Ululani Special Feature

Lāhui Rising Series

This educational series is designed to create a safe, respectful and enriching learning space for all audiences to hear and honor various perspectives on matters of Hawaiian interest.

Kūaliʻi

Author: 
Hōkū Akana
Year: 
2013

Kūaliʻi or Kua-aliʻi Kūnuiākea Kuikealaikauaokalani was an Oʻahu aliʻi nui who descends from Kākuhihewa and reigned during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Kūaliʻi was born at Kalapawai, Kailua, Koʻolaupoko, where the voice of the sacred drums of ‘Ōpuku and Hāwea announced his birth to Oʻahu chiefs Kauakahi-a-Kahoʻowaha and Mahuluanuiokalani. As a child Kūaliʻi was brought up in the districts of Kailua and Kualoa.

According to Dr. Kameʻeleihiwa, a union with Kalanikahimakealiʻi, the nīʻaupiʻo daughter of Maui chiefs Kaulahea and Kalaniomaikeuila bore four children to Kūaliʻi. There were two sons Kapiʻohoʻokalani and Peleioholani, and two daughters, Kukuiʻaīmakalani and Kaʻionuilālāhaʻi.

Description: C:\Users\miakana\Desktop\Kualiʻi Genealogy Chart - Dr. Kameʻeleihiwa.jpg

Courtesy of genealogy charts shared by Dr. Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa

This chart shows the royal lineage of Kūaliʻi, a descendent of Kākuhihewa and grand-father to Kahahana who replaced his cousin, Kūmahana, son of Peleiholani, as paramount chief of Oʻahu.  Kahekili brought Oʻahu under the rule of Maui chiefs when he defeated Kahahana and reaffirmed his claim to Oʻahu by silencing the revolting Oʻahu chiefs at the Battle of Niuhelewai.

 

According to Kamakau, Kūaliʻi received the Kapu Moe, Kapu Puhi Kanaka, Kānāwai Kaiheheʻe, and Lumalumaʻi. Kānāwai Nīʻaupiʻo Kolowalu, his most sacred and fundamental edict provided that old men and old women could go to sleep in safety on the highway and also that farmers and fisherman had to welcome strangers and feed the hungry. If a man said that he hungered, he must be fed. If a man invoked this kānāwai, then food became dedicated and could not be withheld by the person to whom the food belonged – it was lost to him through the kānāwai and had to be given up and shared.  But if any person invoked this law of the king with unrighteous intentions, perhaps only to rob another of food and provisions, then the punishment would rebound upon himself. The wrongdoers who had refused him food would have been bound to die according to the law. However, the accused were released and replaced with the wrongful accuser. This is just one example of how Kūaliʻi took great care with his government and because of his good actions, the gods guarded him and gave him a long life.

Kūaliʻi commanded great military strength in battle.  Fornander shares that after quelling the uprising Kona chiefs of Oʻahu, Kūaliʻi sailed to Kauaʻi for suitable wood for spears. Along the way, his forces subjugated the ‘Ewa and Waialua chiefs of Kauaʻi under his rule subsequently overcoming a second uprising of Kauaʻi ʻEwa chiefs in the battles of Malamanui and Paupauwela, near Līhuʻe.  On another expedition, Kūaliʻi’s forces raided the coast of Hilo, landing at Laupāhoehoe and defeating a subordinate chief, Haʻalilo. When this was done, he turned his attention to the Puna districts, however, news came from Oʻahu that the ʻEwa and Waiʻanae chiefs were revolting, so he returned to Oʻahu.  The uprising chiefs were silenced near the watercourse of Kalapo and below ʻEleu.  Upon Kūaliʻi’s return from a second expedition to Hilo, he was asked by the Kona chiefs of Molokaʻi to assist with their problems with Koʻolau chiefs of Molokaʻi. Kūaliʻi was able to settle their disputes by vanquishing the Koʻolau chiefs in battle. Kūaliʻi’s eldest son, Kapiohoʻokalani assumed rule over Oʻahu while his second son, Peleioholani, was established as Mōʻī over the Kona section of Kauaʻi as a result of his travels of war and conquest.

Courtesy of Betty Fullard-Leo

This illustration is based on a drawing by John Webber, engraved by Bernard and printed in 1785, in the French Edition of Cook’s Voyages. Lua is known as a bone breaking martial art that requires the practitioner

to balance their spiritual and physical aspects.

 

Kamakau wrote that Kūaliʻi possessed an unusual strength and vigor to the end. In a dispute between an elderly Kūaliʻi, aged beyond 90 years at that time, and Peleioholani, Kūaliʻi used lua to assault his son.  Peleioholani did not return to Oʻahu until after his father’s death.

According to Fornander, Kūaliʻi had been instructed by his mother to “take care of the god, take care of the big man, and the little man, and the fatherless.” With these instructions, Kūaliʻi ruled and became a great and well-known, influential chief who lived a very long life.   Kamakau wrote,

He lived four times forty years and fifteen more – until he was bent and feeble, with eyes drooped and bleary, with skin like a dried hala leaf and was bound up in netting as though he had been made an ancestral god. He died at Kailua, Koʻolaupoko, in the year 1730 at the age of 175 years.”

Upon his death, Kūaliʻi instructed his kahu to hide his bones well, as was the custom. Following these instructions, his kahu stripped his bones and cremated the body, grounding the bones into fine powder. A feast was then ordered to celebrate the life of this great aliʻi where chiefs from far and wide were invited to attend. The night prior to the feast, the kahu secretly mixed the powder into the poi and fed the guests the next morning. When asked by the attending chiefs whether the kahu had executed the wishes of the late king regarding his bones, the kahu pointed at the stomachs of the assembled company and replied that he had “…hidden his master’s bones in a hundred living tombs.”