‘eaumoku went into that widespread battle before Kamehameha did. Kīwala‘ō’s warriors were moving forward, perhaps because of the victory they had gained in the morning, and the battle rolled toward this side of Keomo. At this place Ke‘eaumoku met the Puna chief Ahia. Ke‘eaumoku had secured on his hands the leiomano made of shark’s teeth just before he met Ahia. When these chiefs met, Ahia saw the weapon on Ke‘eaumoku’s hands and he was unable to spring quickly to fight with Ke‘eaumoku, and they studied one another, each longing to spring at the other. The father of Ka‘ahumanu was large in body and was thoroughly familiar with martial arts. He was versed in the bone-breaking method of wrestling called lua. Also, Ahia was famed for his battle-readiness, and had caused fear to some other chiefs. His great body was very strong, and he was a head taller than Ke‘eaumoku. However, Ke‘eaumoku had a broad body, and the advantage was on his side with the leiomano on his hands, as well as his famed proficiency in lua fighting, so that Ahia was somewhat dubious about springing to combat.

While they were glaring at each other, one of Kīwala‘ō’s warriors attempted to assault Ke‘eaumoku, while he had his eyes fixed on Ahia. Because of the attack by Kīwala‘ō’s warrior, Ke‘eaumoku fell over. At that moment Ahia leaped to seize Ke‘eaumoku by his legs as he feared to seize him higher up because of the leiomano in his hands.

Before Ahia realized it, Ke‘eaumoku somersaulted, rolling over on Ahia’s back, at the same time pulling Ahia’s arms backward. Ke‘eaumoku’s heels were on Ahia’s shoulders, and his feet crossed on Ahia’s chin, his big toes crossed over Ahia’s throat, his insteps grasped Ahia’s temples and this, combined with the weight of Ke‘eaumoku’s body, held him fast. Then Ke‘eaumoku thrust his head under Ahia’s thighs, and armed with the dreaded leiomano in his hands, he seized Ahia’s legs so that he was unable to move. He was held fast in the clever lua hold called an iwiko‘o.

In a certain part of the story of the nī‘aupi‘o chief Kamehameha, it was stated that it was Kamehameha himself who lifted up Ahia, with Ke‘eaumoku still gripping him with the lua hold, and as Ahia was dizzy from having his neck bent, he fell over, and Ke‘eaumoku with him. This was just after Ke‘eaumoku had called to Kamehameha to fetch the fish caught in the mākāhā. Ke‘eaumoku still held Ahia bound in the lua hold on his throat, and at this time Kamehameha ran and seized Ahia’s legs, lifted him up and tore him apart, showing his superhuman strength.

This is told in the pages of the story of Kamehameha, and perhaps this description is by our people who know the story of Kamehameha. But we are reporting those words told us by those old men of Kona. This was something always spoken of by some of our old people concerning the superhuman strength of Kekūhaupi‘o and also his showing thought of perpetuating the distinction of his chiefly foster son and pupil whom he had instructed in the martial arts of old Hawai‘i. There were many times when conversations were held concerning how Kekūhaupi‘o “broke” men by means of his knowledge of lua and thrust them to Kamehameha, saying “E Kalani ē! Here is the broken man.” By this means Kekūhaupi‘o always enhanced the distinction of his foster son. These explanations to our readers concern the strength of the famous kingdom conqueror of our beloved land, but also show the famous feats of his companion who faced death with him, his teacher, indeed, who instructed him in the arts of war. We are progressing on the pathway of our story, and stories concerning our great chief Kamehameha always emerge, because the life of Kekūhaupi‘o was entwined with that of Pai‘ea Kalaninuimehameha.

On the death of Ahia, Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o moved again into the battlefield seeking that very brave ‘ehu warrior, leaving the place where Ahia had been seized, and also leaving the chief Ke‘eaumoku there.

Who was this ‘ehu chief whom Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o sought? Perhaps the writer should describe this very strong, young chief. He was none other than Keaweokahikona, the son of Keawemauhili and his wife Ululani, and the brother also of Kapi‘olaninui, the chiefess who afterwards performed a famous deed, breaking the kapu of the goddess Pele of Kīlauea. This is recorded in the story of the Christian deeds in this beloved land of ours.

The remarkable thing was that this young chief helped Kamehameha, in opposition to his own father who was on the side of Kīwala‘ō. This was the fulfillment by Keaweokahikona of that oath made to Kamehameha when Kamehameha had gone to Hilo to “touch the Naha Stone,” the royal birthstone of the chiefly naha line. At that time Kamehameha had said to his makuahine ali‘i [chiefly aunt] Ululani: “I have come to seek my relative (ku‘u piko).” This relative of whom Kamehameha spoke to Ululani, was this very strong ‘ehu chief. It was said that his proficiency in making war exceeded that of his kinsman and it was because of her knowledge of this that the prophetess Kalaniwahine led Kamehameha to seek his relative at Hilo Hanakahi. Forgive the writer this explanation.

While Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o were seeking that famous warrior, they met the enemy. However, they made a way for themselves, and Kīwala‘ō’s warriors and warriors of the Keōua twins witnessed the superhuman strength of these two ali‘i, with Kekūhaupi‘o always following close after his chiefly foster son. The men who met with Kamehameha and his companion were terrified and fled before them. However, Keaweokahikona was not found until the very time Kamehameha’s side triumphed because of the death of King Kīwala‘ō. Perhaps it would be appropriate for the writer of the story of this famous warrior of Hawai‘i to turn again to matters concerning the death of Kīwala‘ō, for this story also follows the famous and brave deeds of our ancestors.

When Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o left that site where Ahia had been killed, Ke‘eaumoku was left there and some chiefs of the Kīwala‘ō faction arrived at the site. These chiefs had deserted Kamehameha and turned to the leadership of Keawemauhili. They were Kaha‘i, the younger brother of Kānekoa, chief of Hāmākua, and Nuhi, a chief of Waimea, who was the grandfather of the chiefly line of Keka‘anī‘au which survives to this day, as this chief Nuhi was the father of La‘anui, the father of the chiefess Keka‘anī‘au.

These chiefs and their men immediately combined to attack Ke‘eaumoku, and while Ke‘eaumoku was warding off the spears, aided by his men, he was struck by the spear of a certain small man with a harsh voice, named Kini. When Ke‘eaumoku fell down, that little man turned and boasted in these self-glorifying words: “My spear has struck the yellow-backed crab (‘a‘ama kualenalena). Perhaps the writer should explain the thought behind these words: In the minds of some people, Ke‘eaumoku was always connected with the ‘a‘ama crab because part of his name had spread afar. This was Ke‘eaumoku Pāpa‘iaheahe, and perhaps this name was to distinguish him because of his alertness in battle and quickness of movement, like the ‘a‘ama crab. This was one thought. Another idea behind this statement by that little harsh-voiced man showed the prominent status of Ke‘eaumoku, a crab whose back had yellowed [matured] in warfare, who had gone gray as one of the high chiefs of Hawai‘i, who loved war and was proficient in it. Also he was a chief accustomed to arouse rebellion against the rulers of Hawai‘i Nei.

The father of Ka‘ahumanu was truly prominent, and when this low-ranking man struck him, therefore he boasted that his spear had struck the “yellow-backed crab.” It was the custom of the warriors of ancient times to utter boasts during battle or during a strong contest. This resembled the famous words of a certain warrior, Pūpūkea, at the time that ‘Iuanu received his blow of the club, at the time that his instructor in staff-fighting said to him to follow after the opponent. Then that little warrior gazed at the body in his hands and said those famous words: “‘A‘ole e ‘ole, ‘oiai, ua kūka‘i ka ila i ka lima o Pūpūkea.” [There is no need—the birthmark appears on the hand of Pūpūkea].

When Ke‘eaumoku lay on the battlefield after being struck by Kini’s spear, he was surrounded by Kīwala‘ō’s warriors, which led Kīwala‘ō to that place, thrusting aside those who obstructed his way to the place where Ke‘eaumoku lay in his weakness. When Kīwala‘ō saw this high chief of Hawai‘i being thrust at by the men surrounding him, he called out in a hoarse voice: “Ea, be careful in thrusting the spear! Take care lest the niho (lei niho palaoa) be smeared with blood.” When Ke‘eaumoku heard Kīwala‘ō’s first words, he thought he was to be saved, because of the command to be careful in thrusting the spears. When Kīwala‘ō uttered the last words, he realized he was in danger since the niho palaoa he was wearing was the source of Kīwala‘ō’s concern, lest it be soiled with blood. This famous lei niho palaoa was named Nalukoki. Kīwala‘ō greatly prized it for it had been skillfully made of the hair of some famous ali‘i of Hawai‘i Nei, and if it had been soiled with blood its excellence would have been impaired.

At this time Ke‘eaumoku sighed at his death because of these unloving words by Kīwala‘ō and he uttered these famous words which were repeated amongst the Hawaiian people afterwards: “Kāhāhā! It is the niho palaoa he loves and not the hulu makua [precious elder].” At this moment, Kamanawa, one of the sacred twins of Kekaulike, saw Ke‘eaumoku’s danger. He quickly moved his men to where Ke‘eaumoku lay, and a heated battle was begun between his men and those of Kīwala‘ō. In the midst of this heated battle a stone flew and struck Kīwala‘ō on the temple so that he fell close to where Ke‘eaumoku lay. When some of Kīwala‘ō’s chiefs saw the harm that had befallen their ali‘i ‘ai moku, they were weakened and began to retreat.

The appropriate action for those chiefs on Kīwala‘ō’s side would have been to seize his body and retreat behind the battlefield, but those cowardly chiefs were put to flight by the warriors under Kamanawa, leaving the body of King Kīwala‘ō. He was not killed when struck by the stone, but had been stunned. If he had been helped, he could have recovered.

When Ke‘eaumoku saw the harm that had befallen the king of Hawai‘i, before his body fell into the hands of Kamanawa’s warriors, Ke‘eaumoku regained his strength and moved to where Kīwala‘ō lay. He then said these words to the people who were listening: “I shall care for the body of the ali‘i.” At the same time he seized the body of the faint Kīwala‘ō who was lying there, and with the leiomano in his hands, he slashed open Kīwala‘ō’s belly so that his entrails gushed forth and he died instantly.

Kamanawa ordered the corpse of Kīwala‘ō and the wounded Ke‘eaumoku to be carried to a certain house at Ke‘ei, which was the house of Kekūhaupi‘o, whose story is laid before our readers. On the arrival at Kekūhaupi‘o’s house, the skilled kāhuna on the side of Kamehameha immediately began to treat Ke‘eaumoku. His wife and his daughter, Ka‘ahumanu, were told of his condition, and they came to the place where Ke‘eaumoku lay. Let us leave the wounded body of Ke‘eaumoku in the hands of the skilled kāhuna of Hawai‘i who removed the spear from his side, sprinkling the wound with strong medicines and attempting also to stanch the flow of blood. They also cleansed the dead body of the ali‘i ‘ai moku Kīwala‘ō. Let us return to the battlefield.

Kamehameha, followed by his war instructor, went to fight on that battlefield, but no one was able to stand before that famous warrior chief and his follower. Death was the fate of the people who attempted to fight with Kamehameha and his group, and there was terror amongst those people on account of the fearlessness of Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o. Kamehameha’s great desire in moving about on that battlefield of Moku‘ōhai was to meet that brave man in the feather cloak and the helmet with ‘i‘iwi feathers. The only thing he heard was the admiration expressed by some who had seen the incomparable strength of that young chief, a stranger, a chief whom they had not previously seen.

However, while Kamehameha and his war instructor were moving to various parts of the battlefield, they were followed by some of Kamehameha’s young warriors who had been instructed in the martial arts at Kohala by Kekūhaupi‘o. Also, at certain times Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o stood quietly and observed the battles between some of his warriors and the warriors of the other side. The heart of this Napoleon of the Pacific was gladdened at seeing the genuine skill of his warriors who always achieved victory wherever they fought.

Kamehameha spoke to Kekūhaupi‘o about the fearlessness of his warriors, and pride spread over his features. While they were standing on a high point of the battlefield, they wondered at the flight of Kīwala‘ō’s warriors, together with some of their chiefs. It was possible to distinguish the chiefs from the men as they were wearing their feather cloaks and helmets made of the feathers of birds of Hawai‘i Nei. Kamehameha and his men immediately left their observation point and began to move to that place where they had seen the crowd of his people. Kamehameha and Kekūhaupi‘o were seen, and a young chief was sent to run and tell Kamehameha of the death of King Kīwala‘ō and the serious wounds received by Ke‘eaumoku. The reason for the flight of the opposition was that they had heard of the death of King Kīwala‘ō and the terrible slaughter of their men by Kamehameha’s forces.

When Kamehameha heard this sad news of the death of his own kinsman, his tears fell, for he was not a wicked-hearted chief, but loved both chiefs and men.

However, while tears were falling from the eyes of the ali‘i Pai‘ea

Kamehameha, Kekūhaupi‘o commanded the men following after them to pursue the enemy and take captives alive, but to kill those who attempted to fight them.

When Keōua and his chiefs realized that Kīwala‘ō was dead and they saw the slaughter of their men by Kamehameha’s warriors, they ran and leaped into the sea and swam to the canoes which awaited them. They returned to the far-off land of Ka‘ū, thereby fulfilling the old saying of the ancestors: A‘o nō i ke koa, a a‘o pū nō ho‘i i ka holo [When one learns to be a warrior one must also learn to run].” Great was the slaughter on Kīwala‘ō’s side that afternoon, and the prophecy made by Holo‘ae, the kahuna alaka‘i for Kamehameha was truly fulfilled: “In the tide of morning the downward current of victory will be for your kinsman, and toward evening when the tide turns upward this will be your tide of victory, e Kalani.

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