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May 12, 2019 by Peter T Young

It is said there once was a very large fishpond extending from Ka‘elehuluhulu, adjoining the region of Mahai‘ula (now part of Ke Kahakai State Park,) running south past Ka-Lae-O-Keāhole to as far south as Wawaloli on the boundary of ‘O‘oma (the beach park within the Natural Energy Laboratory,) in North Kona on the Big Island. This is the present area of Kona International Airport. This fishpond, known as Pā‘aiea, was reportedly three-miles long and a mile-and- a-half wide; it was the large fishpond of Kamehameha. The pond was so large that fishermen going to Kailua and further South, often took a short cut by taking their canoes into the pond and going across, thus saving time against the strong sea breeze and current from Keāhole. There was a famous saying about this fishpond: O na hoku o ka lani, o Pā‘aiea ko lalo – The stars are above, Pā‘aiea below. The reason for this saying was because of its exceptionally large size. Within the wide waters of this pond were numerous little islets that were compared to the stars in the heavens. “Pā‘aiea was a great pond almost like the ponds of Wainanalii and Kiholo. In the olden days, when the great ruling chiefs were living, and when these fish ponds were full of the riches of Awa, Anae, and Ahole, along with all sorts of fish which swam within.” “During that time, Konohiki were stationed, and he was the guard of the pond that watched over the pond and all things, as here we are talking about Pā‘aiea Pond which was destroyed by lava and became pahoehoe lava which remains today”. “In the correct and trues story of this pond, its boundaries began from Kaelehuluhulu on the north and on the south was at the place called Wawaloli, and the distance from one end to the other was 3 miles or more, and that was the length of this pond …” “… and today within these boundaries, there are a number of pools [lua wai loko] remaining during this time that the writer is speaking before the readers of the Hoku.” “The great Overseer [Konohiki] who cared for this pond was Kepaalani, and everything fell under him: the storehouses [hale papaa] where poi and fish were stored, the halau for the fishing canoes, the nets and all thing, and from him the fishermen and the retainers of the court would obtain their sustenance.” “And at this time when the pond was destroyed by lava, Kamehameha was residing in Hilo for the purpose of waging war, and this war was called Kaipalaoa …” “… during this war, Namakehaikalani died and was offered atop the Heiau of Piihonua in Hilo; and this was Kamehameha’s final war, and his enemies lived quietly without uprising once again. “ “This was the time between 1798 until 1801, and it is said that this is when lava destroyed this pond that was full of riches, and turned it into a land of pahoehoe lava which remains to this day.” (Hoku o Hawaii, 2/5/1914) Pā‘aiea Pond was reportedly destroyed by the 1801 eruption and lava flow from Hualālai. Two parts to a story relate to the cause of its destruction. The first suggests that one day an old woman appeared at the large canoe shed of Kepa‘alani (the konohiki or overseer of the pond.) Another man, Kapulau, asked: “Malahini?” (newcomer) She replied “I am a Kama‘āina, not exactly a total stranger, but I do not often come down here to the seashore. Living in the restful uplands, and hearing that there was plenty of fish down at the beach, I hastened down to see if the fishermen would give me a bit of palu.” The konohiki replied, “”No! You cannot have fish, palu, shrimps or anything. It all belongs to the Chief, and only the Chief can give them to you.” “Well! That is all. I now return to the uplands without even a grain of salt.” The old woman stood up and turned around to go. When she came to Kapulau’s house, she was urged to remain and have something to eat. She consented and sat down. When she had finished her meal, Kapulau gave her a fish. The old woman stood up, and before starting to go, she gave these instructions to her host: “Tonight, you and your wife put up a lepa (kapa cloth on end of a stick, as used to mark a taboo area) back of your house and here on your fence.” They followed her instructions. In the second part of the story, this same old woman soon afterwards appears at a village called Manuahi which was on the Western slope of Hualālai, and where two girls who figure in this story, lived; they were roasting bread-fruit. The name of one of these girls was Pahinahina and the name of the other was Kolomu‘o. As soon as the old woman saw then she inquired: “For whom are you roasting your bread-fruit?” Kolomu‘o answered: “I am roasting my bread-fruit for La‘i. That is my God and the God of my parents.” Then the old woman turned and asked Pahinahina, the other girl, “and for whom, pray, are you roasting your breadfruit?” “For Pele,” Pahinahina replies. Then they ate the breadfruit. Then the old woman asked Pahinahina: “Where is your house?” Pahinahina told her they shared a house, but the families lived on respective end of it. The old women then told her, “When your parents come home, you tell them to put up a lepa on the end of your part of the house.” They complied. That night, the people living at the beach saw an eruption on Mountain of Hualālai and as they saw the lava flow they realized that the old woman whose request for fish, palu and shrimps had been refused, could have been no other than the Goddess Pele. The lava came and destroyed the great fishpond of Pā‘aiea, dried its water and filled and covered it with black rocks. However, two places were spared. There remained only that very small portion of the fishpond, close to Ho‘ona (within the Natural Energy Laboratory property at Keāhole Point.) Also, the area where Pahinahina and her family lived was left untouched, and this open space bears the name of Pahinahina to this day (it is below the old headquarters at Hu‘ehu‘e Ranch). It is said that because of this event that the lands of Manuahi came to be called Ka-ulu-pulehu (the roasted breadfruit (‘ū is short for ‘ulu,) and this has been shortened to Ka‘ūpūlehu.

Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupiʻo


Pele Asks for Fish at Pa‘aiea

The persons who preserved the story of Kamehameha had various thoughts. For instance, some of the ancient people said that Kamehameha uttered that famous motto on the battlefield of Moku‘ōhai. We do not argue about where that most famous motto was uttered, but the most important thing is that Kamehameha spoke it to encourage and strengthen his warriors who were entering into the bitter water of the battlefield.

It is a saying not to be forgotten by the generations of Hawai‘i to come until the very last Hawaiian man. It is appropriate to be used to strengthen the companions of ‘Ahahui Kamehameha [a social organization] who speak the name of the famous conqueror of Hawai‘i Nei. Some new matters will be issued concerning the life of this most famous warrior of the Pacific.

However, most of the historians of Kamehameha are unanimous in believing that Kamehameha uttered his motto at a place close to the sand dunes seaward of Wailuku and just before that famous Battle of the Dammed Waters of ‘Īao. It is also called the Battle of Falling Off the Cliff (Kaua o ka Hā‘ule Pali),192 where the army of Kalanikūpule, the son of the mō‘ī Kahekili of Maui, was slaughtered. This matter has been discussed with the readers of Ka Hoku o Hawaii, and we shall seek some of the matters pertaining to Kamehameha which have become legend amongst the ancients of Hawai‘i.

Here is a tale told by the ancients of the extinguishing of lava by Kamehameha at a certain place in Kekaha in the waterless Kona districts. (Forgive the writer for again publishing this which has been previously issued by the writer of the Three Mountains.)193

During the period in which Kamehameha ruled, perhaps it was the year 1801, Kamehameha appointed Kepa‘alani as konohiki to catch fish at Hale‘ōhi‘u at Kekaha, North Kona, Hawai‘i, while Kamehameha was staying at North Kohala fishing for flying fish (mālolo).

Kepa‘alani’s status at Kekaha was as a konohiki pālauhulu. In other words, on the days of fishing, he would gather all the various kinds of fish caught for the ali‘i. The most famous fish, perhaps, of Kekaha were the ‘ōpelu and the aku.

On the evening of a certain one of these days, when all the fish were reserved for the ali‘i, some canoes landed which were full of aku. Because of the great number of canoes in the aku fishing fleet, the black sands of Hale‘ōhi‘u were covered over with fishing canoes.

It is said that inland from that black sand, from that place called Ho‘onā to Mahai‘ula, there was a large fishpond named Pa‘aiea. There was a famous saying about this fishpond: “The stars of the heaven are above and Pa‘aiea is below.”194 The reason for this saying was its really large size. Within the wide waters of this pond were numerous little islets which were compared to the stars in the heavens.

On the evening of that day on which the people were gathering the catch of the ali‘i from those numerous canoes, a weak, bent, old woman appeared. She was in such a weak condition as to be pitied. She came before the konohiki Kepa‘alani who was charged with gathering fish for the ali‘i ‘ai moku Kamehameha.

When the old woman came before Kepa‘alani, she uttered the words customary at such a time: “E Kalani ē, a little fish for me. I ask for forty thousand (kini), four thousand (mano), for me.” Kepa‘alani answered rather rudely: “You shall not have the fish of the ali‘i, you haughty woman who comes here to ask for the fish of the ali‘i.” “And if I lack for the forty thousand and the four thousand, then how about four hundred (lau) for me?” Kepa‘alani replied “You shall not have a lau of fish from the ali‘i.” “And if I do not get four hundred, then forty (ka‘au).” “You shall not have any fish at all, old woman who is eyeing the fish of the ali‘i, it is all for Ali‘i Kamehameha.”

“And if not forty, then give me four (kāuna), and the rest shall be for the ali‘i.” “You shall not have the fish of the ali‘i, you shall not have the large part nor a kāuna,” was Kepa‘alani’s rude reply.

‘Auhea mai ‘oe, e Kalani, if I shall lack for a kāuna of fish, then just give me one, and I shall return inland with one fish.” “Hear me, old woman who persistently asks for fish, you shall have none of the fish of the ali‘i. Let your ear hear this refusal.” Then that old woman went and leaped on the bow of a canoe and saw it was full of silvery aku, and turning back, asked for the last time: “E Kalani ē, perhaps I shall lack for the flesh of the aku, so then my final request to you is for the base of the fish-gills, and let the ali‘i Kamehameha have the flesh of the fish.”

Pele Sends Her Fire to Pa‘aiea

Then Kepa‘alani replied in a harsh, unyielding voice: “Have you no hearing in your ear? You shall not have fish nor even the base of its gills. I am very irritated at your numerous requests for the fish of the ali‘i.” At that moment the old woman turned and glided upland, ascending the pili grass kula of Pu‘ukoa‘e and then down below Puio. She went to a place close to Hu‘ehu‘e in South Kohala.

When she arrived at a place close to a certain cave, she saw some young women broiling breadfruit. The breadfruit had cooked, and they were spearing it when the old woman said to them: “Only one and there is life. The breadfruit is cooked.” One of the young women replied rather rudely: “My breadfruit is kapu, it is not to be eaten by any other person.” The supernatural old woman asked the girl: “And if your breadfruit is kapu, to whom is it freed (noa), girl?” “My breadfruit is kapu and it is freed to La‘anui.”

Then the old woman asked again: “And if it is freed to La‘anui, who is La‘anui?” “A strong god is La‘anui, one of power, he is the god of my parents,” replied the girl with a truthful voice.

“Ah, La‘anui is truly a god, your breadfruit is truly consecrated and freed to your god. And what of your breadfruit, you girl over there, to whom is your bread-fruit freed?” “My breadfruit is also kapu and it is freed to my god who is Pele.” When that remarkable old woman who had arrived at the evening of life (luahine hiki ahiahi) heard this, she said to her: “If indeed your breadfruit is freed to Pele, yours is the one to be eaten.” When that girl heard these words by the old woman, she did not retort saucily, but she prepared the breadfruit well and then divided it and gave a portion to the old woman.

Then the old woman said: “I shall not eat your breadfruit because your good-heartedness has satisfied me—you eat your breadfruit. And where are your parents?” “They have gone up to do farming and will soon return as it is evening,” replied that good-hearted girl.

“When your parents return, then you must say that an old woman had arrived here at our place and commanded you with these words: while we are sleeping the next night or so, we must all lie together on one side of the house, and that girl and her parents must lie on the other side. Also, you must set up flags around your house.” After the old woman finished speaking, she immediately disappeared. The girls left the place where they had broiled the breadfruit and returned to their house. When they got there, the parents of the good-hearted girl arrived, and she told them all the old woman had directed them to do.

When the parents heard their daughter, they wailed loudly and said to her: “You really escaped death from our god as it could have been none other than Pele, the god in whom we believe. What a pity for your companion, she will die because she was stingy toward Pele with her breadfruit.”

Pele Consumes Pa‘aiea

Without delay, after the parents spoke they set up numerous flags around their house and carried out the command to lie all on one side of the house which was the side toward Kohala. That night a fire was seen burning above on Hualālai, and the fishermen at sea thought that it was a fire made by the fishers (lawai‘a) of petrel birds (‘uwa‘u) in the upland. On the next night, the lava emerged at a place very close to where the government road is at this time, a little to the north of Hu‘ehu‘e which was also close to the house of those girls.

When the fire arrived at that place, the house where those people slept was partially consumed. The end of the house where the family of the good-hearted girl slept was spared, and the side where the stingy girl lay was consumed by the fire, and the girl and her whole family died because she had been stingy with her breadfruit, saying that only her god La‘anui was free to eat it.

Then the lava began to flow very fast, and was perhaps half a mile seaward of the place where the good-hearted girl’s family had escaped, it heaped up in a large cone. When the volcanic cone became quite high, the lava ran down three miles toward the sea. That cone lies there until this day and is called Puhiapele by the kama‘āina of Kekaha.

When the lava flowed seaward, it came very close to that great fishpond of Pa‘aiea and began to fill up the deep places where so many fish had swum. The lava continuously consumed the ali‘i Kamehameha’s great fishpond with its immeasurable flow.

Kamehameha Makes Offering to Pele

When that ali‘i who had been stingy with fish for the old woman saw that the ali‘i Kamehameha’s fishpond was being filled up with pāhoehoe, he hastened to Kamehameha at Kohala to ask him to come and see the rage of Pele who was continuing to consume the good things of the great fishpond of Pa‘aiea. When Kepa‘alani arrived at Kohala, he found Kamehameha farming in the upland of Hālawa.

Kepa‘alani told of the damage to the fishpond of the ali‘i by the lava flow and that he had come for Kamehameha to go and extinguish that earth-consuming fire. When Kamehameha heard his konohiki, he bowed his head and then sighed, turned and said to him: “Ea, e Kepa‘alani ē, perhaps you were stingy with fish to one who asked of you?” “Yes, I withheld the fish. A certain weak old woman came and asked persistently for fish, and I did not give her any as I thought the fish was kapu for you, O ali‘i.

“And did she not ask you to give her the base of the gills of the aku?” “She did so ask, but I did not give it to her,” replied Kepa‘alani.

“Yes,” replied Kamehameha to Kepa‘alani: “You were very wrong in withholding fish from that old woman. The proper action for you to have taken was, when she asked for fish, you should have given it all to her. You did not act with aloha toward that request of the old woman. Did you not think, perhaps, that when the weak person asked you for fish, which you hard-heartedly withheld, it was only a matter of getting more fish? But now, the fishpond of the ali‘i has been entirely ruined, and will never come again.

‘Auhea mai ‘oe e Kepa‘alani, that old woman was none other than Pele, the ali‘i wahine of the famous pit of Halema‘uma‘u. We are seeing the fishpond being consumed by lava. Well, what of this. We must just go and attempt to appease the fury of that rock-eating woman of Kīlauea. If she listens, then in the future the fishponds of the ali‘i will escape. Indeed, if the right time for appeasement has passed, then the ali‘i will be deprived of that famous fishpond of Kekaha.” With these words, Kamehameha abruptly ordered his strong paddlers to take him and Kepa‘alani to the Pa‘aiea fishpond which was continuing to be consumed by the goddess Pele. They sailed on Kamehameha’s swift canoe to Kekaha to a place near the fishpond.

When they arrived there, he witnessed with his own eyes the spread of the pāhoehoe lava over about nine miles of that great fishpond. The only part that remained was next to Ho‘onā, and that remainder was being voraciously consumed by Pele.

It is said that when Kamehameha saw the destruction of his famous fishpond, his tears fell because of his genuine regret at this loss. The lamentations of the maka‘āinana were heard, but it was useless because the woman of Kīlauea was eating up the wealth of that fishpond.

Kamehameha went close to where the lava was eating, and he sacrificed (uhau) a solid-black pig. The people saw the lava flow immediately diminish and become extinguished. Some old people who lived beyond that time were eyewitnesses to Kamehameha’s action which truly stopped the lava. It became a legend told by some people of this race, about how the rage of the woman of the famous pit of Halema‘uma‘u was appeased.

There remained only that very small portion of the fishpond close to Ho‘onā and it was a place beloved by the ali‘i who came afterwards. Kauikeaouli [Kamehameha III] stayed there once when he had sailed to Kona for a rest. He stayed for some days at Ho‘onā and bathed in the water which remained of that famous fishpond which his father had so greatly regretted losing.

Perhaps we might not believe in the extinguishing of the lava flow by Kamehameha’s sacrifice of the pig, nevertheless, Kamehameha did come to that place, and he truly did sacrifice that solid-black pig, and the fire of Pele was truly extinguished. Some old people who had seen those actions by Kamehameha at that fishpond of Pa‘aiea lived until the time when Christianity arrived in Hawai‘i. One of them was the great-grandfather of John H. Wise.

S. Kalilikāne’s great-grandfather, who was the father of Ka‘elemakule, who lived to be one hundred years old, was another person who had gone to work on the walls (kuapā) of that famous fishpond of Pa‘aiea. While Ka‘elemakule’s father was working on the fishpond, Ka‘elemakule was born. His mother threw him into the stream (kahawai). However, he escaped death because he was still enclosed in the placenta, and helping hands quickly rescued him.

192 This battle was also referred to as ‘Uwa‘u Pali, the Clawed Cliffs.

193 This probably alludes to John W.H.I. Kihe who wrote for Ka Hoku o Hawaii using the pen name ‘Ohu Ha‘aheo i nā Kuahiwi ‘Ekolu. His account of the destruction of Pa‘aiea Fishpond appeared in the February 5 through 26, 1914, and May 8, 1924, issues of Ka Hoku o Hawaii.

194 Pukui essentially repeats Desha’s explanation for this saying (Pukui 1983:275, #2515).

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