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.

Kaʻōleiokū, the Child of Kamehameha's Beardless Youth

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

Kaʻōleiokū, whose name translates to “the beloved offspring of Kū,” was the first-born son of Kamehameha the Great.  Kaʻōleiokū’s mother was Kānekapōlei, the sacred wife of Kamehameha’s uncle, Kalaniʻōpuʻu.  Raised in the court of his uncle Kalaniʻōpuʻu, Kaʻōleiokū is often referred to as the child of Kamehameha’s beardless youth. Kaʻōleiokū is thought to have been born at the time that Kamehameha, barely a teenager, trained under Kalaniʻōpuʻu, the ruling chief of Hawaiʻi in the late 18th century.

Photo courtesy of Bampse
Critical to the success of Kamehameha’s campaign to unite the islands,
Mailekini Heiau, shown above, is an older temple that was nearly as large as Puʻukoholā.

According to 19th century Hawaiian historian Samuel Manaiākalani Kamakau, Kaʻōleiokū joins forces with his half-brothers, Keōuakūʻahuʻula and Kīwalaʻō, to fight against the armies led by his father, Kamehameha.  In 1791, Kaʻōleiokū was at the command of one of two double canoes sailing to Kawaihae to confront Kamehameha. Unknown to them, Kamehameha was in the process of dedicating the two heiau of Mailekini and Puʻukoholā because the gods had told Kamehameha that this would be important to make his campaign successful. Kamehameha had already planned to dedicate his slain adversaries as an offering to his gods.  While Keōuakūʻahuʻula and seven other companion aliʻi in the first canoe were speared to death by Kamehameha’s warriors under Keʻeaumoku, Kaʻōleiokū and the aliʻi in the second canoe were spared when Kamehameha called out, “He shall not die; he is the child of my youth.” Kaʻōleiokū later reconciled with his father and fought alongside him with his campaigns on Oʻahu and Maui.

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Twowo of Kaʻōleiokū’s grand-daughters are celebrated aliʻi wahine, who continue to impact Hawaiian people today. Kaʻōleiokū is grandfather to Pauahi through a union with Luahine by whom Konia was born and grandfather to Ruth Keʻelikōlani through his first wife Keōuawahine and their daughter Pauahi I.

Photos courtesy of Kamehameha Schools
Kaʻōleiokū’s granddaughter, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani was the sister to Kamehameha IV and the wealthiest woman in Hawaiʻi in 1883. Upon Princess Ruth’s death, she named her cousin Pauahi as the sole heir to her entire estate and extensive land holdings. These lands continue to be a major support to Kamehameha Schools to this day.