Updated: Nov 21, 2022
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. 429-440.
The ali‘i from Hawai‘i left on O‘ahu by Kamehameha spoke these words amongst themselves:
How amazing is that Kamehameha; he runs away for the sake of his health to Hawai‘i and leaves us here like a bundle of firewood to burn in the imu in this land of Kākuhihewa. Ea, perhaps there is only one good thing for us to do—let us go to make war on Kaua‘i for that is the only island which has not been taken by Kamehameha. If that island becomes ours, then we shall become the ali‘i ‘ai moku of this island which Kamehameha did not get.
These words by Kamehameha’s chiefs were rather fault-finding. However, they were not spoken because they had no love for him, but rather because of annoyance with him for returning to Hawai‘i for a little rest from the sickness he had gotten on O‘ahu.
Kaleimamahū heard the grumbling of his ali‘i companions and quickly departed from O‘ahu, sailing to Hawai‘i to report the grumbling of the ali‘i who had supported Kamehameha in his victorious battles.
When he arrived on Hawai‘i and met with Kamehameha, who was resting at Kawaihae, he told him of the grumbling of the chiefs and their idea of taking war to Kaua‘i in order to enjoy its riches for themselves. When Kamehameha heard Kaleimamahū’s words, he bowed his head for some minutes, then turned and said to him:
This chat (‘ōlelo o kahi ali‘i) which you traveled over these seas to bring here to Hawai‘i is a very good thing. The ali‘i grumble about my returning here to Hawai‘i and leaving them on O‘ahu to dry out like firewood in the hot sun of O‘ahu, the land of Kākuhihewa. The good part about this grumbling of theirs is the idea of going to war on Kaua‘i. Very excellent indeed is this gift (ho‘okupu) which you brought hither on the sea, O my hoahānau. Let us leave for O‘ahu.
Kamehameha, accompanied by Kaleimamahū, left Hawai‘i for O‘ahu, and when he met with those complainers on O‘ahu, he did not allude to their grumbling but called an ‘aha‘ula to discuss carrying war to Kaua‘i.
After the good discussion at the ‘aha‘ula with the ali‘i of his court, they unanimously decided to send a messenger to Kaua‘i to sound out Kaumuali‘i’s thoughts about war.
The messenger was dispatched to take the thoughts of Kamehameha which were illustrated by sending some objects.
When this messenger arrived on Kaua‘i and met with Kaumuali‘i, the mō‘ī of Kaua‘i at that time, he spoke these words to Kaumuali‘i: “‘Auhea mai ‘oe e ke ali‘i Kaumuali‘i o Kaua‘i Nei, here is the bundle Kamehameha has sent you, O ali‘i, and it is for you to guess the thought of your companion ali‘i from these things I have brought hither.” Given into the hand of the ali‘i Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i were a black stone, which was a really beautiful ‘ulu maika, and some small black ‘ulu maika. Those excellent large and small stones were marked with cord (kahamaha ia). Besides these excellent large and small stones, a white maika stone wrapped in kī leaves was given. These things were rolled in a fine-meshed, calabash-carrying net.
Kaumuali‘i looked at those stones in the fine-meshed net which were given him by Kamehameha’s messenger. He did not reply, but he turned to his mother, Kamakahelei, and asked her: “E ka makuahine, what is your reply to this lono pūwai kanaka166 by Kamehameha?” Perhaps it would be well for the writer to explain the thought behind these words by the ali‘i Kaumuali‘i to his mother Kamakahelei.
The words lono pūwai kanaka had to do with war and were a thought about war by an ali‘i to his companion ali‘i. These words were substantiated by those things brought by the messenger to the mō‘ī Kaumuali‘i. Kaumuali‘i knew the thought behind those two kinds of stones, and he laid this question before his ali‘i mother.
The large and small black maika stones were as though Kamehameha was saying to Kaumuali‘i through these stones: “Perhaps by strength Kaua‘i might be gotten or perhaps not.” That was the nature of those black maika stones—they were words of war.
The white maika stone wrapped in kī leaves was a denial of war, showing the white thought in Kaumuali‘i’s heart, that he did not desire war. That fine-meshed net expressed the thought that the other islands of Hawai‘i were bound under Kamehameha, in other words, Hawai‘i, Maui, Lāna‘i, Kaho‘olawe, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu. If the discussion went well, then Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau would be included in the fine-meshed net.
Because Kaumuali‘i questioned his mother for the proper reply to Ali‘i Kamehameha, Kamakahelei responded to her son with these wise words of a good mother: “E ke ali‘i, you should consent to see Pai‘ea and give him the land of Kaua‘i. If the land belongs to him, then Kamehameha will occupy it in name only, but the good things of this land of Kaua‘i will be yours to enjoy, my son. His days of ruling are numbered, and you, my heavenly one, shall enjoy the richness (momona) of the court of Kamehameha.” Kaumuali‘i turned and spoke to Kamehameha’s messenger: “Ea, have you heard these words uttered before us all?” The messenger assented that he had heard the words of the high-ranking ali‘i mother of Kaumuali‘i.
“Those words spoken by my mother are also my words.”
The Ali‘i Insist on War with Kaua‘i
“Kaua‘i shall become Kamehameha’s and I shall live under him as his subject. KYou shall return and tell Kamehameha my words.” Kaumuali‘i kept the black stones which had been sent him and returned the white maika stone wrapped in kī leaves to the messenger. It was wrapped in the fine-meshed net, and also a section of bamboo was given the messenger.
The messengers immediately departed from Kaua‘i and returned to O‘ahu bearing the good news from Kaua‘i. The messengers whom Kamehameha had sent were Kīkāne, his very kapu messenger, and the high-ranking ali‘i wahine Kekaiha‘akūloulaniokahiki. (From this high-ranking ali‘i wahine, who was sent with Kīkāne, came some high-ranking Kaua‘i ali‘i. Some of the descendants of this ali‘i wahine now live at the Waiākea Homesteads.) The prominent ali‘i of Kaumuali‘i’s court were very angry at Kaumuali‘i and his mother, Kamakahelei, because of their having given away Kaua‘i without a battle. However, the advice of Kaumuali‘i’s mother to him was really wise. If Kaumuali‘i had opposed Kamehameha in battle, those Kaua‘i ali‘i might have become death companions (moepu‘u) due to the wrath of Ali‘i Kamehameha of Hawai‘i Nui Kuauli. Also, those words of Kamakahelei to her son were prophetic for, on the death of Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i was united in Christian marriage with Ka‘ahumanu. He became the one who enjoyed the riches of Kamehameha’s court as Ka‘ahumanu was the regent of the government when Liholiho went to a foreign land with his ali‘i wahine Kamāmalu. Those words of wisdom by the ali‘i mother to her high-ranking son were truly fulfilled. Those zealous Kaua‘i ali‘i, however, did not dare to challenge Kaumuali‘i in battle except, perhaps, long afterwards when George Kaumuali‘i started a rebellion on Kaua‘i without the father, Kaumuali‘i, approving this action by his son.167 It was Kaleimoku [Kalanimoku] who quelled the people rebelling on Kaua‘i with much slaughter above Hanapēpē and with the capture of Humehume Kaumuali‘i by the victorious side. Kaumuali‘i lived afterwards, and was much loved, and he became the favorite of the young ali‘i who had the kingdom. Also he was the beloved husband of Ka‘ahumanu who had married him in the presence of the great ali‘i of O‘ahu. When the messenger Kīkāne met his ali‘i Kamehameha, he was asked: “How was the pathway which you took?” Kīkāne replied to this question by his ali‘i: “The way taken by your servant was peaceful.”
Kamehameha again asked Kīkāne: “What was the answer of the ali‘i of Kaua‘i?” “The land is given to you, O Kamehameha, and he will live as your subject.” “Where is the maukoli [offering] for this giving of land?” asked Kamehameha.
“Here is the maukoli in the section of bamboo: a lama fruit (hua lama) and a section of fragrant sandalwood,” replied Kīkāne.
Kamehameha took the bamboo section given him by the messenger Kīkāne and saw those things which had been described to him as being sent by Kaumuali‘i, the mō‘ī of Kaua‘i. Then he turned and spoke to the ali‘i of his court: “O chiefs and experts of Hawai‘i! Hear these words. At Kahiki is the night, at Kahiki is the day, touched by the staff (lā‘au) of Kukoa. Therefore, Kaua‘i has become Kamehameha’s. Kaua‘i is a province of Hawai‘i. However, this is only an ‘ūlāleo [an emotional chant]. What are your thoughts, O chiefs?” When Kamehameha ceased speaking before this great gathering of the ali‘i of Hawai‘i, they shouted: “Ha‘ikū umauma ‘ikuwā ha‘ikū ē.”
The nature of these words uttered by those ali‘i was what was said when a canoe was being put into the sea, and meant that they wished to make war on Kaua‘i without regard to that good gift of land by the mō‘ī Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i.
They refused to trust the verbal offer of the mō‘ī of Kaua‘i, and these ali‘i who were pressuring for war thought that the true victory was to be gained at the point of the spear.
While Kamehameha was puzzling over this call for war by his ali‘i, some of them called out to him: “Let us all go to war on Kaua‘i! Let us go and fight with the ali‘i of Kaua‘i, nor should we have faith in his cajoling words.” Because of the din of so many voices of those war-loving Hawai‘i ali‘i, Kamehameha replied to them: “It seems as though you are stubborn in taking war to the ali‘i of Kaua‘i while, indeed, he has given us the land with good will and has given it without the skin being injured by the spear. As you war-loving ones want to take war to Kaua‘i, while that island has been given to us from Hawai‘i, the disgrace (‘ālina) for this will be upon you.
“I am just deferring (e pē wale aku) to your words, O you persistent ali‘i of Hawai‘i.
“Therefore let our war canoes be prepared, and when the Milky Way has turned this night (a huli ka ia o nei pō), and also the sand-calabash of Launaakāne (ka ipu one a Launaakāne) has turned, then, O ali‘i, you shall move to war.” By these words of Kamehameha, we see for ourselves that Kamehameha did not like this pressure to war by his ali‘i which was contrary to his own wish. But, perhaps, because of his understanding of these high chiefs of Hawai‘i who had been his generals and who gained victory for him in past battles, he knew that if he had denied them they might grumble amongst themselves, and perhaps the thought of rebellion might arise amongst them.
Pai‘ea Laninuimehameha was an extremely astute leader, and because of his political knowledge, he consented to his chiefs’ demand for war.
Kamehameha’s war fleet which moved on this expedition to Kaua‘i numbered one hundred fifty large canoes with one hundred twenty men on a single canoe. A total of eighteen thousand warriors embarked on those war canoes, and we, O reader, are able to understand the really great numbers of warriors who were going to war on Kaua‘i, the land which had been given with good will by Mō‘ī Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i.
However, we shall see the result of this war journey by the Hawai‘i ali‘i.
Kamakahelei’s Advice to Kaumuali‘i
March 20, 1924
In Kamehameha’s mind, sailing to Kaua‘i was not a good thing to do, but because of the insistence on war by the Hawai‘i ali‘i, he consented to go. O reader, let us leave Kamehameha and his ali‘i and his great army passing over the sea of Ka‘ie‘iewaho and turn to the young ali‘i Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i and his ali‘i.
On the departure of Kamehameha’s messenger with the signs which Kaumuali‘i had given him, the numerous ali‘i of Kaua‘i began to demand that they prepare for war with Kamehameha, saying emphatically to him: “‘Auhea ‘oe e ke ali‘i Kaumuali‘i, it is better for us to fight. It is shameful to just become captives and live debased under this ali‘i of Hawai‘i.”
Because of these words by the Kaua‘i ali‘i to this young ruler, he spoke these rather humble words to his mother: “‘Auhea ‘oe e ku‘u makuahine, the haku of this land of Kaua‘i: What is your thought about this pressure to war by the ali‘i who are demanding that we fight?” Kaumuali‘i also asked his kahuna alaka‘i and his kilokilo ‘āina the same question: “What is your thought about this idea of the ali‘i of Kaua‘i Nei who are demanding to make war on Kamehameha. You must ponder this with my royal mother who is the haku of this land of Kaua‘i.” While Kaumuali‘i was questioning the experts in leadership and land divination, his mother, Kamakahelei, turned quickly and said these words to her son:
E ku‘u keiki ē! My blood relative who has been weaned, my valued one who has been exposed to the sun, you are being pressured to war by these ali‘i who demand it of you (Ku‘u piko nei lā a hemo i waho, a‘o ku‘u minamina lā a kaula‘i ‘ia i ka lā, a laila kā ho‘i ‘ae ‘oe i kēia pu‘e kaua a nā ali‘i o Kaua‘i nei e koi nei iā ‘oe). This is a stupid demand which these ali‘i are making of you. Do not consent. I tell you, my child, those who administered to the land and are the diviners of the past eras, are disclosing that you must not at all consent to this demand for war by your ali‘i. The snout of the pig is pushing away in the sea, the tusks are hooking the eye. The feathers of Hā‘upu are ruffled at the cape. Indeed, the tail of Keolo‘ewa is twisted, the mouth of Kalanikaheka is grimacing, therefore my child, do not consent to this demand for war by your ali‘i. Here is the word, listen: The canoes hasten to move on the sea, O Kaumuali‘i, there is the tropic bird pressed flat on the sea waves. Hasten my child, and do not be slow in fulfilling these words which I, your mother, say to you.
It was said that the ali‘i wahine Kamakahelei was a diviner, one who had been instructed in the omens of the clouds and had knowledge of signs in the night. It was not possible to refute these instructions. Also, Kaumuali‘i had faith in his mother’s words. In his mind her words were better than what his kāhuna, kilo, and kuhikuhipu‘uone had disclosed.
Having heard these words from his mother, he quickly ordered his ali‘i and people to prepare the canoes and to place weapons on board, not, however, with the thought of war, but of giving them to Kamehameha. When Kaumuali‘i boarded his double canoe, his kapu emblems, which were the kapu kāhili of Ka‘ulanī‘au mā, were set up. His maka‘āinana prostrated themselves as he went down to board his double canoe.
When Kaumuali‘i boarded his canoe, the prominent ali‘i of Kaua‘i also boarded their canoes. They sailed out to meet Kamehameha at sea because Kamakahelei had explained to her son that Kamehameha was coming to take the land which she saw through her knowledge of divination.
Kaumuali‘i’s canoes sailed out. Kamehameha’s peleleu canoes had also sailed out, furnished with foreign weapons, as had his warships equipped with large cannons. The Ka‘ie‘iewaho Channel was reddened with the feather cloaks of the great ali‘i of Hawai‘i.
Kaumuali‘i sailed with his ali‘i and people; however, he did not take all his warriors for, within him, there was absolutely no thought of war.
When Kaumuali‘i’s fleet reached the middle of the channel, he saw the red glow of Kamehameha’s war canoes and saw that those canoes were filled with warriors. He sighed at seeing the great numbers of canoes followed by the warships of that ali‘i ‘ai moku of the rising sun [from the island to the east].
The Kaua‘i ali‘i also saw the incomparably great size of Kamehameha’s fleet and doubt entered into them, remembering the words of the ali‘i wahine Kamakahelei, the mother of the mō‘ī Kaumuali‘i. They regretted their trouble-making about warring on Kamehameha because there was no comparison with Kamehameha’s really great fleet of canoes filled with warriors.
The canoe that had been boarded by Kamehameha was seen in the midst of the fleet marked by the pūlo‘ulo‘u sticks which denoted kapu. When Kaumuali‘i’s and Kamehameha’s canoes met, Kamehameha immediately left his canoe and boarded that of Kaumuali‘i.
Kaumuali‘i greeted Kamehameha who responded likewise.
At the same time, Kaumuali‘i said these good words to Kamehameha: “Perhaps this sea journey of yours, Pai‘ea, is one to take land. The sharp-spurred cock has come (Ua hele kā ho‘i ka moa a kukū kākala).”
Kamehameha replied with a smile on his face: “I am on a journey to seek an ali‘i, O ali‘i. It is a journey to seek friendship. Our meeting is friendly, and friendship is the important thing.” Because of this kind reply by Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i said to him:
This journey of yours is well, O ali‘i. Here in your presence are the ali‘i of Kaua‘i, and all of Kaua‘i is here. There is no other ali‘i that we know of, only you O Kamehameha, therefore here I am before you. Kaua‘i is yours from the upland to the sea. All the places of Kaua‘i and the big men and the little men [the chiefs and the commoners] are all yours. This is my request to you: you are the ali‘i and we and the Kaua‘i chiefs shall dwell under you as your people. Your voice is the one we shall obey.
When Kamehameha heard Kaumuali‘i’s words, tears welled up in his eyes as he gazed at him and he replied affectionately:
Astonishing! Your heart is pure, O chief. E! Excellent is Kaua‘i. You have given the land from the horizon to the horizon with all its boundaries connected together and yourself as well. You have taken this responsibility upon yourself, O Kaumuali‘i. How excellent is the giving of this land, O good chief of Kaua‘i.
This is very good in my mind because I and these chiefs of Hawai‘i, who have pressured me, have received land through your good-heart-edness, O Kaumuali‘i (‘oiai, ua ‘āina ihola nō ho‘i wau i kou lokomai-ka‘i, e Kaumuali‘i a me kēia mau ali‘i pu‘e ‘āina ho‘i o Hawai‘i).
Kamehameha paused a moment with his tears welling up because of the giving of land by the ali‘i ‘ai moku of excellent Kaua‘i, flawless in the calm. After a moment when neither of them spoke, Kamehameha again spoke to his royal companion:
I understand this granting of your land, O good ali‘i of Kaua‘i. Hawai‘i rules and the thought comes to go and see your good land. When this becomes tiring, food can be prepared and, not only food, but the house of kī‘o‘e aloha [dipping in affection] to be occupied without doubt as your mind is pure, O Kaumuali‘i. Therefore return good ali‘i of Kaua‘i and dwell in the calm of Moikeha, surf in the famed waves of Makaīwa, and strike the hula gourd of Kaipuha‘a. Gaze calmly at the beauty of the kalukalu sedge of Kēwā, breathe the fragrance of the līpoa seaweed, and peaceful shall be the rule of the ali‘i. There is only one important thing which I must tell you. Let mischief be watched for in the land. The important thing is to care for the people and make them love you; then there will be no trouble in the land.168
The Meeting in Mid-Channel
Kaumuali‘i heard these good words from Kamehameha his tears fell was touched by the genuine kindness of Pai‘ea Kamehameha. He was unable to control the tears which fell, and perhaps this was what the ancients sang about:
Hūnā ke aloha pe‘e ma loko,Hidden within is the love,Ha‘ina mai e ka waimakaTold of by the tears flowing out,hanini i waho,I ‘ike ‘ia aku nō i ka uwēAnd as also shown by wailing.
‘ana iho ē.
At this time while Kamehameha and Kaumuali‘i were exchanging words, the ali‘i of both sides could not hear them because they were at some distance from where the conversation took place except, perhaps, only for Kaumuali‘i’s own paddlers and his kahu. However, those ali‘i stood in readiness. The Kaua‘i ali‘i repented having demanded that their young mō‘ī oppose Kamehameha in battle when they saw how well equipped Kamehameha was with war canoes and that his men were also equipped and able to overwhelm them.
They also observed that some foreigners in support of Kamehameha stood on the decks of Kamehameha’s warships prepared to loose death-dealing weapons upon their canoes so that they then spoke amongst themselves in admiration of the ali‘i wahine Kamakahelei who had so wisely advised her son Kaumuali‘i.
They would have been on the brink of being slaughtered if Kaumuali‘i had heeded their pressure on him to fight Kamehameha.
After those words by Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i again spoke, saying that he was granting his island entirely: “‘Auhea mai ‘oe e ku‘u ali‘i, here are my large canoes filled with the weapons of the foreigner which I have brought to give you and also some thirty chests of powder and large and small cannons. You shall take all these things. Also the land has become yours and also the weapons to ward off plundering of the land. You must not think, O ali‘i, that I am just giving you the land and withholding the weapons to enable me to rebel against you.” When Kamehameha heard these words by Kaumuali‘i, he pondered for some time and then asked him: “O pure-hearted ali‘i of Kaua‘i, are the Kaua‘i ali‘i also furnished with guns and weapons?” “Yes they are furnished with weapons, they are not lacking in these things as some foreigners live on Kaua‘i. The ali‘i of Kaua‘i are equipped with foreign weapons from those foreign ships.” “Hear you, O Kaumuali‘i, perhaps you would be killed if I should take those weapons of yours which you have given me. If those weapons you gave me become mine, then you and your mother will be unable to defend against rebellion by these ali‘i. Perhaps if the Kaua‘i ali‘i realize you lack weapons to defend yourself and your mother, then they may turn and rebel against you. You and your mother will be in trouble. As soon as you arrive on land and your ali‘i realize you have given up your weapons, they will take you and drown you in the sea as you would lack the means to defend yourself and your mother.
“Therefore consider well your thought of giving up the weapons to defend your lives.
“Do not think that I am in doubt as to your giving of the land, not at all. I well understand the purity of your thought in giving the land, but I do not know the minds of your Kaua‘i ali‘i.” Because Kaumuali‘i was stubborn, he said to Kamehameha: “I have no doubt concerning my Kaua‘i ali‘i, nor will they turn in rebellion against me. Take these weapons into your hand, O Pai‘ea, and I think that we shall live in peace under you.” “If that is your thought, O Kaumuali‘i, then here perhaps is the proper thing, let us exchange weapons. I shall take your weapons, and the war equipment which I have brought from O‘ahu, I shall give to you. And your hoahānau, Kaleimoku [Kalanimoku], will be the one to care for these weapons of ours. “I also appoint Kuamauna of Ka‘ū, Kauanoano of Hilo, Hewahewanui of Kohala, and Nohomalani of Kona, Hawai‘i, with their armies, to live with you on Kaua‘i and to take care of you and your mother. And in the future we two shall meet again in good will.” At the end of these words, Kamehameha opened a basket held by Koki, one of his kahu, took out his feather helmet and placed it on Kaumuali‘i’s head. He also gave him his royal malo to put on. Kaumuali‘i also did as Kamehameha had done with his feather helmet and royal malo, the two ali‘i ‘ai moku performing these actions as a symbol of the steadfast accord between the two of them.
This exchange was not the only thing between them. At the same time they were conversing, Kaumuali‘i’s kahu were chewing ‘awa, squeezing and straining it until it was clear, and pouring it into two cups. It was taken and drunk by the two high ali‘i, together with a section of the sweet sugar cane of Halāli‘i, that sugar cane which grows on Ni‘ihau and was used by the famous ali‘i of Kaua‘i as an accompaniment to ‘awa.
When those ali‘i finished the ‘awa drinking in the midst of the wide ocean, they finished their discussion, and Kaumuali‘i prepared to return to Kaua‘i, followed by the persons whom Kamehameha had ordered to follow the good-hearted ali‘i ‘ai moku of Kaua‘i, “Excellent in the Calm.” Kamehameha and his ali‘i returned to the island of Kākuhihewa.
This is the story by the historian S.L. Peleioholani, substantiated by some historians, concerning the giving of Kaua‘i to Kamehameha by Kaumuali‘i.
166 The literal meaning of the phrase lono pūwai kanaka might be “news uttered by man.” 167 Here Reverend Desha strays from the account given by Bingham (1981:228). The insurrection led by George Humehume Kaumuali‘i began in 1824 after the death of his father, Kaumuali‘i. 168 This chapter and the preceding one describe events which are not familiar to the translator, and in fact seem to be refuted by other accounts. Others report that Kamehameha’s attempts to get to Kaua‘i were frustrated, first by a great storm and, second, by a sickness called ma‘i ‘ōku‘u [squatting sickness] which decimated his army.
Ka ʻAoʻao 432