Cecilia Kapua Lindo: The Spirit of 'Ohana and the Polynesian Voyagers (1980)
Herb Kawainui Kāne: Children of the Long Canoe (1996)
Sam Low: Sea of Islands (2000)
Dennis Kawaharada: Voyaging Chiefs of Kāne‘ohe Bay (1999)
Polynesian Migration and Voyaging Stories, edited by Dennis Kawaharada
Introduction, Voyaging Chiefs of Havai'i, with a Bibliography (1994)
Ru and Hina – Tahiti
Hiro – Tahiti
Tafa‘i – Tahiti
Tangiia and Tutapu – Tahiti
Rata – Tuamotu
Aka – Marquesas Islands
Pepeiu – Marquesas Islands
Ru – Cook Islands
Te Erui Ariki – Cook Islands
Ruatapu – Cook Islands
Hawai‘iloa – Hawai‘i
Mo‘ikeha – Hawai‘i
Pa‘ao – Hawai‘i
Wahanui – Hawai‘i
Kupe – Aotearoa
Hotu Matua – Rapanui
Dennis Kawaharada: The Discovery and Settlement of Polynesia (1999)
Dr. Harold St. John and Kuaika Jendrusch: Plants Introduced to Hawai’i by the Ancestors of the Hawaiians (1980)

Hawai‘iloa and the Discovery of Hawai‘i

Samuel M. Kamakau and Z. Kepelino, rrom Fornander, Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk-lore, Vol. VI (Honolulu: Bishop Museum, 1916-1917)

The Discovery and Settlement of Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i Loa, or Ke Kowa i Hawai‘i, was one of the four children of Aniani Ka Lani.1 The other three were Ki, who settled in Tahiti, Kana Loa, who settled the Marquesas, and Laa-Kapu. The ocean was called Kai Holo-o-ka-I‘a (Ocean where the fish run). Only two islands existed and both were discovered and settled by Hawai‘i Loa. The first he named Hawai‘i after himself; the second Maui, after his eldest son. (The other islands were created by volcanoes during and after the time of Hawai‘i Loa. [See note 5.]

Hawai‘i Loa and his brothers were born on the east coast of a land called Ka ‘Aina kai melemele a Kane (the land of the yellow or handsome sea of Kane).2 Hawai‘i Loa was a distinguished man and noted for his fishing excursions which would occupy months, sometimes the whole year, during which time he would roam about the ocean in his big canoe (wa‘a), called also an “island” (moku), with his crew and his officers and navigators (poe ho‘okele and kilo-hoku).

One time when they had been at sea for a long time, Makali‘i, the principal navigator said to Hawai‘i Loa, “Let’s steer the canoe in the direction of Iao, the Eastern Star, the discoverer of land [Hoku hikina kiu o na ‘aina]. There is land to the eastward, and here is a red star, hoku ‘ula (Aldebaran), to guide us, and the land is there in the direction of those big stars which resemble a bird.” And the red star, situated in the lap of the goats [a constellation], was called Makali‘i after the navigator. Some other red stars in the circle of the Pleiades were called the Huhui-a-Makali‘i (“Cluster of Makali‘i”).

So they steered straight onward and arrived at the easternmost island of the Hawaiian chain.3 They went ashore and found the land fertile and pleasant, filled with ‘awa, coconut trees, and so on, and Hawai‘i Loa, the chief, gave that land his name. Here they dwelt a long time and when their canoe was filled with vegetable food and fish, they returned to their native country with the intention of returning to Hawai‘i-nei, which they preferred to their own country. They had left their wives and children at home; therefore, they returned to get them. When Hawai‘i Loa and his men arrived at their own country and among their relatives, they were detained a long time before they set out again for Hawai‘i.

At last Hawai‘i Loa sailed again, accompanied by his wife and his children. He settled in Hawai‘i and gave up all thought of ever returning to his native land. He was accompanied on this voyage by a great crowd of men, steersmen, navigators, shipbuilders, and others.4 Hawai‘i Loa was chief of all these men. He alone brought his wife and children; all the others came singly, without women, so he was the progenitor of this nation. On their voyage here, the Morning Star (ka Hoku Loa) was the special star the y steered by. And Hawai‘i Loa called the islands after the names of his children and the stars after his navigators and steersmen. [The island of Maui was called after Hawai‘i Loa’s first born son. The island of O‘ahu was called after Hawai‘i Loa’s daughter, and her foster parent was Lua, and hence the name O‘ahu-a-Lua. Kaua‘i was called after Hawai‘i Loa’s younger son; his wife’s name was Waialeale, and they lived on Kaua‘i, and the mountain was called after her because there she was buried. And thus oth er islands and districts were called after the first settlers.]5

After Hawai‘i Loa had been some time in Hawai‘i-nei, he made another voyage to find his brothers to see if they had any children who might become husbands or wives to his own. They left from Lae o Kalae, in Ka‘u, and followed the stars Ke Ali‘i-o-Kona-i-k a-Lewa [Canopus] and the stars of Hoku-kea o ka Mole Honua [“Star-cross of the bottom of the earth,” or Southern Cross] to Tahiti and other islands to the south. On Tahiti, he found his brother Ki who had settled there and called the island after one of his own names. They sailed together southward (i ka mole o ka honua), and found an uninhabited island, which Hawai‘i Loa gave his name, and another smaller island, which he named for his daughter O‘ahu.

When they had finished their business here, they returned to Hawai‘i, to Lae o Kalae, steering by the Hoku-‘Iwa stars and the Hoku Poho ka ‘Aina. On this return voyage, Hawai‘i Loa brought Tu-nui-ai-a-te-Atua, the first born son of his brother Ki, who bec ame the husband of Hawai‘i Loa’s favorite daughter O‘ahu. The couple had a child called Kunuiakea, who was born at Keauhou in Puna, Hawai‘i. Puna was a fertile and fine land and it was called Puna by Kunuiaiakeakua [Tu-nui-ai-a-te-Atua] after his own birt hplace, Puna-Auia, in Tahiti.

Kunuiakea, on both father’s and mother’s side, became a chief of the very highest rank (kapu loa). From him sprang the race of chiefs here in Hawai‘i (welo ali‘i) and from Makali‘i sprang the race of common people (welo kanaka). The first has been kept se parate from the most ancient times, and the second has been kept separate from the time of chaos (mai ka Po mai). But the priestly race (welo kahuna) was one and the same with the race of chiefs from the beginning.6

Hawai‘i Loa’s Descendants

Kunuiakea’s son Ke Lii Alia, and his grandson Kemilia, were born at Tahiti along with the Aoa, the royal tree; but his great grandson, Ke Lii Ku (Eleeleualani), was born on Hawai‘i.

Eleeleualani was the grandfather of Papa-Nui-Hanau-Moku (w). His wife was called Ka Oupe Ali‘i and was a daughter of Kupukupunuu from Ololoimehani (supposed to be either a name for the island of Nu‘uhiwa, or of a place on that island). They had a son call ed Kukalani‘ehu, whose wife was Ka Haka-ua-Koko, the sixth descendant from Makali‘i, and they two were the parents of Papa-Nui (w).

Papa-Nui-Hanau-Moku (w) first married Wakea, who was the son of Kahiko (k) and Tupu-rana-i-te-hau (w), who was a Tahitian woman. Papa’s first child with Wakea was a daughter called Hoohokukalani.

Papa, having quarreled with Wakea on account of their daughter [i.e., Wakea slept with their daughter], went to Tahiti and there she took to Te Rii Fanau for husband and had a son called Te Rii i te Haupoipoi. She afterwards returned to Hawai‘i under the name of Huhune and had a son with Waia and called him Hinanalo. Domestic troubles now made her crazy and she returned to Tahiti where she had another son with Te Ari‘i Aumai, who was said to be the fourth generation of the Tahiti chiefs, and she called hi s name Te Ari‘i Taria, and he became chief over that part of Tahiti called Taharu‘u.

Because she was the mother of chiefs, both here and in Tahiti, she is called Papa Nui Hanau Moku [“Great Papa, the Mother of Islands”]. She is said to have been a comely, handsome woman, very fair and almost white.7

Papa is said to have traveled eight times between Tahiti and Hawai‘i, and died in a place called Waieri, in Tahiti, during the time of Nanakelihi the fifth descendant from her and Wakea.

Wakea was a wicked and bad man. He instituted the bad and oppressive kapu, such as that men and women could not eat together; that women could not eat red fish, hogs, fowl or other birds, and some kinds of bananas. These kapu were put on to spite and worry Papa, on account of her growling at and reproaching him for his wickedness. Wakea also departed from the ancient worship and introduced idol worship, and many people followed him, because they were afraid of him.

Other Travels of Hawai‘i Loa

Hawai‘i Loa was born on the eastern shore of the land of Kapakapaua-a-Kane. One of Hawai‘i Loa’s grandchildren was called Keaka-i-Lalo (w) whom he married to Te Ari‘i Aria, one of his brother Ki’s grandchildren, and he placed them at Sawai‘i [Samoa?], whe re they became the ancestors of that people, Sawai‘i being then called Hawai‘i-ku-lalo [Hawai‘i rising downwind].

Afterwards Hawai‘i Loa revisited Tahiti and found that his brother Ki had forsaken the religion in which they were brought up, that of Kane, Ku and Lono, and adopted Ku-waha-ilo [maggot-mouthed Ku], the man-eating God (ke akua ‘ai kanaka), as his God. Aft er quarreling with his brother on this account, Hawai‘i Loa left Tahiti and brought with him Te Ari‘i Apa as a husband for Eleeleualani, his mo‘opuna (grandchild) From these two was born Kohala (w), a girl, from whom the Kohala people sprang.

Afterwards Hawai‘i Loa went again to Tahiti and Hawai‘i-ku-lalo (Sawai‘i) and held a meeting with those peoples at Tarawao, but finding that they persisted in following after the God Ku-waha-ilo and that they had become addicted to man-eating, he reproved and repudiated them, and passed a law called “he Papa Enaena,” forbidding anyone from Hawai‘i-Luna (upwind Hawai‘i) from ever going to the southern islands, lest they should go astray in their religion and become man-eaters.

When Hawai‘i Loa returned from this trip he brought with him Te Ari‘i Tino Rua (w) to be a wife to Kunuiakea, and they begat Ke Ali‘i Maewa Lani, a son, who was born at Holio in North Kona, Hawai‘i, and became the Kona progenitor.

After this Hawai‘i Loa made a voyage to the westward, and Mulehu (Hoku Loa) was his guiding star. He landed on the eastern shore of the land of the Lahui-makalilio (the people with the turned up, oblique eyes, i.e., Asians). He traveled over it to the nor thward and to the westward to the land of Kuahewahewa-a-Kane, one of the continents that God created, and thence he returned, by the way he had come, to Hawai‘i nei, bringing with him some white men (po‘e keokeo kane) and married them to native women (a h o‘omoe i ko‘onei po‘e wahine). On this return voyage the star Iao was his guiding star to Hawai‘i.

After this Hawai‘i Loa made another voyage to the southern and eastern shore of Kapakapaua-a-Kane and took with him his grandchild Kunuiakea in order to teach him navigation, etc. When they had stayed there long enough they returned and Kunuiakea brought with him “he mau ha‘a elua” (two stewards), one called Lehua and the other Nihoa, and they were settled on the two islands which bear their names, as konohiki (land stewards) and put under the charge of Kaua‘i, the youngest son of Hawai‘i Loa.

When Hawai‘i Loa returned from the conference with his brother Ki and his descendants, his wife Hualalai bore him a son who was called Hamakua, and who probably was a bad boy (keiki ‘ino‘ino), for so his name would indicate. Ten years later, Hualalai died and was buried on the mountain of Hawai‘i that has been called after her name ever since.

After Hawai‘i Loa was dead and gone, in the time of Kunuiakea, came Tahitinui from Tahiti and landed at Ka-lae-i-Kahiki (the southwest point of Kaho‘olawe, a cape often made by people coming from or going to Tahiti.) Tahiti-nui was a mo‘opuna of Ki, Hawai ‘i Loa’s brother, and he settled on East Maui and died there.

The descendants of Hawai‘i Loa and also of Ki (which are one, for they were brothers) peopled nearly all the Polynesian islands. From Ki came the people of Tahiti, Borabora, Huahine, Taha‘a, Ra‘iatea and Mo‘orea [the Society Islands].

From Kanaloa [brother of Hawai‘i Loa] were peopled Nukuhiwa, Uapou, Tahuata, Hiwaoa and those other islands [the Marquesas Islands]. Kanaloa married a woman from the man-eating people, Taeohae [Taiohae, on Nukuhiwa], from whom spring those cannibals who l ive on Nukuhiwa, Fiji, Tarapara, Paumotu [the Tuamotus], and the islands in western Polynesia--so is it reported in the Hawaiian legends and prayers--but the people of Hawai‘i and the Tahiti (properly speaking) did never addict themselves to cannibalism.


This English version of the Hawai‘i Loa story is from Fornander, Vol. VI, 278-281. Another version entitled “Hawaii-nui,” in Hawaiian and English, appears in Kepelino’s Traditions of Hawaii (Honolulu: Bishop Museum, 1932, 74-77). The authenticity of the Hawai‘i Loa tradition has been questioned:

The legend seems to be a summary of statements contained in many other Hawaiian legends and genealogies. At the time it was recorded in writing, many Hawaiian had become Christianized and were familiar with Biblical history. The temptation to interpret c ertain incidents similar to those in Biblical history as being in fact the Hawaiian rendering of Biblical events seems to have influenced the translators. This unfortunate condition has more or less discredited the ancient legends on which the legend of Hawaii-loa is based, branding them, in the opinion of many modern students as doctored accounts, influenced by Christianity. (Cartwright 105)

Both Kamakau and Kepelino, the authors of the tradition of Hawai‘i Loa, were Chrisitian converts The tradition includes the notion that Hawaiians worshipped one God formed by a trinity of gods (Kane, Ku, and Lono). It also contains an account of the creat ion of the first man (Kumuhonua) out of clay and the first woman (Lalo Honua) out of the rib of the first man. Kanaloa, angry that he was denied ‘awa, rebelled against God and later seduced the first woman, after which the first man and woman broke the la w of Kane and fell from grace. The Hawaiian Noah in this tradition is called Nu‘u; he survived a flood in a large vesssel with a house on it; after the flood subsided, he landed on top of Mauna Kea, etc.

Cartwright points out, however, that “many of the persons mentioned [in the genealogy] are and have been accepted by Hawaiians of chieftain rank as their ancestors.” He concludes that the tradition is authentic, though the Hawai‘i in the story is actually Ra‘iatea (formerly called Hawaiki) rather than the Big Island of Hawai‘i. He offers no evidence for this conclusion.

Randie Fong notes “the Hawai‘ii Loa portion [of the tradition of Hawai‘i Loa] bears no resemblance to any Biblical account. The names, places, settings, and plots give us no reason to question their age and authenticity. Further, Patience Bacon of the Bis hop Museum remembers kupuna being interviewed by Tutu Puku‘i. The kupuna spoke of Hawai‘i Loa as their ‘reality,‘ and this was somewhere in the 1920’s and 30’s. Mrs. Bacon feels that the tradition is sound.” (Unpublished commentary on Hawai‘iloa; the name has been used for a Hawaiian voyaging canoe that will retrace in 1995 an early settlement route to Hawai‘i from the Marquesas Islands.)

1. The story begins with the genealogy of Hawai‘i Loa for many generations, from the first man, Kumu Honua, and his wife Lalo Honua, who lived in a land called Kalana i Hauola, down to Aniani Ka Lani, Hawai‘i Loa’s father and Ka Mee Nui Hikina, his mother.

2. Kepelino’s version: Hawai‘i-nui sailed from a land called Kahiki-Honua-Kele.

3. Kepelino’s version states that the canoe made landfall at the western end of the archipelago: “First he saw the island of Kaua‘i, but he kept on sailing and found O‘ahu and then the islands of the Maui group, then, seeing the mountains of Hawai‘i, he k ept on until he reached that island. There he lived and named the island after himself. The other islands from Maui to Kaua‘i were named for his children and for some who sailed with him. Here are the names of this children: Maui was the eldest, O‘ahu yo unger, and Kaua‘i the youngest. These names he gave to the three large islands, but the smaller islands were perhaps named for those who accompanied him.”

4. Kepelino’s version: Hawai‘i-nui sailed to Hawai‘i with his eight steersmen: Here are their names: Makali‘i, a famous steersman and great farmer; Iao; Kahiki-Nui; Hoku ‘Ula [perhaps the star Aldebaran]; Maiao; Kiopa‘a [“fixed,” one name for Polaris, the north star; also called Hokupa‘a]; Unulau; Polohilani [perhaps the star Schedir in Cassiopeia]. And because of their skill in observing the stars, each one called the star he observed after his own name. One steersman, Kahiki-Nui, has a land district on Maui named after him.

5. Another passage in Fornander says “When Hawai‘i Loa arrived here, there were only the two islands of Hawai‘i-Loa and Maui-au-Ali‘i; but during his time and close afterwards the volcanoes on Hawai‘i and on Maui began their eruptions; and earthquakes and convulsions produced or brought to light the other islands” (279).

6. Earlier in the story we are told that only Hawai‘i Loa came with a wife and children so he was “the special progenitor of this nation” (278). Kepelino concludes, “Hawai‘i-nui was perhaps a chief or perhaps not; he was a man of high standing (ke kanaka ko‘iko‘i), as I see it. He had a granddaughter Ku-ka-lani-ehu, who lived in ancient times.” A note at the end of the Fornander version states, “In the first age, from Hawai‘i Loa to Wakea, the royal authority and prerogative were not very well defined. The chiefs were regarded more in the light of parents and patrons (haku), than as moi and ali‘i-kapu, although they enjoyed all the honor and precedence due to their rank. This state of things was considerably altered by Wakea, his priest and successors, yet even so late as the time of Kanipahu, who refused the government, it is evident that the royal authority was not well settled in the olden times (‘aole he ano nui o na ali‘i i ka wa kahiko loa ‘ku)” (281).

7. See Kamakau, Tales and Traditions (133-135) for one version of the story of Papa and Wakea. Papa and Wakea are considered by many as the first female and male ancestors of the Hawaiian people: “Wakea, from whom all Hawaiian genealogies stem as the anc estors of the Hawaiian people, ‘both chiefs and commoners,‘ is regarded as a man in Hawaiian tradition, not as a god as in southern groups [of Polynesia]” (Beckwith 294).