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Manahune / Menehune

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Photo: Ku'ialuaopuna



Martha Beckwith pg. 321


LUA-NUʻU (Second Nuʻu, or cycle of time), called also Kane-hoa-lani, Lalo-kona, Pua-Nawao, Ku-ma-menehune, Ku-hooia, Ku-iiki, is placed as the twelfth name from Nuʻu on the Kumuhonua genealogical line. Lake (Kupulupulu) and Pili are his sons. Maui, Kanaloa and Kaneapua, Waha-nui, and Makaliʻi are the mythical names belonging to his period. The names Pua-Nawao and Ku-mamenehune refer to him as ancestor of the Nawao and Menehune people. Ho-oia is an epithet applied to one who confirms the truth (oiaiʻo), i-ike to one who is keen-witted (ike). The name of Lalo-kona and the wife’s of Honua-po-ilalo are said to be derived from his migration “to a remote country called Honua-ilalo to the south.” The name Kane-hoa-lani, Malo equates with Kane-wahi-lani and calls him a god who rules the heavens.It is the name given to the phallic stones called “stones of Kane” set up at the place of family worship, where prayer and sacrifice are offered to an ancestral deity for help in time of need. A legend is told of Lua-nuʻu to explain why the highest peak rising cone-shaped from the ridge back of Kualoa on the north side of Oahu has the name of Kane-hoa-lani and the two lower peaks those of Ku-pulupulu and Pililua-nuʻu.

The god Kane orders Lua-nuʻu to perform a sacrifice, and as he finds no suitable place for this offering in the mountains of Kahiki-ku where he is then living, he is told to travel eastward until he finds “a sharp-pointed hill projecting precipitately into the ocean.” He sails in his canoe with “his son Ku-pulupulu and his servant Pili” to the ridge back of Kualoa on Oahu and here performs the sacrifice.

On the Kumuhonua genealogy Lua-nuʻu becomes the father by a slave wife of the Nawao (The wild people), a Mu race living on bananas in the forest (ka-lahui-mu-ai-maia-a-laau-haeleele), and described by Fornander as “a people of large size, wild, [who] did not associate with kanakas (men). … Hunting people (lahui alualu holoholona) … numerous in former times, but now … disappeared.” The Nawao are ancestors of the Mu (silent) and Wa (shouting) people listed as Namu and Nawa among the aumakua,4 and all three are invoked as Ku-a-mu, Ku-a-wa, Ku-a-wao by those who go to the upland forest for tree felling and by the multitude at the ohia-ku procession when bringing down a tree for the god of a newly dedicated heiau. Any man who comes into the path of such a procession may be seized for sacrifice.5 A sorcerer’s invocation to such an aumakua runs:

O Ku-a-mu, go thou to [name of victim],Enter him, head and tail,Let him become your bread and meat,Return not again until he is devoured of worms. By his chiefess wife Mee-haku-lani (Mee heavenly lord) or Mee-hiwa (-black), Lua-nuʻu becomes the father of the Menehune people, “a numerous and powerful race from whom the present race of Hawaiians is descended.” The older branch of the Menehune are descended from Aholoholo, a wanderer, the younger branch from a son called Ka-imi-puku-ku or Kinilau-a-Mano (Many descendants of Mano). There are twelve “sons” in all of whom Luanuʻu becomes ancestor (equated by Fornander with the twelve sons of Toho [Toko] in Marquesan legends7 from two of whom, Atea and Tane, the Marquesans count descent). From one of these twelve descends Hawaii-loa the navigator.

It is evident that we have here to do, in the legend of Luanuʻu and his forest-dwelling, banana-eating progeny, with that period of early settlement noted in the chant of Kumulipo as directly following the dawn of day (ao) and the appearance of Kane, Kiʻi, and Kanaloa, when the ancestors dwelt in the uplands on the edge of the damp forests favorable to the planting of bananas, which were their principal food—the period expressed in the names “Vast expanse of forest“ (Moanaliha-i-ka-waokele) and “Dwelling in cold uplands of the first chiefs of the dim past” (Ku-polo-liili-aliʻi-mua-o-loʻi-po). During this period and under Lua-nu’u, according to Fornander, the use of incision was introduced,8 and from such a reference to the rite as occurs in the Palila legend it is at least possible to infer that incision began during this time to distinguish the Kane people from the “wild” and was regarded as a necessary step to becoming a marriageable member of the ancestral stock.

Ku-pulupulu, the son of Lua-nuʻu, is Kolo-i-ke-ao or Laka on the Kumuhonua genealogy and the name itself refers to the wild fern growth of those damp forests of which Laka is patron. The word pili is a term applied to an indirect relation, a sort of hanger-on. The Kumuhonua genealogy descends from Pili to Papa, the Kumuuli from Laka to Wakea, husband of Papa.

On the side of mythology, Stokes thinks that Wakea’s infidelity to Papa in the affair of Hoʻohoku is a misplaced episode belonging to Tiki in the south islands and should be related of Kiʻi, who appears twelve generations down the line on the Wakea genealogy as father of Ulu and Nana-ulu from whom descend the high chiefs of the Hawaiian group. It is in fact likely that the whole Kumuhonua line down to Wakea is a mere threefold duplication of the Wakea line down to Kiʻi. Kolo-i-ka-po and Kolo-i-ke-ao, born to Kumuhonua’s wife after the two were driven out of their home by Kane’s bird, duplicate Haloa the taro plant and Haloa the son, born from the unfortunate affair of Wakea with Hoʻohoku, from which, however, sprung the line of ruling chiefs. If Kumu-honua as the fallen chief who brought death into the world is the equivalent of Wakea, then the “death” for which he was responsible is not natural death, which to a Hawaiian could occur only in extreme old age when a man “withered up and flattened out like a lauhala mat,” as they express it, but to premature death as a punishment for transgression against a law of the aumakua. Wakea’s sin was not one of incest, but of breaking the tapu upon intercourse with women during the tapu of the god. This it was that caused Kane’s anger and drove the race down to death. This may be the explanation of the “excellent laws” made by Kumuhonua, alluded to by Kamakau, which were the cause of his being driven out of the land. They were laws of Kane and as such any infringement was punishable by death.

Stories of the Mu and Menehune forest livers, who are placed by genealogists among the early generations of Kumuhonua’s offspring, also include a legend of migration, but generally not pictured as compulsory, away from their home on this group to some mysterious other world of the gods. Besides this tradition of migration there have gathered a number of traditions about these Mu and Menehune people, most of them from Kauai and Oahu, all of which represent the two (or three) groups as former inhabitants of the islands, sometimes as aborigines but more often as introduced from abroad and living in upland forests. The Menehune are called “human” as distinguished from the “wild” Nawao people, most of whom they are said to have exterminated. To the Menehune, or sometimes to the Mu, is ascribed the building of old heiaus, fishponds, and other stonework found about the island. The legend of the Kauai chief Ola is connected with these people, and that of the Oahu chief Ka-hanai-o-ke-akua, the ward of Kane and Kanaloa at Waolani.

It is hazardous to attempt to untangle from these legends the actual interweaving of fancy and fact which has gone to their shaping. The “wao” is that part of the mountainside inhabited by spirits alone and it is tempting to regard the Mu and Wa of the Nawao family as nature spirits represented in the silent and noisy living creatures who dwell there, like the rat and the gecko (moʻo) who play so important a part in Hawaiian aumakua legends. But these aumakua creatures had their human offspring as well from whom Hawaiian families count descent, and it is possible that certain short, stocky family types of very primitive culture were referred to such ancestry. Hawaiian families count the Menehune as their ancestral spirits and helpers, and these little people play the part of benevolent godparents to their descendants. On the other hand, Hawaiians speak of eepa spirits who are tricky rather than helpful to mankind. A family story told in Kau district on Hawaii illustrates the benevolent activities of the Menehune spirits and many examples occur in old legends like those of Laka, Hainakolo, and Kawelo.

Who do you think these people were and from where did they come?

Old stories say that there were once over half-a-million Menehune living on Kaua'i. Gradually, they went into hiding and disappeared. Sometime around A.D. 1500, Umi, king of the Big Island, supposedly conducted a census of his realm. Collecting all his people on a plain near Hualalai, he instructed each person to deposit a stone on a pile representing his district.

The first population census in historical times was undertaken in Wainiha Valley, Kauaʻi, in 1920. A careful census of the valley counted more than 2,000 people, sixty-five of whom claimed to be menehune.

This census is the last known official report of their existence. The word Manahune is found in all pacific island peoples from Samoa, Rapa Nui and Tahiti and there are many people that say these Manahune have always always being the first people to have settled on their islands, even before their race ever arrived by navigation. In Marquesas the word Manahune is not used but the term Makainana is used to refer to the original people of their islands. Many Hawaiians of old trace their lineage to these makaainana from Marquesas or as these islands are traditional called Te Henua Enata, Land of Men! In Hawaii we call the people makaainana. The Hawaiian dictionary defines the word maka.ʻāi.nana

n. Commoner, populace, people in general; citizen, subject. Cf. lunamaka ʻāinana. Lit., people that attend the land. (PNP matakainanga.) There is a possibility the makaainana came to Hawaii from Te henua enata a few thousand years ago as part of the earliest migrations, and their ancient history as how they arrived may be forgotten in some families and passed down from memory in to other families.

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