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Lonoikamakahiki the chief

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Photo: Ku'ialuaopuna

Hawaiian Mythology

by Martha Beckwith

Yale University Press




Scanned at, April, 2005. John Bruno Hare, redactor. This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was not renewed at the US Copyright Office in a timely fashion as required by law at the time. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution accompanies all copies.

Lono-i-ka-makahiki is a younger son of Keawe-nui-a-Umi by his wife Haokalani. Reared at Napo‘opo‘o near Kealakekua in Kona district by his father's two prophets Hanna and Loli, he early becomes expert in the arts of war and of wrestling and learns to respect his father's gods. The old soothsayer Ka-wa‘amaukele at Kanokapa teaches him the art of competitive word play (ho‘opa‘apa‘a) so that he is soon able to outwit all his comrades.

At the death of his father, Kaiki-lani-wahine-ali‘i-o-Puna (The little heavenly chiefess of Puna), daughter of Keawe-nui's older brother, becomes the legitimate heir. Lono's older half-brother Kanaloa-kuaana is her husband. He tests Lono's skill by hurling forty spears at him at once, all of which Lono dodges. He therefore gives Kaikilani to Lono and the two rule the land.

Lono and Kaikilani (or Kaikilani-mai-panio, another wife of Lono) quarrel. Lono accuses her of infidelity and strikes her down (or kills her). Her relatives on Hawaii rise against him. He retreats to the court of Kakuhihewa at Kamooa, Kailua, on Oahu. Here he is treated with some contempt as a nameless wanderer, but in a succession of contests in arts with which he is unfamiliar or at a disadvantage he wins every bet by his skill in word play and his quickness of memory. Thus he learns in a single night a new name chant from a visiting chiefess from Kauai whose favors he has won at a game of kiln, and is able to pass it off as his own; succeeds in a fishing contest by punning on the names of the fish he is supposed to have caught; visits other islands and excites envy by his great fly brush named Eleeleua-lani made of feathers not to be had save on Hawaii; displays a calabash containing the bones of the warring chiefs of Hawaii subdued and slain by his father and chants their names; wins a wife; and in general displays wit and talent to the credit of the somewhat despised chiefly house of Umi.

After the death of Kaikilani (according to one version), he wanders half-crazed through the uplands of Kauai, deserted by all his followers but a single man named Kapaihi-a-Hilina, who follows him through all the hardships of his forest life, cares for his needs, and constantly observes the etiquette demanded toward a tapu chief, never even crossing the chief's shadow. When Lono eats bananas the guardian contents himself with the skins. Upon Lono's restoration to reason this man therefore is raised to the position of favorite, which he enjoys until jealous enemies accuse him to Lono of familiarity with the chiefess, Lono's wife. Banished from the court, he raises a chant in which he describes their wanderings together in such touching terms that Lono's affection reawakens. No reconciliation is however possible until the slanderers are put to death.

The invasion from Maui under the ambitious chief Kama-lala-walu (Son of eight branches) occurs during Lono's rule. Lono visits Maui with his younger brother and war leader Pupukea and the two carry on a contest of wit with Kama-lala-walu and his brother Makakui-ka-lani, who is as tall and slim as Pupukea is short and stocky. Observing the Maui chief's ambition for conquest, Lono sends pretended deserters to represent falsely the weakness of his own position, and thus lures Kamalalawalu into a raid upon the island in which the Maui chief is completely defeated, his army annihilated, and he himself slain. In spite of the disastrous result of this expedition, undertaken as it was against the advice of his wisest seers, the glory of Kamalalawalu's name remains undimmed. Chants are sung in praise of his glorious death and the island is called Maui-of-Kama because of his illustrious reign.

The last great name of succeeding chiefs on the Ulu line who ruled Hawaii before the historic period of Kalani-opu‘u, ruling chief at the time of Cook's arrival, and the rise of the Kamehameha chiefs, is that of Keawe called chief over the whole island (-i-kekahi-ali‘i-o-ka-moku). He had many wives and became, as the chroniclers say, "ancestor of chiefs and commoners." When he died, his bones were encased in the woven basket in which chiefs of high rank were worshiped. "Keawe returned and rested in the kaai" says the chant. 9

Contemporary with or somewhat later than Keawe of Hawaii was the rise to power of Ku-ali‘i (Ku the chief) of Oahu, said to have ultimately subjugated the whole group and been succeeded in historic times by his "son" Peleiholani. The Hawaiian chronologist records: "This chronology begins with a famous chief and ruler named Kuali‘i. He was called a God, one of supernatural power, a soldier, a runner, swift of foot. Five times he ran around Oahu in a single day. He loved Oahu alone, he did not care for any other country. He is said to have lived long, (until) he walked with a cane; four times forty years. and fifteen he lived, that is 175 years."

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