Voyaging Chiefs of Kāne‘ohe Bay
Dennis Kawaharada, from Storied Landscapes (Honolulu: Kalamakū, 1999)
Kāne‘ohe Bay is surrounded by some of the most well-watered lands in Hawai'i and some of the most beautiful mountains in the world: the Ko'olau Rangepeaks, two to three thousand feet high, joined by walls of sheer green cliffs. Ka Moa'e (the ENE trade winds) sweeps warm moist air into the mountains and clouds form along the summit. Rainwater has cut steep gullies into the cliffs giving them their distinctive wrinkled appearance. When it rains, dozens of thin silvery waterfalls run down the vertical gullies; half obscured by rain and mist, the waterfalls seem to pour directly from the clouds.
The names of ahupua'a around the bay celebrate the life-giving water that collects in the mountains and flows through the rolling hills and flatlands into the Bay: Waiakane ("Water of Kane"), Waiahole ("Water [of the] ahole fish"), Waihe'e ("Slippery water," or "Water [of the] octopus"). Water was so highly prized in ancient Hawai'i, it was synonymous with wealth and life. Such "Wai-lands" were coveted by chiefs and priests; in one version of the story of the pig-god Kamapua'a, the priest Lonoaohi, who saved Kamapua'a's life, asked for all the wai-lands of O'ahu; and the generous (or foolish) pig-god granted his wish. Kane'ohe Bay is named for the ahupua'a and stream on its southern end: Kane, the god of water, and 'ohe, bamboo, one of his kinolau (bodies), which flourishes on the rainy windward sides of the islands (Abbott 15; Handy and Handy 205-206).
On March 8, 1975, below the peak of Kānehoalani ("Kāne, Heavenly Companion") and the broad cliffs of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa ("Sacred Section of Haloa"), in Hakipu'u near the border of Kualoa at the north end of Kane'ohe Bay, a 62-foot replica of a double-hulled voyaging canoe slid down a coconut log ramp and floated calmly at sea.
Cliffs of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa and the peak of Kānehoalani. Photo by Kapulani Landgraf
The canoe was named "Hōkūle‘a," "Star of Gladness," after Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern sky, and a zenith star of Hawai'i. Hōkūle‘a had been built by the Polynesian Voyaging Society to sail an ancient migration route between Hawai'i and Tahiti, celebrated in traditional stories.
This launch site was chosen because of the voyaging traditions associated with Kualoa, where the voyaging chief La'amaikahiki ("Sacred One from Tahiti") lived, and Hakipu'u, the home of a voyaging chief named Kaha'i. Other famous voyaging chiefs such as Paumakua lived in the lands around Kane'ohe Bay. Even Laka, whose story is told throughout Polynesia, found a home in the Bay; he is said to have ruled over Ko'olaupoko, the windward district of O'ahu (Beckwith Hawaiian Mythology 264), living in Waiakane and dying either in Kualoa or at Ahua-a-Laka.
On the southwestern side of the barrier reef enclosing the lagoon of Kane'ohe Bay is a mile-long sand bar which becomes an island at low tide. When we were kids, my father would anchor there on our way back from fishing trips around the bay to let us swim and play in the shallow waters; today entrepreneurs transport tourists to the sand bar to rent them jet skis, wind-surfing boards, and snorkeling equipment. On modern maps the sand bar is labeled "Ahu o Laka," translated "Altar of Laka" (Pukui et al Place Names). An alternate name, 'Ahua a Laka, "Sand Bank of Laka," is suggested in a chant about Laka (Kamakau Tales 145-146):
[Laka] died at Kualoa.
To Mokoli'i, to Mokuahukele ["Island Mud Heap"],
To the pooled sea at 'Apua [a fishpond of Kualoa], the calm sea;
To Makami there in Wai'ahole,
To Hale'ula [Laka's house site] there in Waikane,
To Hakipu'u, to Kualoa,
To sea, to Ahua-a-Laka ['Ahua-a-Laka],
Laka-a-Wahieloa was taken;
Taken by Lu'anu'u [Laka's son].
By Lu'anu'u he was taken to the island
To the ancestral homeland, Maui
The chief Laka was born in Kipahulu, Maui (or some say Hilo, Hawai'i) (Kamakau Tales 135-136). The chant above records his son Luanu'u's journey to transport his bones back to the sacred burial site in 'Iao, Maui, the island of Laka's birth and the home of his ancestor 'Aikanaka, of Hana. The son of Laka and Hikawaolena, a chiefess of Kaua'i, Lu'anu'u grew up in his mother's homeland and came to O'ahu when his dying father summoned him (Tales 29).
The chant, seemingly a mere listing of stops in a journey of the spirit home, is a verbal map which may have also served as a device for remembering narratives explaining the significance of each of these places in the life of Laka. (Hawaiian chanting is an art of allusions to places.) Kamakau, in another version of the story, says Laka died at Ahua-a-Laka: "When Lu'anu'u came, he took Laka to Waikane and shortly before his death to Ahua-a-Laka where Laka died. That place is called by his name to this day" (Tales 29).
Laka and Luanu'u appear 33 and 34 generations after Papa and Wakea, in the genealogy of 'Ulu, from which ruling chiefs of Hawai'i Island and Maui trace their ancestry:
1. Wakea and Papa
14. Ki'i and Hinako'ula
15. 'Ulu and Kapunu'u
29. 'Aikanaka and Hinahanaiakamalama
30. Hema and Luamahekoa (or Ulamahehoa)
31. Kaha'i and Hinaulu'ohi'a
32. Wahieloa and Ko'olaukahili
33. Laka and Hikawaelena
34. Luanu'u and Kapokulaiula
(Kamakau Tales 135-147; cf. Malo 238 and Kepelino 191-192. Papa and Wakea are the Earth Mother and Sky Father of Polynesian religion According to a widely accepted Hawaiian tradition, they are the first ancestors of the kanaka maoli, standing at the beginning of genealogical time. In one chant, they are said to have given birth to the islands of Hawai'i, Maui, and Kaho'olawe [Beckwith Hawaiian Mythology 302]. Kamakau, on the other hand, presents a genealogy in which Papa and Wakea, born at Waolani, in Nu'uanu, O'ahu, appear twenty-seven generations after the first man, Kanehulihonua ["Man made from earth"], and the first woman, Keakahulilani ["Shadow changed by heaven"]. These two "progenitors of the people of Hawai'i and of all those who dwell in the islands of the Pacific" were created by Kane, Lono, and Ku, the main Gods of the Hawaiian pantheon at the time of European contact. The three Gods made "a model of the lands of the earth" in Kane'ohe Bay between Kualoa and Kane'ohe; when they saw there was no chief to rule over all things, they drew a man in the red-black soil "on the eastern flank of Mololani [a rise near Heleloa Beach on Mokapu Peninsula], facing the sunrise and near the seashore"; then they chanted the figure to life: "Hiki au; e ola!" ["I have come; live!"] The first woman was created from the shadow of the first man [Kamakau Tales 130-2]. Kamakau's localized creation story contains both Polynesian and Biblical elements.)
The five descendants of 'Aikanaka and Hinahanaiakamalama down to Laka and Luanu'u are associated with voyaging. The theme of their stories is the importance of maintaining or restoring chiefly mana through contact with an ancestral homeland. Mana is the creative and procreative power of the Universe: it makes plants grow, fish and animals multiply, the human population increase; it makes human projects, such as building houses, canoes, lo'i (kalo ponds), or fishponds successful. It is embodied in "specific gods, spirits, individuals, rites, or objects. Mana was exhibited in persons, in power, strength, prestige, reputation, skill, dynamic personality, intelligence; in things in efficacy, in 'luck'; that is in accomplishment. These qualities were not mana; they were the evidences of mana, which was itself but the focussing and transmission of the potency of nature" (Handy Polynesian Religion 26).
A ruling chief was at the apex of Hawaiian society and had the greatest concentration of mana on earth because he was closest to the gods. His mana came from the gods from whom he was descended. He was "the means by which supernatural efficacy, mana, is conveyed to society at large. The chief is mediator, receiving and transmitting the offerings of the people to the ancestral and tribal deities. It is he who, on behalf of his people, recites the appropriate ritual formula for securing rain, bountiful harvests, success in fishing, or victory in war" (Kirch Evolution 37). His mana was revealed in great achievements and the wealth and productivity of his lands: "The wresting of food and material goods from nature was a fundamentally religious process precisely because the natural world was the realm of the gods. The chiefs occupied the central role in the ritual regulation of production" (38).
Because the ali'i embodied the mana of his land and people, only their lengthy genealogies were recorded in memory. Kirch points out that "descent and control went hand in hand" (257). The chiefly right to control lands was established through genealogy. Kamakau notes that "the children of the maka'ainana were taught only the names of their fathers, mothers, and grandparents" (Tales 80).
Chiefly genealogies record the flow of mana from the first man and woman who received the original mana from the gods, down through the generations. Narratives accompanying the genealogies tell how the ali'i maintained their mana by worship of and obedience to the gods, who required fair and just rule, and by marriage to someone of like rank; how they increased their mana through marriage with a person of higher rank; how they lost mana when they disobeyed the gods and behaved badly or committed wrongs against the people and thus, became separated from the divine source of mana.
The voyaging stories of Hawai'i record the flow of mana through ties between the new homeland (Hawai'i) and the old (Kahiki Tahiti, or any foreign land). The voyaging canoe was the means for transporting this mana, embodied in persons or objects, from one island to another.
The story of each chief begins with his birthplace, where the mana of the gods entered him. (A form of biographical chant first composed in Hawai'i for Kapawa, 26 generations after Papa and Wakea, records the specific places where the caul, placenta, and navel cord were deposited). If the place of a chief's birth was different from the home of his maternal ancestors, the father had to return to that home to retrieve a birth-gift embodying the mana of these ancestors. (Tracing ancestry through mothers was more certain than tracing it through fathers.) The gift was something sacred, identified by the color red ('ula). Thus, in the fifth month of his wife's pregnancy, 'Aikanaka's son Hema sailed from Hawai'i to the home of his wife's parents in Kahiki to get a birth-gift for his son Kaha'i the 'apo'ula, a sacred wreath of red feathers, or the 'ape'ula, possibly a sacred red kapa cloth used to wrap an image of the god Ku (Kamakau Tales 94). Later in this cycle of voyaging, Kaha'i's son Wahieloa sailed from Hana, Maui, to Punalu'u in Ka'u on Hawai'i Island, the home of his wife's maternal ancestors, to search for a birth gift called "Ala-koiula-a-Kane" as a toy for his son Laka. (Thrum Hawaiian Folk Tales 112; according to Pukui-Elbert, "Ke ala ko'i'ula a Kane" is "The rainbow-hued trail of Kane," an allusion to death; the term in Thrum is untranslated.)
If mana was somehow held captive in a distant place, it had to be retrieved. On his voyage to Kahiki to get his son's birth-gift, Hema was captured by some fishermen, and his eyes were gouged out to be used as fish-bait (Thrum More Hawaiian Folk Tales 71). A chant records that Hema was "seized by the 'a'aia bird" (a legendary bird in the form of the 'a, or booby; figuratively Hema "went crazy"; or the 'a'aia could be a symbolic reference to fishermen or a god of fishermen, as this seabird fishes in the open ocean and was a guide to finding fish.) Hema's eyes were said to be at 'Ulupa'upa'u, in Kahiki, where Kaha'i went to retrieve them, treading the "ke ko'i'ula a Hema" "the rainbow-hued trail of Hema" (Kamakau Tales 142). Eyes were an embodiment of mana, or more specifically knowledge, 'ike, which was based on both literal and figurative "seeing." Pukui points out that one form of ritualized cannibalism to gain mana was to scoop out and eat the eyes of an enemy (Nana i ke Kumu 151).
Kaha'i went to retrieve his father Hema's mana; at the same time he revealed his own mana through a successful voyage which is celebrated in chant (Kamakau Tales 142):
The rainbow was the pathway of Kaha'i;
Kaha'i ascended, Kaha'i pushed on,
Kaha'i tr[o]d the rainbow-hued trail of Hema;
The eyes of 'Alihi [Kaha'i's brother] gazed in bewilderment.
Kaha'i tr[o]d along the reflected light,
The man like a canoe on the reflected light;
Above was Hanaiakamalama [the Southern Cross];
This was the pathway to seek the father of Kaha'i,
To travel over the deep, dark ocean,
That roars at Halekumukalani.
After his search for his father's eyes, Kaha'i returned to Hawai'i and settled in Ka'u on the island of Hawai'i, where he eventually died. (In Tahitian tradition, the mana of Tafa'i [Kaha'i] came from his mother Hinatahutahu, an underworld goddess. He descended into the underworld Po to find his father, whose eyes had been scooped out by the gods. Tafa'i brought his blind father home and took care of him [Henry Ancient Tahiti 552-565]).
Kaha'i's grandson Laka sailed from Maui to Hawai'i Island to find and retrieve the bones of his father Wahieloa, who had been captured and killed by a cannibal woman named Luahine Kaikapu, his bones deposited in a cave called Kaualehu, at Koloa, in Punalu'u, Ka'u. (Bones, like eyes, were associated with mana; specifically, mana resided in the bones, the most durable body parts, after a person's death; bones were hidden for fear that they would be stolen by an enemy and made into fish hooks.) Laka tricked Luahine into opening the cave, then killed her, found his father's bones, and brought them back and buried them at Papa-ulu-ana, Kaumakani, in Kipahulu, Maui. Laka's canoe was also left at this site (Beckwith 263-264).
Laka received help from his ancestors to carry out his quest Laka's canoe was built by his divine relatives Mokuhali'i and Kupa'aike'e, gods of canoe-building; and when he went to get his father's bones he was accompanied by seven makua ("parents," "benefactors," "providers"), including father Searcher (makua 'I'imi), who found the secret cave; father Prop (makua Poupou), who kept the mouth of the cave open, and father Stretch (makua Kiko'o) who reached into the cave and retrieved the bones (Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology). These makua personify ancestral abilities, specific kinds of mana. Apparently, after his successful quest to retrieve his father's bones, Laka moved to O'ahu, settled in Waiakane (Photo: Landgraf 23), and left his name on the sand bar in Kane'ohe Bay.
Variants of the stories of Hema, Kaha'i, Wahieloa, and Laka have been recorded throughout Polynesia in Tahiti, Tuamotu, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Mangaia (Cook Islands), the Marquesas, Vaitupu (Ellice Islands), Pukapuka, Samoa, Tonga, and the Santa Cruz Islands (Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology 259-275). These stories of four generations of chiefs either originated in Hawai'i and spread elsewhere; or perhaps were brought to Hawai'i by voyaging chiefs from the South Pacific and localized by Hawaiian genealogists. In the Tahitian tradition, Kaha'i, or Tafa'i, as he is known there, was a great voyager who "fished up" (i.e. discovered) Hawai'i, a fact which is remembered in the phrase "the fish-line of Kaha'i" in a chant by Kamahualele, the foster son of Mo'ikeha, another famous voyaging chief of Hawai'i (Beckwith Hawaiian Mythology 355). That the story of the Hema family is so widespread in Polynesia suggests the importance of its theme: the need for the ali'i to remain connected to the mana of the homeland.
Kane'ohe Bay is also associated with the voyaging saga of a family of chiefs which included Mo'ikeha, his son Kila, his heir La'amaikahiki, and his grandson Kaha'i. These chiefs appear in the genealogy of Nana'ulu (Kamakau Tales 76-77), on which chiefs of Maui, O'ahu, Kaua'i, and Ni'ihau trace their ancestry back to Papa and Wakea.
1. Wakea and Papa
14. Ki'i and Hinako'ula
15. Nana'ulu and Ulukou
29. Maweke and Naiolaukea
30. Mulieleali'i and Wehelani
31. Mo'ikeha and Hina'aulua
32. Ho'okamali'i and Keahiula
33. Kaha'i and Kehenu
'Ulu and Nana'ulu were sons of Ki'i, who appears 13 generations after Papa and Wakea; the genealogies that flow from these two brothers run parallel to each other. Mo'ikeha's grandfather was a chief named Maweke, who appears 15 generations after Nana'ulu, making him a genealogical contemporary of 'Aikanaka, father of Hema. The sons of Maweke ruled O'ahu Mulieleali'i in the southeastern district of Kona (Fornander Ancient History 48) or "the western side" of O'ahu (Kalakaua 118); Keaunui in 'Ewa; and Kalehenui in the windward district of Ko'olau (Fornander Ancient History 48; Kalakaua 118):
The traditions of Mo'ikeha and La'amaikahiki have been published in Fornander (Vol. IV, 112-128), Kamakau (Tales 77, 105-110), and Kalakaua (117-135). The broad outlines are consistent, but the details are various: Kalakaua identifies the homeland of Mo'ikeha and La'amaikahiki as Hawai'i; La'amaikahiki was a high chief of O'ahu and an adopted son of Mo'ikeha. The Fornander version says that Mo'ikeha belonged to Tahiti and that La'amaikahiki was Moi'ikeha's son by his first wife Kapo. Kamakau presents two versions. First, La'amaikahiki was a high chief of O'ahu, born to Ahukai and Keaka-milo at Kapa'ahu in Kukaniloko, Wahiawa, the sacred birthing place of O'ahu chiefs. This chiefly child was "taken" by Mo'ikeha, perhaps in an attempt to control the future ruling chief. This taking seems to have provoked an attack by his older brother Kumuhonua, and a sea battle was fought between Kumuhonua and his younger brothers 'Olopana and Mo'ikeha. (Conflict over land and the right to rule between the senior and junior lines of a family is a common motif in Polynesian and Hawaiian chiefly traditions; Kalakaua says that 'Olopana and Mo'ikeha left O'ahu because they were not satisfied with their prospects under their older brother.) Kamakau gives a second version of the story, in which Mo'ikeha belonged to Kahiki and La'amaikahiki was a chief of Kahiki whom Mo'ikeha, after he settled in Hawai'i, designated as his heir. Whatever the case, La'a, whose name means "Sacred One," possessed great mana. The voyaging back and forth between Hawai'i and Kahiki is motivated by the need to obtain his mana.
All the stories agree that at some point Mo'ikeha, 'Olopana and his wife Lu'ukia, and La'amaikahiki were together in Tahiti or Ra'iatea, an island 120 miles WNW of Tahiti. Mo'ikeha departed for Hawai'i after some unhappy experience: either he was frustrated after a man named Mua slandered him and his lover Lu'ukia refused to sleep with him anymore (Fornander); or he was caught undoing Lu'ukia's chastity belt (a sennit lashing) for which he was "severely criticized" (Kamakau Tales 105); or 'Olopana was jealous of his younger brother's increasing popularity and influence, and rebuked Mo'ikeha publicly for his "extravagance and love of display" (Kalakaua 121).
Whatever his reason(s), Mo'ikeha left the southern islands and arrived at Hawai'i Island, then sailed downwind across the island chain and settled in the Puna district of Kaua'i (at Kapa'a or Wailua). He learned of a sailing contest to win the right to marry Ho'oipo, the daughter of the chief of Puna. The contest was open to "all of noble blood." Mo'ikeha chanted his genealogy from Wakea down to his grandparents Maweke and Naiolaukea and his parents Mulieleali'i and Wehelani, ruling chiefs of O'ahu (Kalakaua 128); thus, he was allowed to enter the contest and he won by beating his rivals to the island of Ka'ula 22 miles SW of Kaua'i and bringing back a palaoa (whale tooth) from the chief's representative, who had been sent there earlier. His victory was assured by La'amaomao, the god of the winds, who had come with Mo'ikeha from Ra'iatea and who carried an ipu, or gourd, from which he could call forth winds favorable to his chief. (For another story involving this Hawaiian wind deity, see M.K. Nakuina's The Wind Gourd of La'amaomao.)
Mo'ikeha had seven sons by Ho'oipo (Kalakaua); or three sons by Ho'oipo-i-ka-malanai, who was also known as Hina'au-lua (Kamakau); or five sons by two sisters named Ho'oipo-i-ka-malanai and Hinauu (Fornander). Three of the sons were named Ho'okamali'i, Haulani-nui-ai-akea, and Kila, who, in all three versions, was the third and favorite son.
Mo'ikeha became the ruling chief of Puna after his father-in-law's death. As he grew old, he longed to see La'amaikahiki, the son (or foster son) he had left behind in Kahiki; or he wanted to bring his designated Tahitian heir La'amaikahiki to rule his lands in Hawai'i. Mo'ikeha held a contest to determine which of his five sons would get the honor of sailing to Tahiti to bring La'amaikahiki back (Fornander). Each of his five sons tried to send a ki-leaf canoe downstream between his thighs; only the canoe of Kila hit the mark, revealing his knowledge and understanding of the winds and currents in the stream and establishing that his mana was greater than that of his brothers. He was chosen to head the expedition south.
Kila reached Tahiti and brought La'amaikahiki back to Hawai'i (Fornander and Kalakaua); or 'Olopana refused to let La'amaikahiki go to Hawai'i, as this young ali'i was also heir to lands in Tahiti; but after 'Olopana's death, La'amaikahiki decided to sail to Hawai'i because he had heard about the fertility of the land and the industriousness of the people (Kamakau).
So sacred was La'amaikahiki, he had been hidden away in the mountains of Kapa'ahu (Fornander). Kila was required to make a human sacrifice before he could enter the marae, or temple, where La'amaikahiki was worshiping his god Lonoika'ouali'i ("Lono of the royal supremacy" or "Lono in the chiefly signs in the heavens"). La'amaikahiki brought this god to Hawai'i. Lonoika'ouali'i was the god worshiped by the Mo'o Lono (the hereditary order of Lono), one of two orders of kahuna, or priests, maintained by the 19th century king, Kamehameha I, who was the last ruling chief to worship the ancient gods: "Their rituals were those of the god Lonoika'ouali'i, the kapu lama [ritual to obtain lama trees to build fences, houses, and towers in an agricultural heiau?] and the kapu loulu [ritual for dedicating a heiau to insure peace and prosperity; loulu palm leaves were used for thatching], which were heiau rituals. Lonoika'ouali'i was the visible symbol [image] of the god Lononuiakea ["Great, broad Lono"]" (Kamakau People 7; cf. Kamakau Works 130-144; Ii 33-45; Malo 159-176).
(The second priestly order maintained by Kamehameha I was the Mo'o Ku, the hereditary order of Ku, which carried out the rituals for the god Kunuiakea "Great, broad Ku," one of whose manifestations was Kuka'ilimoku, "Ku, island snatcher," the feathered war god of Kamehameha; and the kapu 'ohi'a ko a ritual for cutting down 'ohi'a trees to build structures and provide a Ku image for a heiau of human sacrifice [Kamakau People 7 and Works 130-144; Ii 33-45; Malo 159-176]. Hewahewa, the kahuna nui of the Mo'o Ku during Kamehameha's reign, was a descendant of the famous voyaging chief Pa'ao, who brought Kuka'ilimoku to Hawai'i. Thus, the two most powerful priestly orders and gods during the time of Kamehameha I were connected with two of the most famous voyaging chiefs in Hawaiian traditionLa'amaikahiki and Pa'ao. The stories of these two chiefs were kept alive by their descendants.)
Besides introducing the god Lonoika'ouali'i to Hawai'i, La'amaikahiki also brought the pahu hula, or hula drum, and traveled about the islands teaching the art of dance accompanied by the drum (Fornander). The drum was noted for its loud voice, like the voice of a god, and hence embodying great mana. The drum brought from Tahiti by La'amaikahiki was heard in the trade winds at Hanauma Bay as La'amaikahiki's canoe crossed the Kaiwi Channel between Moloka'i and O'ahu; it was heard at Makapu'u as the canoe entered Kane'ohe Bay (Kamakau Tales 109). As a receptacle of the voice of the gods, the drum was eventually used in religious ceremonies and accompanied the most sacred dances:
the sounds of the pahu are referred to as leo (voice) and the drum head is referred to as waha (mouth). During state rituals in the large open-air heiau, the pahu was a receptacle for a god who spoke through the "voice" of the drum. Today, the "voices" of pahu heiau are believed still heard on certain nights of the month from the archaeological remains of heiau throughout the islands (Liner Notes, Hawaiian Drum Dance Chants: Sound of Power in Time).
Kalakaua emphasizes La'amaikahiki's genealogy as the source of his mana: "In his veins ran the noblest blood of Oahu. He was the son of the great grandson of the great Paumakua in direct and unchallenged descent" (133). After La'amaikahiki settled at Kualoa (Photo: Landgraf 3) on the north end of Kane'ohe Bay, the local chiefs found three wives for him. And in a great display of procreative mana, three children were born to him, all on the same day: Lauli-a-La'a by Mano in Kane'ohe (Landgraf 92-93); Kukona-a-La'a by Waolena at Ka'alaea (Photo: Landgraf 35); and Ahukini-a-La'a by Hoaka-nui-kapua'i-helu at Kualoa (Kalakaua 134-135; Kamakau Tales 109-110).
The locations of the homes of his three wives, from the south end of Kane'ohe Bay to the north, suggests a generous spreading of his mana over the surrounding area.
After the births of his three sons, La'a returned to Tahiti to rule over Mo'ikeha's lands there (Fornander); or to Ra'i'atea to rule over 'Olopana's lands (Kalakaua; Kamakau does not report what happened to La'a after the triple marriage and triple birth). Fornander says that after Mo'ikeha's death, La'amaikahiki returned to Hawai'i a second time to take Mo'ikeha's bones back to the ancestral lands in Tahiti; but through his children, he left his mana in Hawai'i, becoming an ancestor to the chiefs of Hawai'i, Kaua'i, and O'ahu. "You will find his chiefly descendants in the mo'o ku'auhau (genealogy) of Nana'ulu, Puna-i-mua, and Hanala'a-nui"; Mo'ikeha's son Lauli-a-La'a, appears in Kamakau's genealogy of Nana'ulu (Tales 78, 110). And "From Ahukini-a-La'a Queen Kapi'olani, wife of Kalakaua, is recorded in descent through a line of Kauaian chiefs and kings" (Kalakaua 134-135).
At the end of Waiakalua Road, on the southern end of Kane'ohe Bay, is a small beach park where hau trees grow along the dark brown sandy shore. On the mud flats off shore, we used to lay nets for crabs, using bloody aku heads for bait. In the late sixties, we dug for clams there, too, but the clamming was good for only two seasons; by 1969, there were too few clams, their disappearance attributed in part to "[s]oil erosion, associated with unusually heavy rain" (Devaney et al 101).
A portion of this beach is named Na One a La'a, "The Sands of La'a." (Kamakau Tales 109). When La'amaikahiki's canoe arrived at Waiakalua from Hale-o-Lono, Moloka'i, a man named Ha'ikamalama chanted the mele of his drummer Kupa (which Ha'ikamalama had heard in the wind at Hanauma Bay and at Makapu'u as La'amaikahiki's canoe sailed to Kane'ohe.) Surprised by the man's knowledge of the chant, La'amaikahiki "threw down some sand as a resting place for the canoe" and landed. The place name commemorates this landing. Ha'ikamalama was allowed to play the pahu of Kupa and made a copy of it: a gourd fitted with a shark-skin head. (Pahu were later made from hollowed-out coconut trunks or breadfruit logs as well.) Near Na One a La'a was the house where La'amaikahiki once lived; and on a low hill nearby was his heiau, called Kalaoa (Sterling and Summers 209-210).
Just offshore of Ka'alaea, near the border of Waiahole, is a group of small stones called "Na Wa'a Li'ili'i Kiolea" "The small canoes [of] Kiolea" (Sterling and Summers 191)
Na Wa'a Li'ili'i Kiolea. Photo by Kapulani Landgraf
Pu'u Kiolea is the highest peak on the ridge that runs from the Ko'olau mountains down toward the stones. Kiolea is "a high, unsafe seat," perhaps a local lookout (or Ki-o-Lea, "the ti plant of Lea"?; cf. "Ka-ipu-o-Lea" in the chant below). The offshore rocks are said to be the remains of canoes that brought sands and "a mapu tree" from Tahiti. The sands nearby are called the sands of La'amaikahiki a safe landing place for canoes (Photo: Landgraf 37):
I Onehuna, i Onehali (At Hidden-sands, at Fetched-sands)
A kele 'akiu, a kelekele 'akiu, (Sail to safety, sail, sail to safety)
Ke one i Mahinahina, (At the sands of Mahinahina)
Ka-ipu-o-Lea la. (Is the gourd of Lea).
Onehuna the sands hidden (huna) perhaps because the landing place was submerged at high tide; or because it was known only to local residents. Or Onehuna could mean "fine, powdery (huna) sand." "Fetched-sands" recalls the tradition of La'amaikahiki throwing down sand at Waiakalua a practice perhaps established by him to create canoe landing sites around the Bay. Lea ("the gourd of Lea") is a goddess of canoe-building, suggesting this place was not just a site for landing, but for building and launching canoes:
E Mokuhali'i, Kupa'aike'e, Lea, (O Mokuhali'i, Kupa'aike'e, Lea,)
Eia ka pua'a (Here is the pig,)
He uku, he makana, he 'alana (A reward, a gift, an offering,)
He mohai ia 'oukou (A sacrifice to you.)
Ua pa'a ka wa'a [inoa] (The canoe [name] is finished,)
A e ho'olana 'ia aku ana i ke kai (Ready to be launched in the sea)'
(Pukui "Canoe Making" 25; cf. Gutmanis 79)
A kapu haunts the stones of "Na Wa'a Li'ili'i": once a haole road-builder came to take the stones. He ordered his men to break up the stones and carry the pieces off. The native workers refused; the haole workers complied. The haole road-builder and workers all died soon after their desecration of the site.
On the north end of Kane'ohe Bay the ahupua'a of Kualoa ("Long Back") lies beneath the peak of Kanehoalani (Photo: Landgraf 7). The cliffs of Paliku fall away to either side; the cliffs are also called Mo'o Kapu o Haloa ("Sacred Section of Haloa"). Haloa was the son of Wakea by his daughter Ho'ohokukalani. Born a shapeless mass, Haloa was buried in the ground and reborn as kalo, the Hawaiian staff of life. Haloa means "Long Breath" or "Long Life." Ha, or breath, like the eyes and the bones, is associated with mana. It could "impart mana, 'magical power,' as when a priest would exclaim 'Ha!' (Pukui and Korn The Echo of Our Song 26). The breath of a god could bring or restore a person to life.
After the first Haloa became the kalo plant, another son was born in human form, and was also called Haloa, an ancestor of La'amaikahiki (Kamakau Tales 134). While he was in Hawai'i, this famous voyaging chief lived beneath these sacred cliffs, named for one of his ancestors.
Mo'ikeha's grandson Kaha'i-a-Ho'okamali'i (Ho'okamali'i was Mo'ikeha's first son) was also a voyager, famous for having sailed to Wawau, 'Upolu, and Savai'i (Possibly places in Samoa and Tonga, but more likely in Tahiti Nui Wawau, 'Upolu, and Savai'i, or Havai'i, were ancient names for Borabora, Taha'a, and Ra'iatea.) Kaha'i-a-Ho'okamali'i brought back a breadfruit tree from 'Upolu and planted it in Pu'uloa, 'Ewa, where his father lived (Kamakau Tales 108). Another tradition says that Kaha'i lived in Hakipu'u (Photo: Landgraf 15), next to Kualoa, and it was there he planted a breadfruit tree he brought back from 'Upolu (Sterling and Summers 186). The breadfruit tree embodies mana in food plant form, a blessing to the people. (In one tradition, the god Ku is said to have turned upside down and become a breadfruit tree in order to feed his family during a famine; see Pukui Folktales 8). For the gift of this food plant, Kaha'i is remembered. Because of his daring voyages, Kaha'i was honored by the ali'i: "He was raised by the chiefs to their own kingly rank. And never again need he lower his sail not for a chief nor a priest nor a king. It is said that in 1795, when the conquering chief [Kamehameha] rounded this island [O'ahu], [he] lowered his sail [when he passed Hakipu'u] to show his respect for the daring Kaha'i." (Sterling and Summers 186). (Was this Kaha'i the same Kaha'i as Mo'ikeha's son, or a namesake? Mo'ikeha's son was already a chief and would not have had to be "raised by the chiefs to their own kingly rank.")
Another tradition asserts that the lowering of sails in north Kane'ohe Bay was out of respect for the sacredness of Kualoa, which was a training ground of chiefs as well as a pu'uhonua, a place of refuge where those condemned to death could seek safety (Sterling and Summers 178)
In the 'Ulu genealogy, ten generations after Hema, is a voyaging chief named Paumakua, who was born at Kua-'a-'ohe (Kua-wa-'ohe), between the land sections of Heleloa and Ulupa'u Crater, on Mokapu Peninsula (Photos: Landgraf 71, 77, 79), which embraces the southern end of Kane'ohe Bay. (This Paumakua was perhaps a namesake of the one whom Fornander identifies as the great grandfather of La'amaikahiki.)
Mōkapu peninsula, on the horizon, across Kāne‘ohe Bay, from Mōli‘i Fishpond in Hakpu‘u. Photo by Kapulani Landgraf
In the time of Auanini, the grandfather of Paumakua, the first haole arrived off of Mokapu in a ship named Ulupana. Molo Lana was the ship's captain; Malaea, his wife; and Olomana, Aniani, and Holokamakani, crew members. The story implies that the famous peak below Konahuanui in Kailua was named after this Olomana (Kamakau Tales 113; a different tradition of the naming of Mt. Olomana is given in Pukui's Place Names). Paumakua went voyaging to foreign lands, perhaps to the lands of these haole visitors. A chant (Kamakau Tales 96) celebrates his voyaging achievements:
Paumakua, the chief of Moena-i-mua,
The chief who traveled to Kahiki,
To Kahiki in the wide sea,
The gentle, the precious, the swift-moving one.
Paumakua is said to have brought back white kahuna (priests, or experts in some art or profession) named Ka'eka'e and Maliu, and a white ka'ula (prophet) named Malela. Malela's eyes are remembered for expressing his great mana: Ka haole nui maka 'alohilohi; he aholehole maka 'a'a; ka pua'a ke ke'oke'o nui maka 'ula'ula": "The big foreigner with bright sparking eyes, a young ahole fish with staring eyes; the large white pig with reddish eyes" (Kamakau Tales 95-97). The story of Paumakua shows that the chiefs of Hawai'i were not afraid to bring mana (knowledge, expertise, power of prophecy) from a foreign source through voyaging to support the mana of a chief in Hawai'i. Many generations later, Kamehameha enlisted haole who were experts in Western weaponry to defeat his rivals.
5. The Modern Revival of Voyaging
By the time Captain Cook reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1776, voyages between Hawai'i and Tahiti and other foreign land were distant memories of the traditional past. The last voyage to and from the South Pacific recorded by the genealogical chants of Hawai'i was made by the priest Pa'ao, five generations after Paumakua, in the time of La'au. Pa'ao came to Hawai'i from Wawau (Borabora) and Taha'a ('Upolu) (Kamakau Tales 97), after a dispute with his brother Lonopele. When he arrived, Lanakawai (or Lonokawai) was the ruling chief of Hawai'i Island. Pa'ao lived on Hawai'i "until the kings of Hawaii became degraded and corrupted (hewa)" (Malo 6); they had "sinned by intermarriage with commoners, thus diluting the sacred blood" (Pukui Folktales 69). Like Mo'ikeha's son Kila, Pa'ao sailed to Tahiti to bring back a chief who would replenish the mana in Hawai'i from its source in the South Pacific. Pa'ao brought back with him Pilika'aiea to replace La'au, the chief who ruled after Lanakawai: " Pili ruled as mo'i after La'au. You will see Pili there in the line of succession, the mo'o ku'auhau [genealogy] of Hanala'a-nui [a branch of the 'Ulu genealogy]" (Kamakau Tales 100). The chiefs of Hawai'i Island down to Kamehameha trace their ancestry from Pili; the priests of Ku under the ruling chiefs were descendants of Pa'ao (Pukui Folktales 69).
Why did voyaging end after Pa'ao? The motive of voyaging was to maintain contact with a distant homeland, the original source of mana. After the ruling chiefs had obtained the mana of Pili, they maintained it through intermarriage among their own ranks (Kame'eleihiwa Native Land, 40-44), righteous government and behavior, proper worship of the gods, and innovations which made the land prosperous. Thus, there was no longer a need for ties with the ancestral homeland. After Pili's arrival in Hawai'i, archaeological evidence indicates a period of remarkable expansion of the productive capabilities of Hawaiian agriculture, aquaculture (the fishponds associated with Ku'ula kai), and fishing. The population grew into the hundreds of thousands.
The ruling chiefs had the mana to sustain their communities in productive and healthy isolation for six centuries after Pa'ao without metal, fossil fuels, electricity, engines, electronics, manufactured chemicals, plastics, and other modern inventions. Menzies, a naturalist with the British explorer Vancouver, described Waikiki in 1792:
The verge of the shore was planted with a large grove of cocoanut palms, affording a delightful shade to the scattered habitations of the nativesWe pursued a pleasing path back into the plantation, which was nearly level and very extensive, and laid out with great neatness into little fields planted with taro, yams, sweet potatoes, and the cloth plant [wauke] (qtd. in Handy and Handy 482).
With the coming of foreigners, the mana of the ruling chiefs and people was severely tested. The kanaka maoli suffered the loss of family members to introduced diseases, such as small pox, tuberculosis, influenza, and measles, their population plummeting from an estimated 800,000 to 40,000 during the 19th century (Stannard 50-52); the loss of their gods, when the ruling chiefs abandoned their native religion and became Christian converts (1819); the loss to foreign capitalists of lands once held by the chiefs for the common good and made sacred by the gods; the loss of sovereignty, when a group of haole businessmen, with the support of U.S. Marines, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and took control of government and education (1893). Hawaiian children were forbidden to speak their native language in English-only schools. In the 19th and 20th centuries, an influx of immigrants, brought from Asia and other parts of the world by capitalists to create a pool of inexpensive labor, further weakened the Hawaiian language and culture. Today, the islands are multiethnic, with those of Hawaiian ancestry making up less than 20% of the population.
In this context of almost two centuries of assault on the mana of the kanaka maoli, the voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a was launched at Kualoa in 1975. What was originally planned as an scientific experiment to test a theory of Polynesian migration became part of a revival that included not just voyaging, but language, ceremony and protocol, hula and chant, canoe-building, kalo farming, kapa-making, featherwork, wood-carving, lua (a martial art), and so on. People practicing these traditional arts have begun to re-establish a healthy relationship between themselves and the land and sea and to reveal the mana inherent in the successful performance of these arts.
Hōkūle‘a's first voyage from Hawai'i to Tahiti took place in 1976, and despite conflict between two factions on the canoe, the voyage was a success. Those who thought that the oral traditions recounting such voyages were fictions and who doubted that traditional navigational techniques could be used to guide sailing canoes across 2,400 miles of open ocean were proven wrong (Finney Hōkūle‘a). The navigator of Hōkūle‘a was Mau Piailug from Satawal, a tiny atoll in the Caroline Islands of Micronesia, where the ancient traditions of navigating by celestial bodies, winds, ocean swells, and sealife had survived into the 20th century (Lewis). An aging Tevake, the last known Polynesian navigator, from Pileni Atoll in the Santa Cruz Reef Islands, had left in his canoe in 1970 and disappeared at sea. According to one source: "Tevake made something in the nature of a formal farewell before his departure from Nufilole, and it would seem that either he had a premonition of disaster or, more likely, that he simply paddled out to sea in the manner of the Tikopians and did not intend to arrive" (Lewis 309). He had chosen a navigator's death.
In 1980, Hōkūle‘a made a second voyage to Tahiti, this time navigated by Nainoa Thompson, a descendant of ali'i from Hawai'i Island on his mother's side and from Kaua'i and Maui on his father's side. He had studied traditional navigation with Mau, but also Western astronomy, oceanography, and meteorology to speed up the learning of traditional techniques. (Mau was trained as a navigator from infancy, when he was placed in tide pools so he could feel the movements of the ocean; Nainoa began his study as a young man in his 20's.) After guiding Hōkūle‘a 4,800 miles to Tahiti and back, Nainoa sighted the island of Hawai'i (Kyselka Ocean in Mind), just as Mo'ikeha, La'amaikahiki, and Pa'ao had done centuries earlier.
The 1976 and 1980 voyages of Hōkūle‘a rekindled an interest among the kanaka maoli in reconnecting with ancestral homelands to the South. Other voyages followed to Aotearoa (New Zealand) in 1985-1987; to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in 1992; to Nukuhiva in the Marquesas Islands in 1995. Each voyage has been a reenactment of the past, as well as a rite of passage for young kanaka maoli seeking mana from ancestral spirits and wisdom in traditional ways.
In 1929, on a Bishop Museum expedition, anthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck) visited the marae of Taputapuatea in the district of Opoa, on the island of Ra'iatea. The marae was once the most sacred place in all of Polynesia the center of the Polynesian world, the head of the octopus of Ta'aroa (Kanaloa), a place where canoes were built and navigation was taught. In the wake of colonialism and the Pacific-wide suppression of Polynesian culture and religion, the marae was in ruins. Standing there, the half-Maori, half-Irish Buck lamented the loss of Polynesian mana:
I had made my pilgrimage to Taputapu-atea, but the dead could not speak to me. It was sad to the verge of tears. I felt a profound regret, a regret for I know not what. Was it for the beating of the temple drum or the shouting of the populace as the king was raised on high? Was it for the human sacrifices of olden times? It was for none of these individually but for something at the back of them all, some living spirit and divine courage that existed in ancient times and of which Taputapu-atea was a mute symbol. It was something that we Polynesians have lost and cannot find, something that we yearn for and cannot recreate. The background in which that spirit was engendered has changed beyond recovery. The bleak wind of oblivion had swept over Opoa. (Buck 85)
Sixty-three years after Te Rangi Hiroa's visit, in 1992, Hōkūle‘a stopped at Taputapuatea on its way to Rarotonga to participate in a festival of Pacific arts, which was celebrating the revival of Polynesian and Pacific voyaging inspired by the canoe's travels. After entering Te Ava Moa ("The Sacred Pass") and anchoring in the lagoon off Taputapuatea, the crew, some of whom traced their ancestry back to Ra'iatea, were welcomed onto the marae. The gift the crew brought with them was a pahu drum named Poki'i ("Younger sibling"), carved from a coconut log, with a shark-skin head lashed on; it was a descendant of the first pahu brought to Hawai'i from Tahiti by La'amaikahiki centuries earlier.
At Opoa, a gathering of Polynesian navigators took place, organized by Nainoa Thompson. New navigators from Hawai'i, the Cook Islands, and Aotearoa discussed their sail plans and course strategies for voyages they were about to make, or had just made. The meeting at Opoa was attended by Mau Piailug, who had made this revival of Polynesian wayfinding possible through the sharing of his knowledge with Hawaiians eager to learn. The gathering was a way of showing Mau (an honorific name meaning "Brave") that his knowledge of wayfinding was being passed on to others; once planted by his teaching, it had rooted, branched, leafed, flowered, and was now bearing fruit. Through the recovery of traditional knowledge and beliefs, the mana that Te Rangi Hiroa lamented had been lost forever to "the bleak wind" of colonialism was re-emerging at the end of the 20th century.
Since 1975, Hōkūle‘a had traveled far from its place of birth in Kane'ohe Bay; its successes have shown that its birth was an auspicious one, that the canoe was pleasing to the gods.
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