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Imaikalani Chief of Kaʻū

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Photo: Ku'ialuaopuna

Images Of Old Hawaii May 14, 2016 by Peter T Young


Although he was blind, his hearing was keen. He also had two “birds” (guards) who give warning when anyone approached. He reigned in the time of ʻUmialīloa; ʻĪmaikalani was the first chief of Kaʻū who is said to have control over parts of Puna. ʻĪmaikalani was famed for his stroke that never misses. Famous for his strength and skill in warfare, several chiefs were killed by him in battle. He had a left thrust and a right thrust which were terrible, and if he threw a long spear to the right or to the left hand there was a roaring as of thunder, and flashes as of lightning, and a rumbling sound as of an earthquake; and if be twirled his spear at his back the dust arose in volumes as whirlwinds. (Fornander) ʻUmialīloa feared ʻĪmaikalani. Whenever a bird cried, there was a man. ‘Where is his club?’ Imaikalani asked. ‘On the right side.’ ‘A left stroke will get him.’ When the other lashed he missed, but when the blind man lashed, his opponent was struck from head to abdomen. (Kamakau) ʻUmi ordered Omaokamau to go and fight Imaikalani. When Omaokamau heard this he proceeded to the home of Imaikalani. When Omaokamau was drawing near the home of Imaikalani the birds sounded a note. At this note of warning from the birds ʻĪmaikalani said to his men: ‘Say, there is a man.’ The men said: ‘There is nobody.’ ʻĪmaikalani remarked: ‘Watch out.’ While the two men were watching, Omaokamau soon after appeared. The men then said to ʻĪmaikalani: ‘Yes, there is a man, he is coming, and he carries a war club in his hand.’ ʻĪmaikalani said: ‘That is Omaokamau, one of the warriors of ʻUmi; he is well versed in the art of throwing the spear; his main strength is in his right arm, his left is weak; watch him and see when he twirls his war club.’ When Omaokamau came up to the men he stood and twirled his war club. When the two men saw this, they said to ʻĪmaikalani: ‘The man is twirling his club.’ (Kamakau) When ʻĪmaikalani heard the report of his two men, he stood up and began twirling his club. Omaokamau struck his club to his right, but somehow ʻĪmaikalani warded off the blow by the use of his club and the first blow aimed by Omaokamau missed. They again twirled their clubs and after a time Omaokamau struck to his left, but again his blow was warded off and he again missed ʻĪmaikalani. After this second miss Omaokamau turned around and returned to Umi. When he came up to ʻUmi, Omaokamau said ‘The eyes of ʻĪmaikalani are both sightless but his thinking powers are faultless. I fought him for a time, but he warded off my blows so skillfully that I was afraid of him and so I came back.’ While Omaokamau was reporting to ʻUmi, Koi then started off and went as far as the place where the birds were stationed. When he heard the birds give the note of warning, which was also heard by ʻĪmaikalani, ʻĪmaikalani sent his two men to go and see who it was. When the men came out they saw a man, so they reported to ʻĪmaikalani: ‘It is a large man with dark skin and the hair on his head is curly.’ ʻĪmaikalani replied: ‘That is Koi; he is also very skillful in the use of the war club, but he is strong in the left arm and weak in the right; he is just like Omaokamau.’ When Koi came up to his opponents he began twirling his war club; after attempted strikes, Koi saw that he could not get the best of ʻĪmaikalani and he turned around and returned to ʻUmi – telling him, ‘No warrior can stand before ʻĪmaikalani”. While Koi was giving his account of the encounter, Piimaiwaa spoke up to Koi: “The bones of a youngster-like you could not be old enough; here are the bones that are well matured.” But, he, too, was unable to best his opponent. After the lapse of some tens of days, Omaokamau met a man who asked ‘Why is it that ʻĪmaikalani has not been slain by your people?” Omaokamau answered: ‘I don’t know why.’ The man said: ‘He can be slain, it can be done easily. It will not take much of an exertion.’ The man (one of ʻĪmaikalani’s kahili bearers) then told Omaokamau, ‘The birds which sit on the outside are his eyes, and it is by them that he is warned of the approach of any person. On hearing this warning he prepared himself for the conflict.’ ‘The men with him are also his eyes; they are the ones who tell him when the enemy is near and this gives him a chance to use his wits and to defend himself. But if the birds and the men are first killed then ʻĪmaikalani can be slain, he will not escape.’ When Omaokamau heard this from the man, he stood up and started off to carry out the advice given him. When he came up to the place where the birds generally sat he crept up cautiously and struck them with his club, killing them. He then turned to ʻĪmaikalani and poked him in the stomach with the point of his club, killing him. In explaining to ʻUmi how he killed ʻĪmaikalani, Omaokamau said “to kill ʻĪmaikalani, you must first kill the birds and the two watchmen, who are ʻĪmaikalani’s guards and who give him warning of the approach of any person. Kill the birds and the men, then you will be able to kill ʻĪmaikalani. That is how I was able to kill him.” (Fornander)

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I like this story of Imaikalani, being that he was blind and he was feared, he must have been an incredible person during that time in our history.

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