About Our Name

Ka‘iwakīloumoku
The ‘Iwa that Hooks the Islands Together

The epithet1 Ka‘iwakīloumoku was given to Kamehameha in recognition of his capacity to rule Hawai‘i; the name identifies him as the man-of-war bird – ka ‘iwa – destined to hook the islands – kīlou moku – into a single nation. Today, the name is dimly remembered and rarely used; it survives in two mele composed for Kamehameha in the late 18th century – in “‘O ‘Oe ia e Kalaninuimehameha,”2 a welcoming chant crafted by the high chiefess Ululani of Hilo, and in “Hikikau‘elia ka Malama,”3 a genealogy chant attributed to Kekūhaupi‘o, Kamehameha’s mentor and battle companion.

In the first of these mele, Ululani addresses Kamehameha as “ka ‘iwa kīlou moku,”4 invites him to enjoy the hospitality of a loyal people, and characterizes him as a life-bringing companion of the gods. In the second mele, Kekūhaupi‘o compares Kamehameha to the soaring ‘iwa kīlou moku and predicts that the young warrior will unite the islands by means of his ‘iwa-like ability to “fetch fish” and inspire love – to excel at war and peace.

The ‘iwa is a large, black seabird of arresting beauty, extraordinary grace, and consummate skill at seizing – in mid-flight – the fish caught by other birds. These descriptions help to explain traditional Hawaiian associations of ‘iwa with individuals of remarkable appearance, charisma, expertise, and daring.5 The name Ka‘iwakīloumoku thus depicts Kamehameha as a man of singular competence and appeal, a hero whose future lay in the hooking together of all Hawai‘i under a reign defined by achievement rather than pedigree.6

Hawaiian names often contain meanings that evolve over time, invite deeper understanding, and inspire renewed purpose and commitment. Ka‘iwakīloumoku is one such name. It is high poetry – a beautiful example of the Hawaiian ability to compress volumes of actual and potential meaning into a single, resonant epithet. The name calls out to us over the expanse of two centuries. Compelling, soaring, ‘iwa-like, it speaks of the daring vision with which Kamehameha’s nation was conceived, the charisma and expertise with which it was seized, and the careful interweaving of lives and love with which it was maintained.

Ka‘iwakīloumoku
also reminds us of the ‘iwa-associations and qualities of Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Her own extremely resonant epithet Kawahinehelelāokaiona (The Woman Who Walks in the Sunlight of Kaiona) compares her to the benevolent goddess of the Wai‘anae Range who sent her beloved ‘iwa to rescue the lost and troubled.7 It is by Pauahi – the ‘iwa who dared to conquer by love alone – that we are hooked, held, and bound together in the absence of her great-grandfather’s nation.

The name Ka‘iwakīloumoku speaks, finally, to the Kamehameha of today and tomorrow. As the proposed name of the new Hawaiian cultural center, it inspires our rededication to ‘ike Hawai’i – to the ‘iwa-like hooking together of the fragments of our culture into a unified whole, to the ‘iwa-like interweaving of past lessons into future purpose, and to the education of students who embody the best ‘iwa-like qualities of Kamehameha and Pauahi. Today, Ka‘iwakīloumoku is an inoa laha‘ole, an almost forgotten name, whose significance and beauty are deserving of renewed life in a center and institution committed to that kind of renewal. Ka‘iwakīloumoku is a heroic name, a soaring name, a risk-taking name – one commensurate with the size of our dream and our capacity to realize it.

1 An epithet is a descriptive, often highly poetic name used as a substitute for an actual name. Kana‘iaupuni (The Conqueror of the Nation), Kanapolionaokapākīpika (The Napoleon of the Pacific), and Ke‘ahikananāokapākīpika (The Defiant ‘Ahi of the Pacific) are among the epithets habitually applied to Kamehameha ‘Ekahi.

2 Mary Kawena Pūku‘i and Alfons Korn, The Echo of Our Song, 9-11, 198. Stephen L. Desha, Kamehameha and the Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o, 75-81. Pūku‘i sets the mele in the post 1791 context of Keōua Kū‘ahu‘ula’s death at Kawaihae: Ululani urges Kamehameha to turn away from the figurative night and rain of Ka‘ū’s displeasure and to accept, instead, the hospitality of her court in Hilo. Desha’s explanation of the same mele provides a much earlier and decidedly more prophetic context: that of the young Kamehameha’s visit to Hilo (c. 1780) at the behest of Kalani‘ōpu‘u and the seer Kalaniwahine for the purposes of lifting the Naha Stone and forging an alliance with Keaweokahikona, Ululani’s son by Keawema‘uhili. Ululani greets Kamehameha’s arrival with a chant of welcome that, in Desha’s context, predicts the chief’s success at stone, alliance, and unification: Kamehameha is the ‘iwa who will interweave the islands, whose day will come, whose rule will give life to man and god.

3 Desha, 312-313. The complete mele is housed in the Roberts Collection of the Bishop Museum Archives: Box 4.6:52-62. Roberts received it from Kalokuokamaile of Nāpo‘opo‘o.

4 Pūku‘i translates the epithet in Echo, 11, as: “great hero, warrior who hooks the islands together.” Helen Frazier provides a second translation in Desha, Kekūhaupi‘o, 77: “The frigate bird which interweaves the islands.” The literal meaning of kīlou is “to hook”; the reduplication kīloulou, is glossed by Pūku‘i as “interweave” (Hawaiian Dictionary, 152).

5 Among the pertinent references to the eye-catching, effortlessly gliding, jealousy-arousing, fish-snatching ‘iwa are: “Ka ‘iwa alai maka” (Hawaiian Dictionary, 104); “Kīkaha ka ‘iwa, he lā makani” (‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #1795), “Kīkaha ka ‘iwa i nā pali” (‘Ōlelo No‘eau #1796); “He ‘iwa ho‘ohaehae nāulu” (‘Ōlelo No‘eau #645); and “thief” (Hawaiian Dictionary, 104).

6 John Charlot makes the following, related points in his analysis of Pūku‘i’s version of “‘O ‘oe ia e Kalaninuimehameha”: 1- Kamehameha “is the man-of-war bird, symbol of a handsome man, who has hooked the islands together” (Chanting the Universe, 26); 2- Ululani’s chant “expresses a renewed wonder at the greatness of human capacities, a response to the awesome personal achievements of Kamehameha and to the conspicuous creative movements in so many fields during his reign” (28); 3- Kamehameha is not the highest of chiefs: he takes, like a bold ‘iwa-thief, that which belongs to others; “he rides the mood of necessary change as he defeats his first major enemy, an effeminate esthete of the highest birth, and conquers the islands, generating in war and work a resurgence of the heroic qualities of the Hawaiian character “ (120).

7 Pūku‘i offers three proverbs pertinent to the relationship between ‘iwa, Kaiona, and Pauahi: ‘Ōlelo No‘eau #770, #1643, and #1714. Of these, the second is most revealing: “Ka wahine hele lā o Kaiona, alualu wai li‘ulā o ke kaha pua ‘ohai. The woman, Kaiona, who travels in the sunshine pursuing the mirage of the place where the ‘ohai blossoms grow. Kaiona was a goddess of Ka‘ala and the Wai‘anae Mountains. She was a kind person who helped anyone who lost his way in the mountains by sending a bird, an ‘iwa, to guide the lost one out of the forest. In modern times, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was compared to Kaiona in songs.”

‘O ‘Oe ia e Kalani Nui Mehameha

The Mary Kawena Pūku‘i text and translation:
Mary Kawena Pūku‘i and Alfons Korn, The Echo of Our Song, 9-11, 198.

‘O ‘oe ia e Kalani Nui Mehameha
E hea aku ana i ka ‘iwa kīlou moku lā,
E komo!
‘A‘ole i wehewehena, ‘a‘ole i waihona kona pō,
‘O ka hō‘ā kēīa ē.
A‘u lei o ka ua Hā‘ao e lele a‘e ana ma uka o ‘Au‘aulele,
E komo i ka hale o ke aloha lani,
‘Au‘au i ke ki‘o wai kapu o Pōnaha-ke-one,
E inu i ka ‘awa a Kāne i kanu ai i Hawai‘i.
Ola ia kini akua iā ‘oe.

You, O heavenly chief, Kamehameha,
great warrior, hero who hooked the islands together,
you we greet in welcome: “Come in!”
Dawn has not yet begun to break, night has not departed,
torches still burn.
Beloved ruler, leave the rain of Hā‘ao as it flies above ‘Au‘aulele,
enter the home of a people who love their chief.
Bathe in the sacred pool of Pōnahakeone,
Drink the ‘awa planted by Kāne in Hawai‘i.
You are an emblem of life, a tribute to gods.

‘O ‘Oe ia e Kalani Nui Mehameha
The Stephen L. Desha text and Francis N. Frazier translation:
Stephen L. Desha, Kamehameha and the Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o, 75-81.

Auwē, he mai ho‘i ē, Auwē
‘O ‘oe kā ia e Kalaninuimehameha ē,
E hea aku ana i ka ‘iwa kīlou mokulā.
E komo ho‘i ē,
‘A‘ole wehewehena,
‘A‘ole i waihona kona pō,
‘O ka hō‘ā kēia lā.
A‘u lei o ka ua Hā‘ao,
E lele a‘ela ma uka o ‘Au‘aulele,
E komo i ka hale o ke aloha lani,
‘Au‘au i ke ki‘owai kapu ‘o Pōnahakeone,
E inu i ka ‘awa a Kāne i kanu ai i Hawai‘i,
‘Ola ia kini akua iā ‘oe lā.

Come hither,
It is you, O Kalaninuimehameha,
The frigate bird which interweaves the islands is calling,
Enter,
Dawn has not begun to break,
Night has not departed,
Torches still burn.
My garland [precious one] of the Hā‘ao rain,
Flying in the upland of ‘Au‘aulele,
Enter into the house of people who love their chief,
Bathe in the sacred pool of Pōnahakeone,
Drink of the ‘awa which Kāne planted in Hawai‘i,
The myriad spirits are yours.

Hikikau‘elia ka Malama
The Stephen L. Desha text and Mary Kawena Pūku‘i translation:
Stephen L. Desha, Kamehameha and the Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o, 312-313.

Hikikau‘elia ka malama,
Hiki Makali‘i, Kā‘elo, ka hōkū ‘o Nana,
Ia hiki pawa moku i ke kai.
Akāka le‘a ka leina a ka manu,
He ‘iwa kīlou moku ka lani,
He ka‘upu lele moku ke ali‘i
He moku ke kū nei lā i laila
E lele mai ana me he manu ala
‘O Keōlewa na lā he ‘āina,
Ho‘oka‘a i muli hope
Welehia i ke kua o ka moku
‘O kona moku ua lilo i ke au kāna‘i,
Ua lilo kā kona lehua iā Kalani.
Ke ‘ī a‘e nei e ki‘i maua e ‘ai.
I ka ‘anae ‘a‘au o ka wai maka ua i Hā‘ena lā,
‘O ka ‘o‘opu maka poko o Hanakāpī‘ai,
I Kalalau, i Kalalau lā,
Kalalau aku, ka ualo pu‘u makani,
No ‘A‘ahoaka,
‘O ua wahine Ko‘olau lā,
E kia‘i nei i Malamaiki,
I ka luna o ‘A‘ahoaka,
I ke po‘o o Wai‘ale‘ale,
Ua ho‘ohāhā mālie Puna,
Ke nū nei ka ipo wahine,
Aloha wale ka maka o ka hoa,
E lawe nei e ka makani,
Ha‘alele ‘ino ke Ko‘olau.
Aloha wale ka maka o ka hoa,
A ‘oi pau ka hie aloha.

Hikikau‘elia is the month,
The stars of Makali‘i, Kāelo, and Nana rise,
Rise above the sky lines cut by the sea.
The soaring of the bird is distinctly seen,
The ‘iwa bird that poises over the island of the chief,
A ka‘upu bird flying over the land is the chief.
An island that stands there
Poised for flight like a bird
That is Keōlewa, a land standing behind,
Remaining in the rear
Clear is its back of all growth
An island standing in the calm sea,
Its brave warrior taken by the chief.
He tells me to fetch that we both may eat.
The big mullet that swim in the swells of Hā‘ena,
And the stunted ‘o‘opu fish of Hanakāpī‘ai,
At Kalalau, at Kalalau,
At Kalalau where the wind roars about the hills,
For ‘A‘ahoaka
That Ko‘olau woman,
Watches over Malamaiki,
Over the heights of ‘A‘ahoaka,
And the summit of Wai‘ale‘ale,
That brings clear weather to Puna,
The woman sweetheart moans,
In yearning to see the face of the companion,
It is borne away in the wind,
And deserts the Ko‘olau.
Beloved face of the companion,
When love is not entirely gone.