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.

Keliʻimaikaʻi, the Good-Hearted Chief

Hōkū Akana, according to historic accounts by Samuel Kamakau and Abraham Fornander


Keliʻimaikaʻi, also known as Kalanimālokulokukepoʻokalani, was the younger brother of Kamehameha the Great. Both were the sons of High Chiefess Kekuʻiapoiwa II and High Chief Keōua of Hawaiʻi Island. During Kamehameha’s campaign to unify the islands under one rule, Keliʻimaikaʻi served as a member of his brother’s council of chiefs.

Photo courtesy of H. Akana
In their childhood, Keliʻimaikaʻi and Kamehameha were together in ʻĀwini, Pololū Valley, in Kōhala on the island of Hawaiʻi under the care and instruction of Chief Naeʻole and Chiefess Kahaʻōpūlani.   

Keliʻimaikaʻi was instrumental in securing Kamehameha’s influence over Maui. As the ruler of Hāna, Maui, people of the area coined the name “good-hearted chief” for this beloved aliʻi. Keliʻimaikaʻi had been sent by his elder brother Kamehameha, to Maui to be the governor of the Hawaiʻi colonies established there in 1786. According to 19th century historian Fornander, the instructions of Kamehameha were to “take care of the big man and the little man, do not persecute the makaʻāinana and do not pillage these things which the makaʻāinana have labored for.”   During the time that Keliʻimaikaʻi lived in Kīpahulu and Hāna, Hawaiian historian Kamakau says that “there was no sugar cane broken off, no potatoes dug up, and no pigs roasted.”  The makaʻāinana, the common people, loved him and called him Keliʻimaikaʻi in praise of his kind deeds and good management during his rule. Through fulfilling the instructions given by his elder brother, Keliʻimaikaʻi gained a great respect and aloha from the chiefs of Maui and was able to end any thoughts of opposition amongst Maui aliʻi and makaʻāinana.

Keliʻimaikaʻi was highly favored by Kamehameha. We see this in a story that Kamakau shares which occurs around the dedication of two heiau, Mailekini and Puʻukoholā at Kawaihae.  In the building of these temples, many makaʻāinana and aliʻi were needed to labor in its completion. Even Kamehameha took it upon himself to labor with carrying the large stones needed, however, when Keliʻimaikaʻi took up a stone on his back, Kamehameha rushed to take the stone away saying, ”You stop that! You must preserve our kapu. I will do the carrying!” Kamehameha then proceeded to order Kapaʻalani and some others to take the stone that was carried by Keliʻimaikaʻi out into mid-ocean so far that land was no longer visible and sunk it in the ocean.

Photo courtesy of Bampse
In the building of Puʻukoholā Heiau, the “Hill of the Whale” that is shown here, above the Mailekini Heiau in Kawaihae.  In it’s construction there was no shortage of workers as hundreds of makaʻāinana and aliʻi responded whole-heartedly to carry the boulders needed. 

Keliʻimaikaʻi, through his wife Kiʻilaweau, had a son named Kaʻoa Kekuaokalani. Given custody of the war god Kūkāʻilimoku to care for by his uncle, Kamehameha, Kekuaokalani engaged in the battle of Kuamoʻo against Liholiho, Kamehameha’s son which signaled the fall of the old ways. Keliʻimaikaʻi also had a daughter named Kaonaeha by Kalikookalani whose daughter was Fanny Kekela, the mother of Emma Rooke. Emma (January 2, 1836 – April 25, 1995) became queen consort to Kamehameha IV, Alexander Liholiho Keawenui. Queen Emma is also remembered fondly as a kind and loving leader, perhaps exemplifying the same aliʻi qualities of her great-grandfather. She and King Kamehameha IV pledged their own money and worked hard to personally raise funds for a hospital to provide health care for many of their people who were sick and dying at that time.  Keliʻimaikaʻi died in 1809 and is interred in the Kalākaua crypt at Mauna ʻAla.

Photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools
Keliʻimaikaʻi’s great grand daughter, Emma Kalanikaumakaamanō Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke, worked tirelessly to find funds for a coral stone building to be erected for the purpose of health-care at the cost of $14,728.92, a tremendous amount in 1860.  When Queen Emma died she left the bulk of her estate to the hospital, which is today, the Queen’s Medical Center.