‘A‘ole Au i Makemake iā Kona

Kīhei de Silva



Photo: Kaleikipio'ema Brown

Windswept Ka Lae at Ka'ū, Hawai'i. The people of this 'āina wai 'ole took pride in their resourcefulness. The water of Ka Lae, they said, "ran" day and night; it could be wrung from dew trapped overnight in kapa; it could be found in the eye-sockets of fish; it could be heard in the whistling water gourds carried by children who were, themselves, descendants of a single water-gourd ancestress.

Photo courtesy of Hālau Hāloa

Kumu hula and master chanter Anthony Lenchanko. His rendering of "'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona," recorded almost 20 years ago on the audio cassette Nou e Kawena, continues to be the definitive version of this defiant mele oli of the people of Ka'ū Mākaha.




Haku mele: Unknown. This mele inoa was composed for Kupake'i, a beloved chief of Ka'ū in the time of Kamehameha I.

Sources: The chant book of Alice Mauka'a Kuka'ilani Hayselden (a direct descendant of Kupake'i), MS. 89:183, Bishop Museum Archives. Roberts Collection, Bk 23:27-43, Bishop Museum Archives. Mary Kawena Pukui, HEN III: 952-4, Bishop Museum Archives; "Songs of Ka'ū, Hawai'i," Journal of American Folklore; 251-252. Pukui and Handy, The Polynesian Family System in Ka'ū, Hawai'i, Japan 1972:85.

Discography: Kaha'i Topolinski, Nou e Kawena, Pumehana Records PSC 4296. Oli performed by Anthony Lenchanko under the title "'O Ka'ū Ka'u."

Text and translation below: Pukui, Polynesian Family System, 85. Line numbers have been added for ease of reference.


1. 'A'ole au i makemake iā Kona,
2. 'O Ka'ū ka'u.
3. 'O ka wai o Ka Lae e kahe ana i ka pō a ao.
4. I ke kapa, i ka 'ūpī kekahi wai
5. Kūlia i lohe ai he 'āina wai 'ole
6. I Mānā, i Unulau ka wai kali
7. I ka pona maka o ka i'a ka wai aloha ē,
8. Aloha i ka wai mālama a kāne
9. E hi'i ana ke keiki i ka hōkeo,
10. E hano ana, e kani ō uō ana,
11. Ka leo o ka hue wai i ka makani
12. Me he hano puhi ala i ke aumoe,
13. Ka hoene lua a ka ipu e ō nei.
14. E lono i kou pōmaika'i, Eia!
15. Mamuli o kou hope 'ole, 'oko'a kā ho'i,
16. A ma ka wā kamali'i nei, mihi malu,
17. 'Ū wale iho nō.
18. Aloha 'ino nō kā ho'i ke kau ma mua.
19. 'U'ina 'ino nō ho'i ke kau i hala aku nei.

1. I do not care for Kona,
2. For Ka'ū is mine.
3. The water from Ka Lae is carried all night long.
4. (Wrung) from tapas and some from sponges.
5. This land is heard of as having no water,
6. Except for the water that is waited for at Mānā and Unulau.
7. The much prized water is found in the eye socket of the fish,
8. The water prized and cared for by the man
9. The child carries a gourd container in his arms.
10. It whistles, whistles as the wind blows into it,
11. The voice of the water gourd is produced by the wind
12. Sounding like a nose flute at midnight,
13. This long, drawn-out whistling of the gourd, we hear.
14. Hearken, how fortunate you are!
15. There is no going back, (our) ways are different.
16. In childhood only does one regret in secret,
17. Grieving alone.
18. (Look) forward with love for the season ahead of us.
19. Let pass the season that is gone.


"'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona" is the fifth paukū of a six-paukū, 174-line name chant entitled "He Inoa no Alakaihu Oia o Kupakei." The oldest text of this composition is contained in a handwritten book of chants belonging to the great-granddaughter of Kupake'i, Mrs. Alice Mauka'a Kuka'ilani Hayselden of Wai'ōhinu, Ka'ū. Mrs. Hayselden's son Howard Kupakee Hayselden entrusted the book to the Bishop Museum in 1953. A nearly identical version of the chant was collected in the 1920's by Helen Roberts (Bk. 23: 27-43) and translated by Kawena Pukui, a cousin of Mrs. Hayselden's mother (HEN III: 952-4). Tūtū Kawena published the fifth paukū of the complete chant in "Songs of Ka'ū" and The Polynesian Family System; Anthony Lenchanko performed this same section under the title "'O Ka'ū Ka'u," on Kaha'i Topolinski's audio cassette Nou E Kawena.

In a letter that accompanied the gift of the Hayselden chant-book to the Bishop Museum, E.C. Handy identified Kupake'i as "belonging to the line of the ancient High Chiefs of Ka'u." He was the ali'i "who would have succeeded Keoua-kuahu-ula as High Chief of that district had Kamehameha I not conquered Ka'u...[and] appointed as High Chief, Keawe-a-heulu" (Handy to BPBM director, August 13, 1952, HI. M.89, Bishop Museum Archives).

The John Liwai Ena genealogy published in Ke Aloha Aina, March 9, 1907, corroborates Handy's summary of Kapake'i's descent: 'Ī (a great-grandson of 'Umi) joined with Kūwalu, born was Ahu-a-'Ī (k); Ahu-a-'Ī joined with Pi'ilaniwahine, born was Lonoma'aikanaka (w), a chiefess of Ka'ū; Lonoma'aikanaka joined with Keawe'īkekahiali'iokamoku, born was Kalaninui'īamamao (k), ali'i nui of Ka'ū; Kalaninui'īamamao joined with Kamaka'imoku, born was Kalani'ōpu'u (k), ali'i nui of Ka'ū; Kalani'ōpu'u joined with Manoua of Ka'ū, born was Kūkanaloa (k) "forebearer...of the chiefs of Ka'ū, namely Kupake'i and Kaiahua [his daughter]. The chiefly children of Kaiahua issued forth" (collected and translated by Edith McKinzie, Hawaiian Genealogies, Honolulu 1991, II:104).

We have no date for Kupake'i's birth, but we can infer that a grandson of Kalani'ōpu'u's (d. 1782) who would have succeeded Keōuakū'ahu'ula (d. 1791) as ali'i nui of Ka'ū had Keaweaheulu not usurped that position, was probably born in the 1780's. Kupake'i would have then been old enough to be recognized as Keōuakū'ahu'ula's successor, but not old enough to have accompanied his uncle to the slaughter at Kawaihae. We have no date for Kupake'i's death, but a reference in Kamakau's Ruling Chiefs describes Kupake'i in 1815 as actively evading Kamehameha's efforts to "meet" with him and as supporting a large following in the back-country of Ka'ū (205-206). These descriptions seem consistent with the energies of a man still in his prime, as a 30-35 year-old Kupake'i would certainly have been. A final set of facts and hints --1) the birth of Joseph 'Īlālā'ole in 1873, 2) the fact that 'Īlālā'ole was Kupake'i's grandson, and 3) the mention, in two of the Bishop Museum Archives' notes to the mele "A Luna Au o 'Āhia," that this mele was a name chant for Kupake'i and a mele composed for 'Īlālā'ole at his birth by his grandparents -- suggests to us that Kupake'i was still alive in 1873. Inferences aside, we can certainly say that Kupake'i's life began in the late 18th century and continued long enough into the 19th for him to have become a beloved ancestor of his people and a symbol of their indomitable spirit.

The character of Kupake'i, and of the people who cherished him, is evident in Kawena Pukui's notes to the Kupake'i name chants in the Hayselden and Roberts Collections (there are two mele inoa for Kupake'i: "He Inoa no Alakaihu Oia o Kupakei" – of which our oli is a part – and the equally lengthy "He Inoa no Alakaihu Kupakei"). Pukui begins by explaining that the Ka'ū people to whom Kupake'i belonged were called the "Mākaha" and originated from a chief and chiefess who, because of parental disapproval, eloped to the rugged coast of Kamā'oa, Ka'ū. Their children were prolific, and these, in turn, produced a multitude of descendants. Despite the harsh environment, the resourceful family found ways to procure water, cultivate the land, and make the most of the prized fishing grounds that lay just off Ka Lae. In time, the eldest line of this vast and independent family was looked up to as the ali'i of the district by the junior branches of the same line; all were of chiefly descent, but by common agreement, the "younger" ones made no public reference to their own rank. It became a matter of family pride to keep this status hidden from all outsiders and to maintain the integrity of the line by marrying only within the district. Thus, among themselves, the people of Ka'ū shared the saying, "Mai ka uka a ke kai, mai kahi pae a kahi pae, he 'ohana wale nō – From upland to sea, from end to end, one family only" (HEN III:938).

Pukui goes on to say that, as a result of their common lineage, the people of Ka'ū loved their ali'i with a fierce and possessive intensity. "Their own ali'i meant more to them than any others and though they received and entertained visitors they never encouraged them to stay among them" (Ibid.). Pukui offers an example of the severity with which the Mākaha treated the family chiefs who dared to break their bonds of reciprocal allegiance: the chief Hala'ea fell into the habit of cheating his fisherman of their catch; instead of distributing the fish fairly, he took everything for himself and his favorites. Consequently, the angry fishermen lured him out to sea, piled his canoe with so many fish that it sank, and left the chief to drown. Pukui also offers an example of the passionate loyalty of the Mākaha for those ali'i who honored their common heritage: the example of Kupake'i.

When Kamehameha conquered the district, he was tolerated but never really loved. Keawe-a-heulu ancestor of Kalakaua was made head man over the district, he was accepted because they had to, but as to real aloha, there was none. The loyalty and love of the Ka'u people centered around Kupake'i, their own ali'i. When Kamehameha wanted Kupake'i to live in his court and on his bounty [one of Kamehameha's strategies for removing potential rebels was to invite them to join his court where they could be watched and controlled], the Mākaha people would not let him go. He was hidden away whenever Kamehameha's canoes were seen approaching the shores. (Ibid.)

Pukui's explanation of the origins of the people of Ka'ū begins with a reluctance to translate "Mākaha," their name for themselves. But once she traces the ancestry of these people (her own people) and provides examples of their behavior, she offers this observation: "Mākaha" has been translated as "Ka'ū the rebellious," but it also includes pride in one's district, people and all, to the exclusion of all else" (Ibid.). The oli "'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona" is an expression of that pride in the very days when it was most threatened

The oli begins with words of distaste for the district of Kona: "'A'ole au i makemake iā Kona." This distaste, however, is best interpreted as meant for the chiefs of Kona and not for the land itself. At the time of Kupake'i, the antagonism between Ka'ū (allied, for the most part, with Puna and Hilo) and Kona (allied, for the most part, with Kohala) was at least five generations old: Kamakau suggests that it had its origins in the mistreatment of Kua'ana – a son of and a brother of Kupake'i's great-great-great grandfather – by the Mahi chiefs of Kona and Kohala under the leadership of the high chiefess Keakamahana (Ruling Chiefs, 62-63). The feud, Kamakau continues, was played out over "several centuries" by successive generations of Ka'ū and Kona ali'i; its "highlights" include:

1. The mutual enmity of Keawe'īkekahiali'i's sons, Kalaninui'īamamao and Kalanike'eaumoku. Upon their father's death, Kalaninui'īamamao (whose mother was a chiefess of Ka'ū and a prominent member of the 'Ī family) was given the rule of Ka'ū; his half brother, Kalanike'eaumoku, was given the rule of Kona-Kohala. Not long afterwards, Kalanike'eaumoku had Kalaninui'īamamao assassinated. (Fornander, Polynesian Race, II:132-133).

2. The conflict between Kalani'ōpu'u and Alapa'i. Kalani'ōpu'u succeeded his father, Kalaninui'īamamao, as ali'i nui of Ka'ū; his mother was a Ka'ū chiefess and a granddaughter of 'Ī. Alapa'i, on the other hand, was a descendant of the Mahi family; he gained control of Kona and Kohala (and nominal control over all Hawai'i island) by defeating Kalanike'eaumoku. Kalani'ōpu'u rebelled against Alapa'i and regained authority over Ka'ū by defeating Alapa'i at the battle of Mahinaakaka. (Ruling Chiefs, 76-77.)

3. The conflict between Kalani'ōpu'u and Keawe'ōpala (son of Alapa'i and ali'i nui of Kona). After a prolonged series of battles in South Kona, Kalani'ōpu'u defeated Keawe'ōpala and, in 1754, became ruler over the island of Hawai'i. (Ibid., 78.)

4. The ongoing hostility between Keōuakū'ahu'ula and Kamehameha I. Keōuakū'ahu'ula was a high chief of Ka'ū; his parents were Kalani'ōpu'u and Kānekapolei. Angered by the redistribution of lands that followed Kalani'ōpu'u 's death, Keōuakū'ahu'ula joined his half-brother Kīwala'ō against Kamehameha and the Kona chiefs. Kīwala'ō was killed at the battle of Moku'ōhai (1782); Keōuakū'ahu'ula escaped to rule Ka'ū and Puna. This began nine years of warfare between the two chiefs; the fighting ended with Ke'ōua's death at Kawaihae in 1791. (Ibid., 119-122.)

With Keōuakū'ahu'ula finally out of the way, Kamehameha sent Keaweaheulu to rule over Ka'ū. Keaweaheulu, a counselor of Kamehameha's and one of the four great Kona chiefs of his time, had earlier come to Ka'ū to invite Keōua to the "meeting" at Kawaihae. Now this "betrayer of Ka'ū's...lost ali'i" (Polynesian Family System, 232) returned to supplant Kupake'i as ali'i nui of the district. Ka'ū was stripped of its sovereignty, its hereditary line of succession was subverted, and its ranking ali'i was condemned to exile in his own land.

The effect in Ka'u was – the broken spirit of a proud and fiercely independent people, who lost at one treacherous blow the...flower of their native ali'i and came under the hated rule of the conqueror. Ka'u Makaha – "Ka'u the fierce" – was humbled, their proud title brought to shame. The grandparents of oldsters yet living will attest to the withering character of this thing. Songs, chants, stories bear witness... (Polynesian Family System, 232.)

Ka'ū responded as best it could. The Mākaha acquiesced to Kamehameha and his administrator but gave their aloha quietly and stubbornly to Kupake'i. Of Kupake'i they would privately say, "He alone has the right to bake our heads" (Ruling Chiefs, 205n). That which they could not express in the presence of the outsider they whispered to their children and hid away in their poetry. One of those poems was Kupake'i's mele inoa "He Inoa no Alakaihu Oia o Kupakei." Its first sections contain a lengthy tribute to his descent from 'Ī of Hilo and Ka'ū:

That is your name, thou direct descendant of 'Ī
You are of 'Ī-kanaka, O answer to my call
Answer to your ancestral name of 'Ī.

The formal tone, attention to genealogy, and emphasis on chiefly kapu reflect the politics of Ka'ū and Kona at the time of Kalani'ōpu'u and identify these sections as having been written at Kupake'i's birth. As the chant progresses, however, this conventional, public poetry gives way to personal expressions of love for Ka'ū and defiance of outsiders. The shift in emotion and focus seems to reflect the insecurities of the war-torn reign of Keōua-kū'ahu'ula and leads us to believe that the complete chant was composed in increments, probably by different haku mele, over the course of Kupake'i's life. We believe that our paukū, "'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona," gives evidence of a third shift in emotion and focus – to stubborn pride, defiant exhortation, and creeping anguish – that moves us into the period of Keōuakū'ahu'ula's death and Kupake'i's "exile." The paukū begins with what sounds like a survivor's distaste for the treachery of Kona. Kamakau reports that, upon approaching Kawaihae, Keōua divided his party into two groups: those who would die with him, and those who, through proximity to Pauli Ka'ōleiokū, would live (156). Those few who were spared, returned to Ka'ū by way of Kona. I did not care for Kona; I have Ka'ū could easily be the words of one who returned to his broken homeland and, despairing himself, struggled to inspire and rally his despairing people.

The paukū turns quickly away from Kona, leaving the impression that Kona, like its chiefs, is now to be ignored. All that need be said about Kona is contained, understated, and dismissed in the first line; the paukū is not a point-by-point comparison of the merits of the two districts, it is a description of Ka'ū alone. Literally, it is a description of water: of inaccessible underground water at South Point that flows night and day into deep ocean springs, of precious condensation that drips off vegetation and cooling rocks where it is sopped up with kapa sponges and wrung into water gourds, of water that must be dived for at Mānā and Unulau, of water that collects after rainfall in the eye sockets of fish, and of water that is given to children in their own small hue wai so that they will learn, at an early age, to value and conserve the precious fluid.

Figuratively, the paukū's catalog of water sources is meant to describe, remind, and rally a people who are fiercely proud of their ability to survive. They alone are able to find water – and thus, life – in a land that others reject as forbidding and desolate. In this salute to Mākaha endurance, the poet subtly exhorts his people to survive yet another difficulty: the defeat of Keōua and the rule of the outsider. "Kūlia," he says. "Strive. That is what we did upon hearing that our land was without water, so must we strive today when we hear our wealth again denied." In this context, the underground water of Ka Lae that Kamehameha tried unsuccessfully to mine in 1815 ( Ruling Chiefs, 204-205) becomes a metaphor of resistance, of Mākaha pride that must continue to flow, untouched and unabated, beneath the impenetrable pāhoehoe of the homeland. The patience required to obtain water from dewfall, from underwater springs, and from the eye sockets of fish-remains becomes a metaphor of the patience required to sustain Mākaha unity in the face of a new drought. The care with which children are taught to carry and conserve their own water supply – and the haunting song of the wind as it plays over the mouths of their water gourds – become an eloquent metaphors of the importance of oral tradition, of poetry like this very mele inoa, in teaching each new generation of Mākaha to carefully hold and preserve its heritage.

The central sections of both Kupake'i name chants are rich in water references of this sort: they speak of how the Mākaha bristle at the suggestion that Ka'ū is without water, delight in drinking that which the outsider regards as unpalatable, and fiercely remind each other to keep their wealth from outsiders. One paukū of "He Inoa no Alakaihu Kupake'i," for example, reads:

The hollow in the bosom of a rock,
The fine drops from the broken hollow of a kukui tree,
There is found water that smells like acrid smoke,
Life is found in the flowing water at the haunts of birds,
Their existence is hidden, the native denies it to strangers...
Let me hide the water lest others see,
Hide your share, you [Mākaha] chiefs who rule the land.
[HEN III:929-939; Pukui translation.]

There is a significant difference, however, between paukū like these and "'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona." Sentiments in the former group derive from a Mākaha who were threatened but still in control of Ka'ū ("Hide your share, you chiefs who rule the land"); the proud language of these paukū runs undiminished and unquestioned from beginning to end. The language of our own paukū is colored by the sorrow and perspective of those who have survived an almost unbearable defeat. Pride is evoked only after its context is defined ("I do not care for Kona's rule"). Pride is interrupted by an exhortation for a renewal of proud effort ("Strive"). Pride carries the first 14 lines of the 19-line paukū; it then gives way to quieter morale building ("Be thankful for your blessings here and now"), frank appraisal of loss ("There is no going back, ways are different"), and wise advice for sanity and survival (Look forward with love...Let pass the season that is gone").

Although the names of the poets of "He inoa no Kupakei oia o Alakaihu" are unknown and much of their language is obscured by the 180 years that stand between us, we interpret the mele's fifth paukū as a turning point in the emotional journey of the complete name chant as it moves from the ancestral glory of its opening verses to the gnawing uncertainty of its closing lines: "Turn to look at the heights of Wahinekapu / Where the chief's 'ōhi'a blossoms are being picked, / What am I to do about it?" Some of us who perform "'A'ole Au i Makemake iā Kona" are Mākaha, gourd-carrying children of children whose great-grandparents remembered windsong on gourds' mouths. Some of us are equally the descendants of Kona. Others of us descend from neither. But all of us, without exception, stand at the transition place defined by this oli; such is the nature of our time. We do not care for the "Kona" of this age. That which we cherish is "wai 'ole" in the eyes of the other; it is too subtle, too difficult, or too deeply buried for his energy and taste. But it is still there to sustain us, and we are still here to hold to it. Hold to it we must.

The essay above was written by Kīhei de Silva and excerpted from his Hālau Mōhala 'Ilima Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet of 1992. It is offered here, in slightly revised and updated form, with his express consent. He retains all rights to this essay; no part of it may be used or reproduced without his written permission.