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Death of Keawema'uhili

Photo: Ku'ialuaopuna

Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o


The Wicked Deeds of Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula

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. 269-264

When the messengers arrived in the presence of the famous conqueror of Hawai‘i Nui Moku o Keawe and he heard the reports, he called his high chiefs and his kuhikuhipu‘uone, nor did Kekūhaupi‘o hold back at this conference. Also, the kahuna Holo‘ae listened to the messengers from O‘ahu, he being the most important person in the presence of the ali‘i Kamehameha and the great kuhikuhipu‘uone in matters pertaining to the god.

Let us lay aside Kamehameha and his conference and turn back to the events on the island of Hawai‘i at this time.

The news of Kamehameha’s victory in battle reached Hawai‘i and it went as far as Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula, the ruler of Ka‘ū, embittering his thoughts together with his annoyance at Keawemauhili because of his assistance to Kamehameha with war canoes. He quickly decided to make war on Keawemauhili and also to take up warfare on the lands of Kamehameha while he was on the other island fighting.

Suspicion grew in Keōua because of Keawemauhili’s assistance to Kamehameha with canoes, and that the time was coming when Keawemauhili would turn and oppose him and give his assistance to Kamehameha. Because of this suspicion, he raised a large army to make war on Keawemauhili. Keōua understood that Keawemauhili lacked support for his side for his strong warriors had left with Kamehameha, that is, Keaweokahikona and his hoahānau Kaleipaihala, ‘Elele, and some other warrior chiefs of his court. Therefore Keawemauhili was deprived of these skilled warrior chiefs who had gone away.

However, before Keōua met with Keawemauhili at Hilo, he first entered upon some lands of West Hawai‘i, killing some of Kamehameha’s men and pillaging Kamehameha’s property The blameless people of Kohala, Waimea, and Hāmākua

Pregnant women were harmed, and the banks of the kalo patches at Waipi‘o were broken down and also the walls of the fishponds. These were truly wicked deeds by this bad-acting ali‘i of Ka‘ū. After these wicked deeds to the lands and the maka‘āinana under Kamehameha, he moved to Hilo Palikū to make war on Keawemauhili, the ali‘i ‘ai moku of Hilo. The two sides met in battle between Pauka‘a and Wainaku. A terrible battle was begun between Keawemauhili’s and Keōua’s people which lasted for two days. Keōua’s army fell back before Keawemauhili’s warriors as far as Pauka‘a. In this retreat by Keōua, the victory went to the side of Ali‘i Keawemauhili.

At this time of the descent of victory on Keawemauhili’s side, a certain warrior on his own side robbed Keawemauhili of his life. The name of this warrior was Mo‘o. He ran without Keawemauhili’s knowledge and thrust his spear into Keawemauhili’s side. When he was struck by the spear, Keawemauhili quickly turned and saw the one who had stealthily robbed him of his life and said: “Hu‘ihu‘i wale kā ho‘i kāu lā‘au i ka ‘ao‘ao e Mo‘o.” 104

At this time when Keawemauhili was pierced by his own warrior, Keōua was on the Hāmākua side of Hilo and was encamped temporarily at a place now called Pauka‘a. When Keōua heard that Keawemauhili had been underhandedly pierced by the spear of his own warrior, he quickly ran with the idea of placing the body of Keawemauhili on the lele at the heiau as an offering to the god. Keōua arrived in the presence of Kekaulikeikawēkiuonāmoku, the own mother of Keawemauhili, where this feeble chiefess was wailing over the body of her son. Keōua importuned that ali‘i wahine with these words: “I have come to fetch the body of the ali‘i to place him on the lele.” Keawemauhili’s mother promptly refused, uttering these words to Keōua: “E ia nei ē, do you not know that I am a sacred ali‘i, and also this one here [referring to body of Keawemauhili] is within the kapu stakes, so that you are absolutely not able to seize the kapu body of my son who is of the highest ali‘i blood.” Because of this reply by Keawemauhili’s mother, Keōua was frustrated. At this time Keawemauhili’s chiefs were outside the house, awaiting the word of that high chiefess for Keōua to meet death at their hands. The only reason that Keōua escaped

with his life was that the chiefess said, giving him the feather helmet of

Kalaninui‘īamamao [Keawemauhili’s father]: “Here is Iouli, the ‘head’ of the chief.” This name by which that kapu feather helmet of Keawemauhili was called was its sacred name.

When Keawemauhili’s sacred helmet was in the hand of Keōua, he emerged from the house where the body of Keawemauhili lay. When the ali‘i who had thought to kill him saw the helmet of their haku ali‘i, they fell back and Keōua left. He stayed at Pi‘opi‘o for two days and on the third day he returned to Puna. From Puna he announced that he was the mō‘ī of all of Hawai‘i Kuauli as he was the son of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, the ali‘i mō‘ī ‘ai moku of Hawai‘i Kuauli, and Kamehameha only had Kalani‘ōpu‘u as his makua kāne hoahānau [uncle], whereas he was an own son of Kalani‘ōpu‘u.

At this place the reader knows of the movement of Keōua in his fights, that he had gone first to Kohala and had done harm to Kamehameha’s people, had gone as far as Waipi‘o and descended into that famous valley arriving at Paka‘alana. He had fished in the fishpond of Lālākea and needlessly damaged the kalo patches of the chiefs and the commoners in that famous valley, as well as harming pregnant women and the commoners who had done nothing wrong to him. He left Waipi‘o and turned back at Hāmākua for Hilo until the very time he met Keawemauhili. If perhaps Keawemauhili had not been robbed of his life by his own warrior, Mo‘o, Keōua would have been put to flight by this ali‘i ‘ai moku of the two Hilo districts. However, because of this sudden, fruitless death of Keawemauhili at the hands of his own warrior, victory was achieved by Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula.

We have seen his announcement of his status as ali‘i ‘ai moku of the entire island of Hawai‘i, denying Kamehameha’s own claim to this island of Hawai‘i. However, Keōua did not understand that the kingdom of his own birth-father must be gained by strength and that Kamehameha was the victorious ali‘i as he and his high chiefs had put Keōua to flight at that very first battlefield of Moku‘ōhai where Kīwala‘ō was killed. Kīwala‘ō had been the heir to the government which Kalani‘ōpu‘u had bequeathed him before his death. Let us lay aside for a little while Keōua and his wicked deeds, and turn to the ali‘i Kamehameha and his famous warrior Kekūhaupi‘o.

When Kamehameha heard from Kapua‘ahiwalani from Kohala of the terrible deeds by Keōua in his lands and to his blameless people, and also his abuse of the people upland in Waimea, it caused great sorrow in the mind of this kingdom conqueror. At the same time, Ululani, the ali‘i wahine of Hilo, sent Keli‘iokepa‘alani to report these other wicked deeds by Keōua. One thing reported by this messenger was the needless slaughter of men and women. The worst of all the wicked deeds of this ali‘i of Ka‘ū were those done by his warriors to the pregnant women and young girls on Kamehameha’s side, by filling their wombs with rocks and pebbles and trampling on them which Keōua approved.

When Kamehameha heard of the death of Keawemauhili, one of his hulu makua [esteemed elders], the very high-born ali‘i of Hilo, the father of the warrior chief Keaweokahikona and his sister Kapi‘olani, it caused him great pain. Adding together the wicked deeds of Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula, this final news of the death of Keawemauhili really filled the cup of Keōua’s cruel actions. Therefore, Kamehameha made up his mind that it would be truly appropriate for this cruel ali‘i to die without regard to their relationship. The unjustified cruelty of Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula’s actions toward Kamehameha’s maka‘āinana profoundly affected Kamehameha’s heart. These were people who had done nothing to harm Keōua, but because of his grudge toward Kamehameha, he directed his uncontrolled anger upon the blameless people.

Because of this bitter news received by Kamehameha, he ordered his ali‘i and the men of his army to return to Hawai‘i to fight with Keōua and punish him. However, at this same time, Ke‘eaumoku Pāpa‘iaheahe, the warrior father of the ali‘i wahine Ka‘ahumanu, kept pressing Kamehameha to continue the journey to make war on Kahekili at O‘ahu, saying these words to him: “Here is the fish close to the mākāhā, a reproductive tuna (he ‘ahi pūnanahua) [literally egg-nest tuna] to be fetched.” “What is this reproductive tuna?” asked Kamehameha.

“A large plump tuna, which has been surrounded by the net and lacks a place to escape” replied Ke‘eaumoku in an enthusiastic voice, as he thought that the time had arrived for revenge on his brother-in-law, Kahekili, for the difficulties he had had while he was living like a captive on Maui. However, Kamehameha had not begun his war with the idea of just punishing the harm done to a single ali‘i, but with a great desire to conquer and bring the various islands entirely under his rule.

Kamehameha also questioned Ke‘eaumoku Pāpa‘iaheahe in order to completely understand the thought behind his application of the term “reproductive tuna fish”: “E ke ali‘i, what is your thought about the net surrounding this fish which you have described?” “It is this, e ke ali‘i. Maui has been captured by you. Kahekili has no place to send for assistance as there are no ali‘i on Maui who will support him now. There is no place for him to escape the mesh of your net. The most appropriate action for you is to draw the net until the very time the fish is captured in it.” Kamehameha rejected this pressure by Ke‘eaumoku saying:

We shall return to Hawai‘i because this youngster of mine (ia keiki āu)105 is doing harm to our lands and to my children [maka‘āinana]. What is the value of going forward when we are being struck behind with the pōhuehue vine106 as the messenger has told us. My thought is that we shall return and mend the fishpond walls so heedlessly broken by that youngster of mine (ua keiki nei āu). Something else we have heard is that Kahekili has said that the fruit will be obtained with ease, so why do we think only of war? Furthermore, e ku‘u makua, here is something else for you to ponder. We shall return to rebuild a house for the god at Kawaihae, and when it is completed, then perhaps it will be the thing which will end the wickedness of these cruel actions to the people and the land.

As soon as Kamehameha had spoken these words to Ke‘eaumoku, he turned and ordered everyone to return to Hawai‘i. While Kamehameha’s people are preparing for the return to Hawai‘i, perhaps it would be well for the writer to again take up Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and his war movements just after Keawemauhili had been killed. This is told in the history written by S.M. Kamakau, an ancestor of this writer.

Shortly after the death of Keawemauhili and his brother-in-law Kā‘o‘o, Keōua had continued the slaughter of the warriors on Keawemauhili’s side. Those not slain fled, and Keōua took the entire Hilo district for himself. As he had achieved this great victory, he chafed to carry his war efforts to Hāmākua, Waimea, and also Kohala, to plunder the riches of the ali‘i and to oppress the lives of the maka‘āinana living on those lands under Kamehameha’s control. Because of these exalted ideas of this Ka‘ū ali‘i, he went to Hāmākua and descended into the beautiful valley of Waipi‘o where he dried up the famous ponds of Lālākea and Muliwai, and also broke down some other fishponds. The kalo patches being cultivated by the men were damaged. The kalo was laid waste, and the banks of the lo‘i needlessly broken down. He plundered the maka‘āinana and abused the women of Waipi‘o.

From Waipi‘o, Keōua’s armies moved to Waimea and began these cruel actions toward its people. Whereas this is one of the lands famous for warriors, and it had furnished Kamehameha with the majority of their fearless warriors for his army, there was a lack of men able to fight Keōua. This wicked ali‘i began to slaughter the blameless men and women and their children. He and his people even harmed weak old men, some of whom had been warriors under his father, Kalani‘ōpu‘u. He had no regard for these aged men who had fought victoriously on the side of his father and treated them cruelly.

This did not satisfy Keōua’s hate toward Kamehameha, so he carried his wicked actions onto Kamehameha’s own lands at Kohala and began the pillage and slaughter of its people. They haughtily consumed what the people had labored for and took their small possessions. He shed much blood and acted in every way to take his revenge upon his hoahānau, Pai‘ea Kamehameha. While Kamehameha’s own lands given him by the makua kāne ali‘i of the two of them were being ravaged, the messenger previously spoken of had secretly gone to report to Kamehameha at Kaunakahakai, Moloka‘i.

When Kamehameha heard this news it was said that, because of his love for his people, his tears fell, and his chiefs and people seeing this became truly attached to him. Kamehameha spoke these loving words for his people who had been so cruelly slaughtered by his hoahānau: “In coming here to seek new children, leaving you, my children in peace to live on our lands in well-being, you my blameless ones, have been cruelly treated. Alas for you, you are my first-born ones.” These were sorrowful words spoken by this ali‘i who loved his people, and his chiefs grieved with him. Perhaps this was a reason for their lack of support for Ke‘eaumoku’s demand to continue making war on Kahekili who was ruling on O‘ahu of Kākuhihewa. Kamehameha, followed by his numerous fleet and war leaders, returned to Hawai‘i with the thought of rescuing his people who were being so cruelly treated by Keōua, the wicked ali‘i of Ka‘ū.

103 According to Kamakau (1961:151) and Fornander (1969:240), Keawemauhili was killed before Keōua ravaged Kamehameha’s lands.were slain without justification by this un-loving ali‘i.

104 This sentence may be translated as follows: “Your spear only tingles in the side, O Mo‘o.”

105 Since no glottal stops appear in the original text, the phrase “ia keiki āu” could be translated as “your keiki.” The writer’s intent is unclear. He may only mean to indicate that this younger man whose actions were so cruel was yet a member of the family.

106 Striking the sea with a beach morning glory vine, pōhuehue, means to symbolically kill an enemy in the sea (Pukui and Elbert 1986:336).

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