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Keawe-Kaʻiana-a-Ahuula

Updated: Nov 3, 2022



In the year 1787 the foreign ship named Nootka arrived, commanded by Captain Meares. This was the ship which took Ka‘iana to China. Perhaps three Hawaiians besides Ka‘iana were taken with him. When this Kaua‘i chief arrived at that land [China], he was taken about by the foreigners living at Canton. Ka‘iana was garbed in his helmet and feather cloak, so cleverly made by the Hawaiians of ancient times. Ka‘iana was tall and of truly distinguished appearance. The majestic appearance of this Hawaiian ali‘i was very much admired by those who saw him, and many of the foreigners made friends with him.

In China, Ka‘iana learned how to use the large weapons of war, such as the cannon, and some other foreign weapons. After Ka‘iana had stayed with his friends at that place in China for a while, he was returned to Hawai‘i Nei. He had been given many gifts by the foreigners, that is, cattle, sheep, turkeys, and also some orange and lemon trees as well as some other foreign plants, because of their admiration of Ka‘iana’s imposing appearance. He also returned with some foreign weapons, gunpowder, and muskets (pū kau po‘ohiwi).

Perhaps Ka‘iana thought of returning with these good gifts to the land of his birth on Kaua‘i. However when that ship left China, it did not return directly to Hawai‘i, but sailed on a trading mission to various places of South America, and also traded with the Spaniards on the west coast of North America. Because of the wanderings of this ship, all the animals given Ka‘iana died and the fruit trees dried up. The only gifts remaining to him were those weapons given him: two cannon, a number of muskets, and gunpowder. Those weapons were kept until the very time Ka‘iana arrived at Hawai‘i. He heard of the bad feelings of King Kā‘eo of Kaua‘i toward him and because of this news, he stopped at Kealakekua Bay. On the arrival of the ship, Kamehameha was staying at a place close by, perhaps at Kailua. When Kamehameha heard of the arrival of this foreign ship with Ka‘iana on board, he quickly arranged for twelve double canoes covered with feather cloaks to adorn his trip to see Ka‘iana (a i uhi nani ia kēia mau wa‘a a ke ali‘i Kamehameha me nā ‘ahu‘ula). The ancestors of this high chief who was born on Kaua‘i had come from Hawai‘i, and the account of the historian Kamakau gives this information concerning Ka‘iana.

Ahu‘ula was the father of Ka‘iana and the son of Keawe, the mō‘ī ‘ai moku of Hawai‘i before the time of Kalani‘ōpu‘u. Ka‘iana’s mother was Kaupekamoku, a woman of very high rank. Perhaps Ka‘iana’s father and his wife had gone to live on Kaua‘i and Ka‘iana was born on Kaua‘i. In another version it was said that Ka‘iana was born on Hawai‘i and his parents went to Kaua‘i when he was very young. His hoahānau, Nāmakehā and Nāhi‘ōle‘a, were born on Kaua‘i and Ka‘iana found his wife on Kaua‘i.

Ka‘iana also had some prominent hoahānau living on Hawai‘i at that time, such as Ka‘ianaukupe, the father of Kaikio‘ewa, the governor of Kaua‘i during the reign of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. Ka‘iana also had other hoahānau living on Hawai‘i and in the court of Kamehameha, such as Kalanikūaiwa, and also some ali‘i amongst the men living under Kamehameha.


Kamehameha had known Ka‘iana and had admired this imposing ali‘i. KPerhaps this was the reason for honoring him with the twelve double canoes and for his offer of hospitality. When Kamehameha saw the foreign weapons Ka‘iana had, he made up his mind to ask him to stay with him in the land of his royal grandfather Keawe.

Captain Douglas had become a good friend to Ka‘iana, and he told of his idea of assisting him by fetching his wife from Kaua‘i and also his chiefly hoahānau, by having them return with him to Hawai‘i. This made Ka‘iana happy and he sailed to fetch his family at Kaua‘i. However before he sailed for Kaua‘i, he gave those foreign weapons to Kamehameha. These gifts by Ka‘iana to Kamehameha were of great assistance to Kamehameha’s warriors and were of great importance later when his warriors were trained in the use of these foreign weapons. Ka‘iana also became an instructor to some of Kamehameha’s warriors, aided by those foreigners [John] Young and Isaac Davis, the grandfather of Miss Lucy Peabody who now lives in Honolulu.

Another reason for Ka‘iana’s strong decision to live in the land of his ancestors from ancient times were those good words uttered by Kamehameha: “Here is the land,


here also are the men and here also are our chiefly companions. Let us live here in Hawai‘i Nei. Do not return to Kaua‘i, as we have heard of the bad disposition of our chiefly relative toward you.” These were words which Ka‘iana could not mistake as to the good intent of Kamehameha in detaining him.

Ka‘iana did indeed fetch his chiefly hoahānau, Namakaeha [Nāmakehā] and Nāhi‘ōle‘a, and also his wife, from Kaua‘i, aided by that good-hearted captain. They lived under Kamehameha until the very time of that alienation between them because of the ali‘i wahine Ka‘ahumanu, and when Ka‘iana rebelled and deserted Kamehameha and was killed at the Battle of Nu‘uanu.

Kamehameha dwelt at Kealakekua in those days after Ka‘iana had sailed to Kaua‘i, preparing himself and his court with the weapons to make war on Kalanikūpule at Maui. In these days of preparation at Kamehameha’s court, Kekūhaupi‘o was instructing the young chiefs in the ancient martial arts of the land, and his extra time was filled with training Kamehameha’s armies. Kekūhaupi‘o was a man fully involved in the activities of those days, and his efforts in preparing the warriors of his chiefly foster son were well supported by his makua kāne hoahānau.

In those days of preparation for this important work by Kamehameha, the ship Eleanora commanded by Captain Metcalf (Meka) arrived. This was a sealing ship from the north and was accompanied by the schooner Fair American commanded by the young son of Captain Metcalf, only eighteen years of age.

In the winter of the year 1789, these ships arrived in Hawai‘i, and some days later this ship sailed and arrived at Honua‘ula on Maui. On board the ship Eleanora was John Young, later called ‘Olohana by the Hawaiian people, who was later one of Kamehameha’s very strong helpers in his conquest of the kingdom.

On the arrival of this ship at Honua‘ula, Kalola, formerly one of the wives of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, was living at Olowalu with her new husband Ka‘ōpūiki, and they were rulers of that district. When Kalola’s husband Ka‘ōpūiki heard of the arrival of the foreign ship at Honua‘ula, he desired to sail there to barter for nails with the foreigners. He also wanted to purchase red cloth which was greatly desired by Hawai‘i’s chiefs. He also wanted to purchase gun powder for some of the chiefs of Hawai‘i well understood the value of those things in fighting with their enemies.

Desha S, Frazier FN. Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupiʻo. Kamehameha Schools Press; 2000. Pages 228-230.

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