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Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Photo: Kuʻialuaopuna

Battle of the Maʻa at Hookio, Lanai

This story was told to me by Olohe Lua Likeke Paglinawan. We took a huakaʻi to Lanaʻi many years ago to examine this ancient battle between Hawaii and Maui. We wanted to see if the accounts in this battle were true pertaining to the use of the maʻa. Here is the moʻolelo.

At the death of Alapaʻinui, about 1754, a bloody civil war followed, the result of which was that Alapaʻi’s son Keaweopala was killed, and Kalaniʻōpuʻu, became the ruler of Hawaiʻi

Kalaniʻōpuʻu, at the start of his reign, made repeated attempts to conquer the neighboring island of Maui, which was under control of Kahekili. Kalaniopuʻu sailed and commanded a raid in the Kaupō district of Hana, Maui.

While Kalaniʻōpuʻu was at Hāna, he sent his warriors to plunder the people of Kaupo, Maui, and Kahekili was king of Maui at that time. When Kahekili’s warriors met those of Kalaniʻōpuʻu at Kaupo, a battle developed between the two sides. This battle was known as the Battle of Kalaeokaʻīlio; Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s army was defeated and he returned to Hāna, (which was under the rule of Hawaii chiefs at that time).

Kalaniʻōpuʻu seeking revenge, he again went to battle against Kahekili in 1776. This battle Ahalau Ka Piʻipiʻi O Kakaniluʻa was one of the bloodiest battles in history.

Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s army was wiped out there as they entered the sand dunes of Wailuku. Kalaniʻōpuʻu asked his wife, Kalola, to ask for peace from her brother Kahekili.

However, knowing that Kahekili would not favor Kalola his blood sister, Kalola suggested their son, Kiwalaʻo be sent instead. Kiwalao was of the highest bloodline and Kahekili welcomed Kiwalaʻo and peace returned between Hawaii and Maui for a short time.

Kalaniopuʻu soon planned again to ravage the lands of his brother in-law Kahekili. The next year, Kalaniopuʻu again attacked Kaupo and was driven away my the warriors of Maui. He then sailed his war canoes to Kahoolawe and destroyed the villages on that tiny island as Kahoolawe was under Kahekiliʻs rule as was Molokaʻi and Lanai island at that time.

Kalaniopuʻu next sailed on to Lahaina, Maui, thinking the people would not be prepared for his invasion. The chiefs and warriors of Lahaina resisted Kalaniopuʻu at the puʻu or fortified hill of Kahili, which was between Kanaha and Kauaʻula Valley.

Kalaniopuʻu sailed on to Lanaʻi to wage war on Mauiʻs territory. Kamehameha was at the age of 42 years about this time and was fighting under his uncle Kalaniopuʻu, who was the high chief of Hawaii. The old hawaiians at that time remember this raid on Lanai as that of Kamehamehaʻs and not Kalaniopuʻuʻs.

The battle was fought on the ridge line of Lanaʻihale at the fortifed hill of Hoʻokio. This was a fortress of rock was where the chiefs and warriors of Lanai were gathered. Hoʻokio, is in the upper region of Maunalei gulch was the refuge place for Lanaiʻs people in the days of old. It is a narrow ridge in the center of a valley. The only way to attack this ridge was to use the maʻa or slings, but it was a great distance to cover by sling and stone. ( the sones had to span a valley to get to this ridge that was a fortified structure). The invading Hawaii forces sent hundreds of men to Lanaiʻs shores to gather smooth water worn stones in order to sling these pohaku over the valley and on to the fortress of Hookio. Hundreds of Warriors lined up on the facing ridge of Lanaʻihale and only the best sling throwers could reach Hoʻokio ridge where the Lanai forces were stationed. The one and only path that led to the ridge of Hoʻokio fort was sealed off by the Hawaii warriors. TheLanai warriors were unable to escape this ridge of Hookio to get provisions of water and food due to the access trail being closed and protected by Hawaii, all those on Hoʻokio died in the onslaught of sling stones as they could not escape and thirst set in. After the battle of Hoʻokio, the entire island of Lanaʻi was slaughtered by the Hawaii warriors. In the forests of Pomaʻi people of Lanaʻi fled and hid. One warrior of Lanaʻi was captured, tied and was taken before Kalaniopuʻu alive. While he was facing Kalaniopuʻu, who was standing next to some high cliffs, the man asked to be untied as he was not feeling well. Seeing that this prisoner could not escape, as he was surrounded on three sides by the Hawaii chiefs and at his back was a steep rocky cliff, his ties were loosened and his hands set free. As soon as the captive was freed he jumped over the cliff and survived without injury in his escape. This lua man was named Kini and he was an expert in cliff jumping. He was trained in his lua art and skilled in diving over rocky cliffs. He jumped over the pali of Kukaemoku in Iao, Oluwalu, Maui. Because of his great knowledge of cliff jumping his life was saved.

Kalaniopuʻu stayed on Lanaʻi and the lands soon suffered from starvation due to so many Hawaii warriors. It was said they ate their full of Kupala ( the roots of a fern) and became ill as this was all the Hawaii warriors had to eat. This war on Lanai was named Kamoku-hi ( which is the name for the maʻi or sickness that comes from a diet of eating too much of this Kupala fern) . Kalaniopuʻu sailed his warriors on to Kaanapali, Maui where they ate the sweet, fat kalo of Honokohau. From Honokohau, Kalaniopuʻu went to Wailua on Mauiʻs north end and this is where Captain Cook saw him in November 1778.

In the recreation of this story, we gathered some nice round, smooth stones from the shores of Lana'i and braided our maʻa the night before our journey up to Lanaʻihale at Maunalei. As you see in the photo above, the maʻa needed to be extended about 2 feet in length in order to reach the far distance across the valley to Hoʻokio ridge. The distance, if I remember, looked to be very far and unreachable with the maa's we made the evening before we got here. Our people tried with all our efforts to reach the stone cliffs of Hoʻokio but fell short. After adding the extension to increase the aweawe of our maʻa. I was able to hear the stones as they hit the pali of Hoʻokio. I could not see the actual contact that the stones made on the pali, as it was too far to see, but we could just see the stones clear the valley gap and hear the cracking sounds as the smooth water worn stones smashed into the sides of Hookioʻs carved out cliff walls. The estimate distance to cross the valley may be 700 -800 yards ( some say it was it under 1/4 mile in distance and we are not sure, as i donʻt think its that far! ) Lanaʻihale ridge, where the person is in the photo standing, is slightly higher in elevation than Hoʻokio. We proved that the story is factual in that the Hawaii warriors could and did over take Hoʻokio fortress with the use of the maʻa. This again is also due to Hawaii forces cutting off the only trail that leads to the ridge of Hookio. This action caused the Lanai forces to die of thirst as they were trapped for some weeks there and over come by Hawaiiʻs sling stone warriors. It has been over 200 years since this battle took place here. We are the decendents of these Hawaiians who gathered here. We remember them in our art and we remember how are ancient wars took many lives and caused many hardships, especially for the makaainana or the people of the land.

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