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.


Hōkū Akana


Kākuhihewa was the 15th aliʻi ʻaimoku (ruling chief) of Oʻahu. According to 19th century historian Abraham Fornander, Kākuhihewa was born at Kūkaniloko, Wahiawā, Oʻahu to his parents Kihikapuamanuʻia, the 14th aliʻi ʻaimoku of Oʻahu and his wife, Kaunuia Kānehoalani. The Hawaiian language newspaper, Ke Au ʻOkoʻa dates Kākuhihewa’s reign as being at the same time as Keawe a ʻUmi in the story of Pākaʻa.  Forty-eight chiefs of the highest rank were present at Kākuhihewa’s piko-cutting ceremony where the beating voices of the two sacred drums ʻŌpuku and Hāwea, announced the event. From there, Kākuhihewa was taken by his grandfather Kānehoalani to nearby Hoʻolonopahū heiau where several kahu (caretakers) were appointed to watch over and mālama the heir-apparent. Kākuhihewa’s childhood was spent between Waipiʻo, Waiʻawa and Mānana in the ʻEwa district of Oʻahu.

Photo courtesy of K. Kaniho.

Hidden in a field of sugarcane, these stones at Kūkaniloko saw the birth of many great Oʻahu chiefs.


Fornander also shares that during Kākuhihewa’s youth, he learned all of the advanced academic and leadership knowledge, as well as the fighting arts that were becoming a chieftain of his high rank.  Spear exercises, stone-throwing, use of the sling and javelin, and the bone-breaking martial art of lua were taught to Kākuhihewa by masters whose skill is said to have been so great that they could hit the smallest bird or insect at long distances. The famous Maʻilele taught the young chief the archer’s skill of the bow and arrow for the sport shooting of ʻiole or rats. When Kākuhihewa assumed his position as paramount chief of Oʻahu, instead of perpetuating war with his cousin Nāpulanahumahiki, he made peace by marrying his daughter Kahaʻiaonuiʻakauʻailana or KaʻeaaKalona. This brought the three districts of Waiʻanae, Waialua, and Koʻolauloa again under consolidated rule of one Oʻahu regent.

According to Fornander, Kākuhihewa took three wives, but some legends recount four wives. Kameʻeleihiwa shares that Kaea-a-Kalona or Kahaʻiaonuiʻakauʻailana was the first wife. Kekela daughter of Kālaimanuia, was another wife who bore two sons and one daughter: KaʻihikapuaKākuhihewa, KānekapuaKākuhihewa, and Makakaialiʻilani.  Kaʻakaualani, the daughter of LaninuiaKaihupeʻe of the Māweke line and his wife KauhiʻiliʻulaaPiʻilani of Māui Piʻilani lineage was another wife who bore a son named Kauakahinui-a-Kākuhihewa. A third wife, Koaekea bore a son named Kalehūnāpāikua. The fourth wife was Kahāmaluʻihi

One tale tells of Kākuhihewa’s encounter with a supernatural phantom moa, Kaʻauhelemoa while playing makahiki games at court in Waikīkī. The phantom moa landed at Kākuhihewa’s feet and scratched at the earth and then disappeared. Thinking it was an omen, Kākuhihewa ordered a niu tree to be planted at that spot which was named Helumoa or chicken scratch in honor of this event. This one tree grew into an estimated 10,000 coconut trees.  

Photo courtesy of Hawaiʻi State Archives.

Waikīkī was the established seat of power from the rule of Māʻilikūkahi six generations before Kākuhihewa,

up until the era of the Kamehameha dynasty.


Many stories of Kākuhihewa remind us of the prosperity and splendor during his reign. Peace prevailed throughout the island, farming and fishing provided unlimited supplies of food for all, and population and wealth increased.  The cheerful, beloved Kākuhihewa was greeted by the bravest, wisest, and most brilliant of the aristocracy of the other islands. Kākuhihewa held his residences at three locations: ʻEwa, Waikīkī, and Kailua.  All three areas were lush and well-stocked and accustomed to providing for a very large court and accompanying guests.  A large dwelling was built at ʻĀlele in Kailua that was named Pāmoa to hold court and entertain his many guests.  This area was also formerly known as Kula o ʻĀlele and was located at the center of Kailua, Oʻahu. 


For the rest of Kākuhihewa’s long reign, until his death when his son Kānekapu a Kākuhihewa assumed his father’s rule, no war or rebellion distracted the country or detracted from his power. It remained this way for five generations after.  Likewise, Kamakau shares the loving sentiment, He lani i luna, he hōnua i lalo, or it was fertile in the uplands, fertile in the lowlands of Kākuhihewa’s reign. In other words, heaven was above and the earth below, and all was secured. To this day, the achievements of Kākuhihewa are indelible in the memory of our lāhui and he continues to be honored through the noble epithet: Oʻahu a Kākuhihewa. This saying reminds us of a renowned era of great, noble, and wise aliʻi who secured peace and prosperity for the longevity of the Hawaiian people.