A i Waimea ‘o Kalani

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Haku mele:  Unknown.

Date:  January 1871, for presentation to Queen Emma at the Waimea festivities celebrating her visit to Kilohana Lookout, Mt. Wai'ale'ale.

Sources:  1) “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” as taught by Maiki Aiu Lake to a group of her graduate dancers, including Māpuana de Silva, for presentation at a 1976 Aloha Week concert at the Waikiki Shell. 2) “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani,” Mary Kawena Pukui Collection as shared with us by Pat Namaka Bacon in 1993.  Pukui’s version is apparently the source of all those listed here. 3) “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” in David Forbes, Queen Emma and Lawa‘i, Kaua'i Historical Society 1970, p. 8. Translation by Kawena Pukui. 4) “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” in George Kanahele, Emma, Hawai‘i’s Remarkable Queen, 250. Kanahele cites the Bishop Museum Archives as his source; the mele, however, does not appear in any BMA collection. His text and translation are, in fact, from Forbes who received it in turn, from Pukui.

Our Text:  As taught to Māpuana in 1976 by Maiki Aiu Lake. Maiki’s text is identical to, and her translation clearly derived from, Pukui, but Maiki does not include the penultimate verse: “Alo ana o ka mauna / Mauna anu o Alakai.”

Our “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” is not interpreted hula; it is transmitted hula. Māpuana chants it and our students dance it just as Māpuana remembers it being taught to her by her teacher, Maiki Aiu Lake. To the best of Māpu’s knowledge and ability, our Merrie Monarch performance of “A i Waimea” is that same hula. We make this distinction because the "traditional” hula of today is most often interpreted hula: it features newly created (or unscrupulously copied) choreographies for either old or newly composed texts; only rarely does it preserve an old mele and its old choreography. Although the hula world pays regular lip-service to “tradition,” an underlying hypocrisy is evident in the overbalance, in competition after competition, of the interpreted over the transmitted.1 The doubly old stuff is boring. It needs tweaking. It doesn’t win. Consequently, the tradition of transmitting hula, unchanged, from teacher to student over the generations, has been supplanted by strategies for competitive and financial success. These strategies often endorse display over meaning, execution over understanding, exaggeration over subtlety, acting over storytelling, and more over less. As hula shifts away from its mole (its source, taproot), we see fewer hālau capable of choreographing new dances in a genuinely traditional manner, fewer still that are capable of performing legitimately transmitted traditional hula, and almost none who are willing – especially in a competitive situation – to take the risk. We have no problem with risk; it’s been almost 20 years since we’ve felt a need to tweak; and we prefer to win (or not) on our own terms. We’ve learned that boredom in traditional hula lies in the western eye of the beholder. Consequently, we look forward with other eyes and considerable excitement to sharing Aunty Maiki’s “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani,” one of the boring cornerstones of our transmitted, Queen Emma repertoire.

Māpu learned “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” with 12 of Maiki’s ‘ōlapa and kumu hula graduates in September-October of 1976, in preparation for an Aloha Week concert at the Waikīkī Shell. 

We opened that performance with “Nani Wale Ku‘u ‘Ike ‘Ana," our hula ka‘i; then we danced “A i Waimea 'o Kalani,” our main number; and then we filed off the stage while Aunty did a closing oli. Among the newly graduated teachers who had been called back into the fold for this presentation were Vicky Holt Takamine, Kawai Aona, Elena Marquez, and myself. To my knowledge, Vicky, Elena, and I were the only three of Aunty’s graduates to finish the mele. Later conversations with Vicky, Kawai, and Aunty Lani Kalama lead me to believe that “A i Waimea” was not a Hālau Hula o Maiki “standard.” Aunty Nana (Lani Kalama) and I are under the impression that Maiki received the composition from Tūtū Kawena Pukui; it was definitely not part of the hula repertoire received by Nana, Maiki, and Sally Wood-Nalua‘i when they studied with Lōkālia Montgomery. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only Maiki graduate who continues to teach the mele; it has been, for [37] years, a standard in the hula repertoire of my hālau. The mele is special to me because I learned it while hāpai with my oldest daughter Kahikina...Our research also indicates that “A i Waimea” was first performed on January 29 – my birthday – in 1871. This combination of circumstances and coincidences has served, over the years, to convince me that I owe special allegiance to the mele and to its preservation and proper performance.2   


Unlike many of the 19th century, monarchy period hula with which we work, “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” belongs to a group of mele inspired by a single, clearly documented event: an 1871 excursion undertaken by Dowager Queen Emma, her guide, and her retainers from Waimea Village to Kilohana Lookout on the northern rim of Wai‘ale‘ale. Accounts of this huaka‘i pi‘i-mauna3 are readily found in David Forbes’ monograph Queen Emma and Lawa‘i,4 in Edward Joesting’s longer work Kaua‘i: The Separate Kingdom,5 and in George Kanahele’s comprehensive biography Emma, Hawai‘i’s Remarkable Queen.6 Eric Knudsen and Gurre Noble’s Kanuka of Kauai,7 Kathryn C. Hulme’s “The Timeless Kaua‘i Swamp,”8 and the Queen Emma Collection of the Hawai‘i State Archives9 offer more detailed but less accessible information.

On January 29, 1871, a week after Emma’s return from Kilohana, “all of Waimea” gathered at a feast given in honor of the queen and her hiking companions.  Entertainment for that event consisted of newly composed mele that had been inspired by the expedition and, in particular, by Emma’s example of endurance and good cheer. Kawena Pukui estimates that Emma’s expedition “resulted in a score or more of meles, some recorded and some lost except perhaps in the memory of a few of our old people.”10 In addition to Pukui’s own contribution of a 32-line version of “Kilohana o ka Lani,” the Bishop Museum and Hawai‘i State Archives house a number of manuscript collections (Roberts, Lili‘uokalani, HEN, Kalaniana‘ole, Emma, and Kelsey) in which more than 15 “Kilohana” chants can be examined. Puakea Nogelmeier has assembled, translated (where necessary), and annotated the majority of these in the “‘Māka‘ika‘i” chapter of the recently published chant collection He Lei no ‘Emalani.11

In summary of the historical and compositional context of “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani,” we offer the following account of Emma’s Kilohana excursion as it is detailed in various manuscript and published sources cited above.

  1. In late 1870 Emma took up residence in a small, out-of-the way cottage perched on a bluff above Lāwa‘i Kai on the south shore of Kaua‘i. This was family land; the ahupua‘a of Lāwa‘i had been a mahele grant to James Young Kanehoa, an uncle of Emma’s who later passed it on to his widow Hikoni12 who deeded it to Emma in June 1871 “for love, affection, and for the sum of one dollar.”13 Emma had probably visited Lāwa‘i on her 1856 wedding tour and again in September 1860 with her two year old son, the Prince of Hawai‘i.  A December 31, 1870, letter from Emma to her brother-in-law Kamehameha V establishes the circumstances of her 1870-1871 residence:

    1. We arrived late in the afternoon last Thursday [12-21, Koloa Landing] and had to ride over two miles before we reached this place. The schooner [Pauahi] left that same evening & even if I had the time, there is nothing to tell you about, but your Majesty will I am sure understand how much I am grateful for your kindness in sending me free of expense down here. The house we are in is one by itself for a couple of miles round, rather lonesome I fear for some. We kept Christmas by dancing and games, the usual amusements at those seasons...14

  1. We assume that Emma’s Lāwa‘i vacation, which would last until April 1871, was part of Lot’s ongoing campaign to distract his sister-in-law from the melancholy that continued to weigh upon her after the loss, nearly a decade earlier, of her husband and four-year-old son. Lot’s therapy had included travel to Europe and North America, as well as shorter stays on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui. Lot had been to the Waimea district of Kaua‘i in 1851, and he had even climbed Wai‘ale‘ale while on a pig hunting expedition. A March 11, 1881, letter from Emma to Lot indicates that he had taken the same Pu‘ukapele-Waineki trail that Emma was to travel on her own pi‘i mauna; it also suggests that Emma was familiar with Lot’s earlier expedition, and that Lot was perhaps the inspiration for Emma's adventure:

    1. I have sent a short account of our trip to Alaka‘i...Kahaaanamahuna, Puukapele, Waineki, and Waikoi were pointed out as your various camping grounds on a boar hunt in ‘51 the large stone with Mr. Brenchly and Mr. Remy’s [?] names and others marked on it had rolled off from the top a little way with its face down so I did not see their names but our guides told us.15

  1. Emma was sufficiently curious about the prospects of a Kilohana expedition to have “regained some of her former spirit of adventure.”16 The queen, “with little or no hesitation, decided to make the trek.”17 The trails to Wai’ale‘ale, however, were nearly forgotten, and it was only after considerable inquiry and convincing that an elderly man, Kaluahi, was finally persuaded to serve as guide.18 Valdemar Knudsen, a native Norwegian who had taken up ranching at Koloa, had made a similar trip in 1860; his guide on that trip was also H. Kaluahi:

    1. They went from Waiawa to Hale-manu-lalo [Knudsen’s home]...two remained and four [went on] including Kanuka and their guide H. Kaluahi. On Thursday morning [October 12] they went to Waineki. There is a stream above there and the visitors could go no farther.  This is the forest and it is called Eleneki-nui. It was there that I saw the skill of the guide in finding the trail because there were so many other trails made by the pigs. The head of the expedition [Knudsen] wanted to take one of the trails made by the pigs because he thought that it was the real trail, but the guide held to what he knew and they followed him till they were out of the woods. They went down to the stream, Kauaikanana. At the stream there were places where strangers were likely to be lost and old-timers too of this time.19

  1. It was Knudsen who recommended Kaluahi to Emma,20 and it is likely that Knudsen was partly responsible for Kaluahi’s reluctance: Keli‘ihune’s newspaper article (cited above) hints politely at Knudsen’s bull-headedness and disrespect for the Hawaiian guide. On their descent from Kilohana, Kaluahi broke his shoulder after sliding and striking a tree; in his haste to return to civilization, Knudsen abandoned the injured man as soon as the morning mist cleared and revealed the path to Wainiha.

  1. The exact duration of Emma’s expedition is difficult to ascertain: it took all of a Monday and Tuesday, and part of Wednesday, to reach Kilohana, but we aren’t sure how long it took to make the descent: a day and a half, Wednesday and Thursday, is our guess. Nor are we certain of the dates of the trip; we know that a celebration feast was given on January 29, “upon the return of the party to Waimea.”21 A four-day trip beginning on Monday, January 15, would have brought the travelers home within 10 days of that feast. A four-day trip beginning on Monday, January 22, would have brought them home with three days to spare. Since a good number of Waimea’s citizens – those who would have been responsible for preparing the feast, for building the lānai on which it was held, and for presenting some of the newly composed mele that served as entertainment for the gathering – were also the somewhat exhausted members of the Kilohana tour, we are inclined to assign to Emma’s group the earlier date of departure. Three days hardly seems sufficient for recovering from the trip and preparing for the ‘aha‘aina ho‘omana‘o.

  1. Emma’s expedition was originally intended to involve a few of Emma’s retainers and a handful, perhaps, of Waimea notables. News of the trip spread quickly, however, and by the time the group assembled in Waimea, “it had swelled to about a hundred persons. Men, women, and children, hula girls, retainers, and musicians stretched along the trail for nearly half a mile.”22 Emma's letter to her mother Fanny Young (1-28-1871) lists some of the people involved:

    1. All 100 of us went up to Alakai...All of us from Honolulu went up there with the locals, Kauai [Judge J. Kaua‘i, a magistrate at Waimea and a member of the House of Representatives; he later contracted leprosy and led the colony of Kalalau Valley lepers who refused to be sent to Kalaupapa] and his wife Kaenaku [daughter of a faithful warrior of Kamehameha who, after the Kaua‘i rebellion of 1824, received land on Kaua‘i as “spoils” of Ka‘ahumanu’s victory], Koakanu, Palekaluhi, Paki, Lilikalani [Judge G.W. Lilikalani, for many years a district magistrate at Koloa; later a strong supporter of Kalākaua] and Lucy, wife of Kaumoalii, the lame one who died.23

  1. Mostly on horseback and mostly in single file, the procession wound its way up Waimea Canyon by way of the same Pu‘ukapele and Waineki trail described in Keli‘ihune’s 1860 account of Knudsen’s trek. The first leg of the climb, undertaken on Monday morning,24 was great fun, and the group stopped frequently to enjoy performances by Emma’s po‘e hula.25 The forest of Pu‘ukapele was noted for its stands of kauila wood26 and for the mountain hinahina that lined the trail. Three of the longer Kilohana chants share the following details:

    1. Pa‘a i ka lala kamahele        

    2. Na hinahina ku alanui       

    3. Ke hiki aku i Pu‘ukapele       

    4. I ke kauila pano ohiohi

    5. Holding on to the projecting branches

    6. On to the hinahina shrubs beside the trail

    7. Before reaching Puukapele

    8. Where the tall dark kauila trees grow.27


  2. The party spent the night at Waineki, the “swampy mountains above Waimea town,”28 in a place described in the Makea chant as a hale kāmala (temporary structure, shed). The next morning, Tuesday (Jan. 16?), the group traveled on, “passing Eleneki stream...up an ascent that was Hauailiki, into the forest of Kapukaohelo and out, then down to Kauaikanana, where the stream is below. I saw the place where these men would sleep and the saying was derived, ‘Rain on, o rain, a rain defied is this (Ua oe e ka ua kikii ka ua i ka nana keia).’”29 The horse trail ended at the edge of Kauaikananā Valley, and the party was reduced to slogging through fog-chilled forests and ground so boggy that the slightest misstep “might cause one to sink waist deep in mud.”30  Emma’s allusion to the naming of Kauaikananā is explained in the S.K. Kuapu‘u’s mo‘olelo published in Ka Hae Hawaii and summarized below by Pukui: 

    1. During a storm a man found shelter in a small cave; his companion stood under a tree and shouted: Ua oe e ka ua, ka ua o ka nana keia, rain on O rain, a rain defied is this. The man in the cave thought his companion had better shelter and ran out to see. The man under the tree then went into the cave.31

  1. An early section of the original Kuapu‘u entry deserves careful scrutiny, as does Theodore

  2. Kelsey's comment to the mele “Ke ‘Auku nei ka Ihu o Ka‘ula i ke Kai.” Both corroborate the

  3. place names and trail conditions of Emma’s ascent from Pu‘ukapele to Alaka‘i:     

    1. Two men began their ascent from Waimea by way of the mountain of Pu‘ukapele, on a short cut by which Wainiha could be reached in a day. As they went on and passed Waineki, they peered cautiously down into a wide, deep valley. They were caught in a heavy downpour and were chilled...[The name, Kauaikanana, is then explained].  When the rain cleared up, he [the man who tricks his companion into leaving the cave] went on to Kalehuamakanoe, the forest of Alakai, Ola’s wood-paved trail, and on.32

    2. Mamalahoa, aia aku iuka o Puu ka Pele.  Haalele oe ia Puu ka Pele, a pii aku oe ma ia wahi…Ma Waineki pau ka hiki ana a ka lio ke hele.  Hele wawae oe a hiki i ka naele o Alakai. Hele a hiki i ka Lehua Makanoe, he honua palahalaha kahi e hoomaha ai ka poe makaikai, he lehua wale no malaila. Mamalahoa is above Pu‘ukapele. You leave Pu‘ukapele and climb to this place…Horses are not able to travel past Waineki. You continue on foot until Alaka’i Swamp. You go until Lehua Makanoe, a level area where travelers rest; there is only lehua there.33

  1. Joesting, whose source is Knudsen and Noble’s Kanuka, reports that Emma was so enthralled by the view of Alaka‘i from her vantage point at Kauaika-nanā that she called her dancers and musicians forward to perform. “Kaluahi was thinking of the need to push on, but Queen Emma would not be satisfied...[until] one performance had followed another...”34 Neither Emma’s letters nor any of the Kilohana chants refer to this incident. The most detailed of the chants describes the steep descent and thickly growing pa‘iniu, and Emma’s March 11 missive to Lot admits to considerable fatigue:

    1. A he ehu wawae ‘Ilikini           

    2. Kinikini na hoa pa‘iniu*       

    3. He ihona o Kaua-i-kanana   

    4. Ikiiki ia alu kahawai       

    5. He kahawai koke aku no ia   

    6. Ku ia i ka mana o ka wai   

    7. Hailona i ke kino ‘ohi‘a       

    8. Ka pi‘ina aku la o Paka-ua   

    9. He kuilima ka ke aloha       

    10. Kualono a ka lu a ke a   


    12. All walked in Indian file

    13. Through the thickly growing pa‘iniu

    14. Kaua-i-kanana goes steeply down

    15. To the hollow where the stream runs

    16. The stream lies just before

    17. And then it begins to fork

    18. We mark the ‘ohi‘a trunks

    19. On the ascent of Paka-ua

    20. The loved ones hold each other’s hands

    21. Over the region where lava was deposited.35

    22. Thence the walking was rather fatiguing and almost took my breath away. It [Wai‘ale‘ale] must not be ascended in the wet months for then the lehua is not in its perfection. I want very much to go up again in the Autumn.36

  1. The journey across Alaka‘i was characterized by extremes of wonder and desolation, of inspiration and exhaustion. Emma’s letter to Lot37 refers to the “perfectly beautiful” scenery and profusion of “mosses, Lehua, ferns, wild flowers, etc.,” but she expresses concern to Fanny38 over the effects on her people of “being so long with clothing drenched from top to bottom for two days.” Knudsen and Noble’s more detailed account makes reference to the chill, mud, rotting vegetation, and other-worldly landscape.  As summarized by Joesting:

    1. There had been a rude trail through Alakai in earlier times...and it was restored for Queen Emma. It was a “corduroy road” made of tree-fern logs dropped one next to another over the bogs. Beside the road were clumps of grass and sedge. Between the clumps was black mud composed of rotted vegetation where a person could sink knee deep into the ooze. There were towering ferns, dwarfed gray ohia trees, and makaloa grass...There were violets that grew into virtual trees, four or five feet high. Mosses, brown, orange, and near-white, circled the bog pools. It was a world from an early day of creation.39

  1. The trail, which was originally built for Ola, is referred to in many of the longer Kilohana chants as “...ke ala wai ohia / Ala Kipapa-a-Ola” – the ‘ōhi‘a paved pathway through water / The paved road made by Ola.40  Although the Knudsen-Noble, Hulme, and Joesting accounts of Emma’s passage through Alaka‘i imply that the ancient ōhi‘a boardwalk and its hāpu‘u counterpart provided reasonably safe passage through the length of Alaka‘i, the Kilohana chants invariably place Kīpapa-a-Ola at the far end of Alaka‘i at the approach to the final ascent to Kilohana. In the  section recorded below, for example, Emma’s party is described as passing through much of Alaka‘i, spending the night huddled around a moss-kindled fire at ‘Aipō, and waiting for morning “to go on to Kipapa-a-Ola:”

    1. Komo i ka nahele wehiwehi   

    2. I ka ulu la‘au mokihana       

    3. O ke ku a ka lehua makanoe   

    4. Kuha’o i ka wao la‘au       

    5. Noe wale mai no ka lehua       

    6. Ne‘ene‘e papa i ke kohekohe   

    7. Ua ponia ka maka o ia pua   

    8. Noho hiehie i ka la‘au       

    9. Ho‘a‘o i na lepo pilali       

    10. Kohu lepo ‘ai o Kawainui       

    11. He nenelu ke ala e hiki ai       

    12. He ‘ulika launa ‘ole mai       

    13. Pakika i Kapu‘ukolea       

    14. Ka pi‘ina aku o Kawaikoi       

    15. Ua wela ‘inea i ka la       

    16. ‘Aikena ua ma‘opa‘opa       

    17. He hana Hale-pa‘akai       

    18. He maluhi ho‘i i ka nahele       

    19. Ka nahele o ‘Aipo-nui       

    20. Na hoa i ka hui kalakala       

    21. Ho‘olale i ke ahi lalapoli       

    22. Pulupulu i ka pu‘a limu       

    23. Ua noho po‘ai a puni       

    24. Le‘a kulou no a Ema       

    25. Aia ka pono a ke ao       

    26. I loa‘a i Kipapa-a-Ola       

    27. Ua ola i ka ‘ohu kakua.       

    28. Kau pono i Ke-awa-ko‘o       

    29. Oki pau ka hana a ka wahine

    30. Kau pono i ka wekiu     


    32. (We) entered the beautiful forest

    33. Where the mokihana trees grow

    34. The stunted lehua trees grow

    35. In the region of trees

    36. The lehua stunted by the cold

    37. Grow thickly among the kohekohe grass

    38. The faces of flowers are of various hues

    39. They look so attractive among the trees

    40. All tasted the glutinous earth

    41. That resembles the edible earth of Kawainui

    42. Boggy is the way to reach it

    43. Very sticky with mud is the trail

    44. We slip at Pu‘ukolea

    45. On the way up to Kawaikoi

    46. Hot and tired in the sun

    47. Worn out and weary of limb

    48. A steep ascent to Hale-pa‘akai

    49. Then in fatigue we reached the forest

    50. The forest of great ‘Aipo

    51. Where we are scratched by the brambles

    52. A fire is suggested to warm by

    53. Kindled with branches of moss

    54. All sit around in a circle

    55. Where Emma comfortably crouched

    56. Eagerly awaiting the coming of day

    57. To go on to Kipapa-a-Ola

    58. Sheltered by the surrounding fog

    59. We reach the top of Ke-awa-ko‘o

    60. Wondrous is the Queen’s prowess

    61. In reaching the very top.41

  1. The profusion of Alaka‘i place-names in the longer versions of the Kilohana chants is the source of considerable confusion for us because the majority of these names have not been recorded in place-name indices or easily accessed map collections. Although the place-name sequence of the initial leg of Emma’s trip can be traced, for example, on US Geological Survey Map N2207-W15932.5/7.5 (1965) – she proceeded up Waimea Stream; skirted Pu‘u Ka Pele, Waiahulu Stream, and Waineki Swamp; crossed Elenekinui Stream and forest; then continued, by way of what is now labeled “Alaka‘i Trail,” through Kauaikananā Valley and into Alaka‘i – Alaka‘i itself is an undifferentiated expanse of four mile trail between Kauaikananā and Kilohana.  What we, the US Geo. Survey team, and perhaps Knudsen and his predecessors tend to think of as simply “Alaka‘i Swamp,” was originally subdivided into numerous localities, each with its own distinctive features and names.  Although the Alaka‘i of Emma’s time had not been visited often – perhaps not for the space of an entire generation of Hawaiians – many of these Alaka‘i names must have been used by Kaluahi and remembered in chant by Emma’s haku mele.  The verification of these place names (and a study of the extent to which they are accurately used and chronologically sequenced by the Kilohana composers) deserves systematic, comparative research that is beyond the scope of this report.

  1. As detailed in the Makea chant and the Knudsen-Noble memoir, Emma’s party was not able to reach the Kilohana Lookout by nightfall on Tuesday, the second day of their excursion. Emma’s retainers constructed a platform of branches to elevate themselves somewhat from the boggy ground, lit a moss-kindled fire, and huddled together for warmth while “Queen Emma chanted meles and sang modern songs to hearten her soaked and chilled companions.”42 This difficult night, ameliorated by Emma’s undiminished good cheer and enduring spirit, was to become for Emma’s retainers the single most powerful memory of the entire trip. The fire, Emma’s warm voice, and the human lei of 100 huddled ōhua is, in fact, the focus of a complete set of Kilohana chants whose authors have set aside the chronological recounting of the excursion in favor of expanded descriptions of that excursion's emotional center.

    1. I ke anu o Aipo           

    2. Puili i ke ahi la,           

    3. A i kapa o ia uka la.       

    4. Ka leo ka mea aloha,       

    5. I ka heahea ana mai.       

    6. Mahea mai oukou la       

    7. Ma‘ane‘i ma ka mehana.   

    8. I ka pi‘ina o nei ikiiki,       

    9. O Kukala-a-na-manu,       

    10. I ka lehua makanoe.*       

    11. Hoomaha aku o ka lani       

    12. Pauku me ka pa‘iniu.       

    13. E lalama e ka nui manu,       

    14. I ka ohi hua mokihana,       

    15. I lei no ka wahine la,           

    16. No Emalani no he inoa.


    18. In the cold of Aipo

    19. A bonfire was built,

    20. To warm her in that upland.

    21. We were grateful to her,

    22. When she called to us.

    23. “Where are you all,

    24. Come hither to the warmth.”

    25. There had been a hard climb

    26. To Kukala-a-na-manu.

    27. Among the stunted ‘ohi‘a trees.

    28. Lehua loved by the gods,

    29. We wove with pa‘iniu grass.

    30. Like a flock of birds,

    31. We went to gather mokihana

    32. To adorn our lady,

    33. Emalani is her name.43

  1. A letter from Emma to Fanny indicates that the queen was aware of the impact of her behavior that night and of the significance with which it was invested. Indeed, within a week of her return, the cold night at ‘Aipō was fast becoming a metaphor of Emma’s resilient spirit and of the enduring love that she shared with her people.

    1. At our feast for the “cold skin,” the locals were told of the honor of huddling together with the Queen in this cold and terrible weather on the mountain, her endurance, and the experience has been something of a boast for all the people accompanying me, their huddling together with their beloved Queen being a royal wreath for them.44

  1. The next day, Wednesday, the party resumed its trek across Alaka‘i. The Kilohana Lookout was only a short distance away, and from the cliffs above Wainiha Valley and Maunahina Ridge, the queen enjoyed a spectacular view of Hanalei, Mahamoku, Lumaha‘i, and Naue. The view, with its catalog of north shore place-names, inspires the opening lines of a number of Kilohana chants – those, in particular, whose focus is not on the chronology of the excursion but on the significance of her arrival as symbolized by view, warmth, voice, and lei.

    1. A Kilohana o Kalani       

    2. Nana ia Hanalei           

    3. A ke one a Mahamoku         

    4. Me ka wai o Lumaha‘i       

    5. A ka lae hala o Naue       

    6. Alai ia e ka noe           

    7. Maunahina kai i luna       

    8. Ke ala kuhikuhi lima       

    9. Ui a‘e nei Emalani       

    10. E huli ho‘i kakou           

    11. I ke ala wai ‘ohi‘a           

    12. Ala Kipapa a Ola 


    14. The Queen was at Kilohana

    15. To gaze at Hanalei,

    16. The sands of Mahamoku,

    17. The waters of Lumaha‘i,

    18. And the hala shrouded cape of Naue

    19. Hidden by the mist.

    20. Maunahina lies above it,

    21. The pathway pointed out by hand

    22. Emma suggests:

    23. “Let us return now

    24. To the ‘ōhi‘a paved waterway,

    25. To the boardwalk of Ola.”45

  1. Joesting reports that “this spectacular sight was the reason Emma had made the journey, and once she had absorbed the scene, she turned to begin the trek back across the swamp and downward to the sea.”46 It is perhaps here that the group, described in various Kilohana chants as “a flock of birds,” descended on the mokihana, lehua, and pa‘iniu growing along the trail and began to fashion real lei for themselves and their queen. None of Emma’s letters contains detailed references to her descent; one simply advises Fanny that four of her group fell off their horses on the way back – Kuhea, Kipola, Hanaiole, and Waialoe – but none were hurt.47 The Kilohana chants are equally sketchy in their references: those that we’ve catalogued as ascent- and chronology-centered simply conclude with Emma’s request, after reaching Kilohana, to return; those that we’ve labeled as view-, warmth-, voice-, and lei-oriented vary considerably in detail and coherence but offer little in the way of additional travel information.  

  1. Within a week of her return, on the evening of January 29, 1871, a feast was given in

  2. Emma’s honor. “All Waimea” was present at the home of Mary Ann Kime, “wife of

  3. Isaac, son of Kapuniai,” where a large lānai had been built to accommodate the celebration

  4. “of the cold our skin suffered in going to the mountains.”48 As was customary on such

  5. occasions, the queen was offered a ho‘okupu of mele hula that had been composed and

  6. choreographed in memoryof the Kilohana trip. Forbes notes that Kaukau, Kuapu‘u,

  7. Lilikalani, and Kaua‘i recited some of these mele,49 and Emma refers to “good speeches”

  8. given by the latter three. Lilikalani, for example:

    1. …told the story to the country folk of the pleasure of being together in the uplands & how they had to bear the cold, something to brag about for all the people who were on the trip to the mountains with their beloved queen.50

  1. After the feast, Emma returned to Lāwa‘i and resumed various gardening, tree planting, and irrigation projects at her newly renamed home: Mauna Kilohana.  The poetic celebration of that trip, however, was far from over. Emma’s supporters, even those in Honolulu, continued to share information about the queen’s remarkable endurance, about the spectacular view from Kilohana, and about the bond of love that was shared on the trail. Two months after Emma’s return to Lāwa‘i, she wrote to Fanny about a name chant that had been published in the February 16 edition of Ke Au Okoa:

    1. Hanawai said that Moehonua composed it. And that Kalakaua and Kamakaeha are composing a mountain climbing song for me. When I return they’ll sing it, but in my opinion it’s not true. Moehonua was very accurate in composing his chant. Lilikalani wrote a letter to him about everything on our trip and also sent forest leaves of those places, as though he saw me doing those things. That’s how he put [the chant] together. There is also a chant he [Hanawai?] is sending, a “younger sibling,” about our deeds which was just printed, “A Kilohana Makou.” And he wrote the long account of that mountain climb. Keliimoewai was the name [Hanawai?] signed. In that newspaper my letter to his wife was printed by him.51

  1. We are not able to document as accurately the compositional history of several other after-the-fact mele for Emma’s huaka‘i pi‘i mauna. Some of these strike us as either: 1) second-rate attempts at “covering” dimly remembered originals, or as 2) equally uninspiring hatchet-jobs by which long mele were chopped into short hula. The Mader Collection, for example, provides the following “complete” text of “Kilohana O Kalani” wherein the queen does little more than acknowledge the view and ask to return:

    1.     A Kilohana o Kalani           

    2.     Nana ia Hanalei           

    3.     O ke one a‘o Mahamoku       

    4.     Me ka wai a‘o Lumaha‘i       

    5.     A ka lae hala o Naue       

    6.     Alai ia e ka noe           

    7.     Ui a‘e nei Emalani           

    8.     A'e e huli ho‘i kakou           

    9.     Ha‘ina mai ka puana       

    10.     Emalani no he inoa.          

    11.     The queen stood on Kilohana

    12.     And looked down on Hanalei

    13.     To the sands of Mahamoku

    14.     And the waters of Lumaha‘i

    15.     The hala covered point of Naue

    16.     Was hidden away by the mist

    17.     The queen turned to say

    18.     “Let us go back now.”

    19.     The end of the song I sing

    20.     For Emalani.52

  1. Other chants, while also written from second-hand points of view, make innovative use of the Kilohana tradition as take-off points for original expressions of love and sympathy for the queen. The series of chants contributed to the Helen Roberts Collection by P.K. Kuhi of Kalihikai, Kaua‘i, provides excellent examples of this second, more creative and coherent variety of composition.53 They indicate, as well, the process by which a single royal visit, in this case Emma’s trip to Kilohana, could spawn a score of compositions, some composed immediately, others composed after a period of reflection, others inspired by news of the event, and still others inspired by these preceding generations of mele.  Kuhi’s “A Kilohana la / I ke ala kuhikuhi lima” begins with stock phrases common to a number of far more detailed and immediate Kilohana compositions, but after the standard tribute to “the hala of Naue in the sea,” we return to Waimea by way of the Nā Pali coast.54 The poet’s eccentric course (this is, in fact, the route Kalākaua took when he journeyed to Waimea from Hanalei on board the Kīlauea in 187455) and his references to the firebrands of Nu‘alolo and Makuaiki, to the long-armed activities of the god of mirages, and to Waimea fish “so tame as to be touched by man” give this name-chant for Kaleleonālani an odd, personal appeal that runs contrary to the routine nature of its opening. So, too, with Kuhi’s “No Waialeale ke aloha.” Here, the stock opening is based on the query section of the earlier Kilohana chants: “Ui a‘e nei no Emalani / Auhea ‘oukou a pau” (“Emma inquired, ‘Where are all of you?’”).  Once the question is asked, however, the chant turns suddenly, like the descending mist, into an expression of sorrow:


    1. Noe wale mai ke aloha       

    2. O kona ko‘olua ua hala       

    3. Me ka lei ali‘i o laua       

    4. Mai loko Kaleleonalani       

    5. Ha’ina ka puana i lohea       

    6. Nalani‘elua he inoa.       

    7. Grief darkens like fog

    8. For her mate has gone

    9. And their beloved royal child

    10. Child born from Kaleleonalani

    11. Thus ends our praise, may all hear

    12. The name of Nalani‘elua.56

  1. explication

In the preceding section, we have proposed four subdivisions for the Kilohana chant collection: 1) those that describe the ascent from Waimea to the Kilohana Lookout; 2) those that begin with the Kilohana view and linger over emotionally significant events of the journey; 3) those that use familiar Kilohana images as take-off points for original expressions of love for Queen Emma; and 4) those that provide abridged and often disjointed revisions of earlier “ascent” and “view” compositions. The J.P. Kuhi chants described above provide sufficient definition for our third category, as does Mader’s 12-line “A Kilohana” for our last. The ascent and view chants, however, merit additional comment. The ascent chants can also be identified by their sense of immediacy, sequence, and detail: they have a narrative intensity to them; we travel to Kilohana in linear fashion; we are immersed in a catalog of place-names, plant-names, and physical sensations.  The “view” chants, on the other hand, have an emotional, non-linear focus: we begin at Kilohana and circle the Alaka‘i campground in affirmation of the spiritual bond that germinates around the Tuesday night fire and bursts into bloom with Wednesday morning’s breathtaking vistas. Where the ascent chants have a written-on-the-spot, reportorial feel, the view chants are cast in a more symbolic mold and give evidence of Wordsworth’s “powerful feelings recollected in tranquility.” 


Of the 18 Kilohana chants that we have collected, three are ascent mele, five are view mele, six are spin-offs, and four are orphans. One chant, “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani,” resists taxonomy. In its first-half catalog of place-names, it is very much a mele of ascent. In its second-half emphasis on epiphany, it resembles the more feeling-focused mele of view. And in its brevity, two-part structure, contrasts of stock and original description, and hints of underlying kaona, it gives evidence of sharing with a later generation of Kilohana mele the peculiarities of spin.

Of all the Kilohana chants, “A i Waimea” is the only one to begin at the beginning – at Waimea where Emma and her hundred gathered to make their ascent. The HEN, Roberts 11:80-91, and Moehonua versions (the three that we’ve labeled as ascent mele), all open by directing our attention to Kilohana, the source of “our admiration / The endless delight of the mind”; their focus then shifts to the slippery trail and projecting branches below Pu‘ukapele; it is from this point in geography and poetry that we begin to climb Wai‘ale’ale in sequential fashion.  “A i Waimea,” which accomplishes in 18 lines of poetry what the others do in 63, dispenses with this protracted introduction and moves us in quick order from Waimea to Kauaikananā. The first ten lines of this composition are delivered in the manner of a travelogue chant: a place is named and a description is offered, another place is named and another description is offered. The queen, we are told, is in the district of Waimea in the uplands of Waiahulu (a stream that flows through Pu‘ukapele Forest Reserve and joins the Waimea River from the north); now she is passing through Hālau a Ola (a heiau constructed by the builder-chief of the menehune) where she is sheltered by a grove of koa trees; now she is at the Waineki campground where a shelter is raised for her protection; the work is done quickly as if aided by Limaloa (the long-armed god who builds kauhale, living compounds, out of clouds); now she is at Kauaikananā, sitting on the slippery ridge (“an unstable mound”) with the ascent to Alaka‘i waiting below.

        A i Waimea ‘o Kalani       

        I ka uka o Waiahulu.           

        ‘O ka Hālau a Ola           

        Malu i ka hale lau koa.       

        Ho‘onohonoho Waineki      

        Kauhale a Limaloa.           

        Ho‘okahi pu‘u hulahula       

        Ka nohona a ‘Emalani.           

        I Kauaikananā           

        Pāhe’ehe’e ka ihona.       

        The Queen was in Waimea

        In the upland of Waiahulu.

        At Hālau a Ola

        She was sheltered by koa trees.

        At Waineki were arranged

        Shelters like Limaloa’s.

        On an unstable mound

        Sat Emma the Queen.

        At Kauaikananā

        The trail was slippery.

    1. The pace of this section is quick, but not so quick as to be superficial or to raise suspicions about the first-hand nature of the composition. While the geography of ascent is standard (Waimea-Waineki-Kauaikananā), the poet of “A i Waimea” offers a subtext that is entirely his own: nowhere else in the Kilohana literature (letters, prose accounts, or mele) is Waiahulu used in place of Pu‘ukapele; nowhere else is there mention of Ola’s heiau (although it is adjacent to the Pu‘ukapele-Waiahulu trail); in only one other chant is there an analogy drawn between the construction of the hale kamala and the handiwork of Limaloa;57 and nowhere else do we find the subtle wordplay that identifies pu‘u hulahula (“unstable hill / hill of dancing”) with both the slippery descent at Kauaikananā and the hula entertainment that Emma requested before venturing from that ridge.  These subtleties of substitution, addition, allusion, and wordplay clearly indicate that the first half of “A i Waimea,” despite its brevity, is much more than a truncated copy of the ascent tradition to which it belongs. 

    2. “A i Waimea’s” catalog of place-names and pithy descriptions drops away suddenly in the second half of the mele, and the character of the piece shifts from travelogue to paean, from the reportorial to the lyrical. In translation, this section seems rather unremarkable: after Kauaikananā, the trail grows slippery, and the party moves along a path that eventually takes them to Kilohana; ‘ōhelo berries are picked for Emma, she who has endured the cold; we end the song with praise “of the name of Queen Emma.”

    3. Naue ana i ke loa       

    4. Kū ana i ke kualono.       

    5. Pū‘ili hua ‘ōhelo       

  1. Mea ‘ai na ka wahine.   

  2. ‘Alo anu o ka mauna   

  3. Mauna anu o Alaka‘i.   

  4. Ha‘ina mai ka puana   

  5. No ‘Emalani nō he inoa.   

  6. On the long trail we moved

  7. ‘Til the mountaintop was reached.

  8. ‘Ōhelo berries were gathered

  9. For the lady to eat.

  10. She endured the mountain cold

  11. The cold mountain of Alaka‘i.

  12. This concludes my praise

  13. Of the name of Queen Emma.

The beauty of this section of the composition rests again in subtext, in the same subtlety that underlies the Limaloa and pu‘u huluhulu references of the first ten lines. The progress of the company is characterized as naue – a word whose multiple meanings (move, march, shift, sway, tremble, emotional disquiet) suggest the unstable nature of the “corduroy” trail, the anxiety with which the travelers must have anticipated nightfall, and the distant promise of Naue itself.  “Kū ana i ke kualono” (reaching the mountaintop) can be more literally translated:  “stopping at a region near the mountaintop,” an interpretation that makes good sense in view of Knudsen’s report that Emma’s party was forced to spend Tuesday night on a makeshift platform just shy of the Kilohana promontory.  Following the same interpretive tack, "Pū‘ili hua ‘ōhelo" (‘ōhelo berries were gathered") can be seen as a figurative description of the “clasping and holding close” of Emma's ‘ōhua (retainers) when they huddled that night around their moss-kindled Alaka‘i campfire. Finally, “Mea ‘ai na ka wahine” (food for the woman Emma to eat) can be interpreted as an allusion to the traditional offering of ‘ōhelo berries to Ka Wahine (Pele) after a Kīlauea pilgrimage; it was by such offerings that a traveler dispelled the rain and fog, that he gained unobstructed passage, and that he won permission, “on the homeward way...to pick [‘ōhelo and lei flowers] as he pleased.”58

When these connotative undercurrents are recognized, the second section of “A i Waimea” divulges the same emotional core that characterizes the view oriented mele of the Pukui, Roberts, and Lili‘uokalani collections. We call this emotional core an epiphany. It is a moment of sudden, intense revelation; it is an attack of understanding in which feeling is as actively involved as intellect; it is a time of heightened awareness, a time when the mists of perception suddenly lift and one can see for miles. 

We took a fairly new class of adult women to Maui a few years ago. On the way down from Haleakalā, the brakes on three of our cars began to fail. Since we were all in low gear, two cars simply rolled to uneventful stops on a grassy pull-off, but the third bumped and scraped its way to a jarring but injury-free halt against a rocky outcrop. When we returned to O‘ahu two days later, we asked the ladies to write about their trip. Although our days had been filled with interesting and educational activities, the class was unanimous in its focus on the minutes that followed our Haleakalā brake failure. The experience of standing at the roadside, hugging, giving thanks, and comforting each other was the epiphany of the trip – it was there that the ladies realized, with the awesome clarity of intellectual and emotional focus, that they cared for each other and that they belonged together.

We see a similar epiphany in the Kilohana view chants and in the second half of “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani.” Out of the Alaka‘i experience – the cold night on the trail, the clinging mist, the “chilled skins,” the comfort of the campfire, the “human wreath” of huddled ‘ōhua, the warmth of Emma’s voice, and the strength she imparts by her own unflagging good cheer – is born a spiritual bond whose significance becomes manifest the next morning in the lifting mist, the clear path to Kilohana, and the overwhelming panorama beyond.

The poet of "A i Waimea" builds the last eight lines of his mele around this epiphany of community, this intense realization of the loyalty that can be shared between ali‘i and ‘ōhua. This epiphany is expressed elsewhere in terms of voice, warmth, vista, and lei-making, but our poet concentrates his message into a single symbol of warmth-in-cold and sustenance-in-desolation: the ‘ōhelo. In return for Emma’s sustaining love, in acknowledgement of the traditional relationship of reciprocal aloha between chief and subject (a relationship from which all good was thought to emanate), the retainers gather themselves into an offering of the beautiful, fiery-red fruit that grows only in the cold uplands. They give their ‘ōhelo of love and loyalty completely to Emma, and because of the rightness of their offering, the burden of their journey is lifted and the way is opened.

The second half of the poem thus becomes a joyful celebration of a Pele-like Emma whose rank is every bit as elevated as the mountain she climbs. She is the woman who shares (‘alo) with her people the cold of Alaka‘i; but she is also the woman whose own power – in concert with the devotion of her people – enables them to avoid (‘alo) the more serious cold of  a broken community and the isolation of self. The poets of David Kalākaua, Emma’s chief political rival, turned frequently to the language of the Pele literature to underscore their ali‘i’s right to rule.59 We note with considerable interest the appearance of the ‘ōhelo as a central, Pele-inspired symbol in this unique piece of Emma poetry. Such subtly disguised boldness of thought seems to be characteristic of “A i Waimea’s” haku mele.

The first ten lines of "A i Waimea" are obviously written in the style of the Kilohana travelogue. The remaining eight lines of the chant are just as clearly written in the style of the Kilohana epiphany. The combination of the two styles in a single, terse composition is more characteristic of a third set of mele whose poets, we might argue, had more time to select, recombine, and extemporize on the basic images of Emma's expedition. The same holds true for “A i Waimea’s” use of language: its clever puns, learned allusions, unobtrusive symbols, and subtle jab at the Kalākaua poets are more characteristic of craftsmanship than spontaneity. So is a final aspect of the mele’s subtle construction: its structural kaona. 

Although “A i Waimea” has a simple narrative quality that carries us through both its travelogue and epiphany sections (first she went here, then she went there, then we gathered this, then she endured that), that simple progression of sites, activities, and emotions is beautifully deceptive. The mele, in fact, is as much a map of Emma’s life and character as it is an account of her Kilohana expedition. Students of Emma’s life will recognize that the happiness, health, shelter, and order of her early years find their poetic equivalent in the images of wai, ola, malu, and ho‘onoho in the opening lines of her chant. The slippery trail and unstable mound of the chant’s middle section reflect the central tragedies of Emma’s life – the deaths of her husband and son – and the terrible, disorienting grief that followed. Finally, the chant’s closing references to endurance, accomplishment, and reward are testament to Emma’s personal resolution to rise above her sorrow and devote her life to the betterment of her people. In this sense, “A i Waimea” speaks of Emma’s success in overcoming something larger than a mountain. In a July 17, 1873, letter to her cousin Peter Ka‘eo, Emma offers the same advice that she had already chosen to live by; the letter expresses, in Emma’s own words, the indomitable spirit that our mele celebrates:

  1. So you can not be too careful of yourself. Ultimate recovery is worth years of patient working to hasten that, and our country will need [and] does need your services...Never despond or slacken – “Excelsior” be our motto.  Then we will take our ancestors’ place with worth.60


Our text and translation of “A i Waimea” is that taught by Maiki and published by David Forbes. Maiki did not disclose her source. Forbes credits Kawena Pukui with the mele’s translation but does not disclose its source. Instead, he refers us to several “similar” chants located in Alfons Korn’s Victorian Visitors.61 Korn, in turn, cites the State Archives’ Emma and Nylen-Altman collections as his sources for “No Wai‘ale’ale ke Aloha” and the English-only fragment of Moehonua’s traveling mele “Arriving at Pu‘u-kapele.”62 Neither the Emma and N-A folders at the State Archives nor the Bishop Museum Archives’ Mele Manuscript Collections contains the text of “A i Waimea” – we know this because we’ve looked long and hard. Indeed, the irony of our month-and-a-half of research conducted in 1992 at the two facilities is that we gathered 18 related Kilohana chants, but not the chant that initiated the search. Our guess, at that point ten years ago, was that “A i Waimea” belonged to a private collection and stood somewhat outside the mainstream of the Kilohana mele represented in the various archival collections.  Our guess, it turns out, was correct. The mele was shared with us in 1993 by Aunty Pat Namaka Bacon from the private collection of Mary Kawena Pukui.

Pukui, we are certain, was Maiki’s source. Pukui, we suspect, is the source that Forbes lost track of. Unfortunately, the recent publication of “A i Waimea” in George Kanahele’s biography of Emma continues to promote a Forbes-like misdirection. Kanahele credits his source as “Chant Collection BMA.” It is not there. It is in the files of the granddaughter of one of Emma’s own po‘e hula.


We have divided “A i Waimea” into two-line verses; that is the way that Maiki taught the chant and dance. The version taught by Maiki does not include “Mauna anu.../ Alo anu...,” the pair of lines that we have enclosed in parentheses;  aside from that, the Maiki and Pukui texts differ only in orthography.

A i Waimea ‘o Kalani

A i Waimea1 ‘o Kalani       

I ka uka o Waiahulu.2

‘O ka Hālau a Ola3       

Malu i ka hale lau koa.4

Ho‘onohonoho Waineki5    

Kauhale a Limaloa.6

Ho‘okahi pu‘u hulahula    

Ka nohona a ‘Emalani.

I Kauaikananā           

Pāhe‘ehe‘e ka ihona.

Naue ana i ke loa       

Kū ana i ke kualono.7

Pū’ili8 hua ‘ōhelo       

Mea ‘ai na ka wahine.

(‘Alo anu o ka mauna       

Mauna anu o Alaka‘i.)

Ha‘ina mai ka puana       

No ‘Emalani nō he inoa.

The Queen was in Waimea

In the upland of Waiahulu.

At Hālau a Ola

She was sheltered by koa trees.

At Waineki were arranged

Shelters like Limaloa’s.

On an unstable mound

Sat Emma the Queen.

At Kauaikananā

The trail was slippery.

On the long trail we moved

Till the mountain top was reached.

‘Ōhelo berries were gathered

For the lady to eat.

(She endured the mountain cold

The cold mountain of Alaka‘i.)

This concludes my praise

Of the name of Queen Emma.  

notes to the text

1. Waimea. Sophia Cracroft, who saw Waimea from the deck of a steamer in 1861, described it “as a considerable village and missionary station lying on the beach under a range of hills. The place of Cook’s resort was by a conspicuous, because isolated, clump of cocoanut palms, about a mile to the east of the village...[The place] is no more than an open roadstead facing the south. The village stretches along the shore and has a large church, evidently adapted to a larger population than now remains” (Letter, 6-4-1861, in Korn, The Victorian Visitors, 150).

Pukui (Place Names, 225-226) translates the name Waimea to mean “reddish water (as from erosion of red soil).” In ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, she explains the saying “Ka wai ‘ula ‘iliahi o Waimea” as a reference to the river’s sandalwood-red color: “After a storm, the Waimea Stream is said to run red. Where it meets Makeweli Stream to form Waimea River, the water is sometimes red on one side and clear on the other. The red side is called wai ‘ula ‘iliahi" (#1662).” Red is symbolic of royalty. ‘Ili‘ahi, after the last of the sandalwood forests were uprooted in 1830, came to stand for something (or someone) of great rarity and value. It is perhaps for these reasons that Waimea often appears in chants for ali‘i wahine. See, for example, the line “Pa‘ihi i ka wai ‘ula ‘iliahi” in “Aloha Waimea i ka Wai Kea” and “Hanohano Waimea i ka Wai Kea,” variations of a mele inoa for Queen Kapi’olani (Roberts, Ancient Hawaiian Music, 258-260; Betty Tatar, Nā Leo Hawai‘i Kahiko, MACD 2043, 33; and Pukui, Nā Mele Welo, 160-161.]  The association of Emma with the Waimea River may be particularly apt in the sense that the flowing together of the wai ‘ula and wai kea is symbolic of her own Hawaiian and haole blood.

2.  Waiahulu.  Our US Geological Survey Map N2207-W15932.5/7.5 (1965) identifies Waiahulu stream as originating in the Pu‘ukapele Forest Reserve near Koke‘e State Park. It runs southwest and joins the Waimea River about 1 mile north of the Waimea Canyon Lookout. 

Kuluwaimaka’s note for the line “He wai ‘ula ia na ke kiu Waiahulu” (“It is a red water of the kiu-wind named Waiahulu”) in his version of “‘Ike i ka Wai‘ula ‘Iliahi o Waimea" corroborates our map reading, identifies the Waiahulu as a wind as well as a river, and associates both (though not clearly) with the source of Waimea’s red color:


Pa ka makani Kiu a kahe ua wai ala. O Waimea ka aina nui. O Waiahulu he kahawai mauka o ka aina ma ka aoao akau ke huli oe i ko alo i kai; a o ke kahawai ma ka hema, oia ka wai ula iliahi a Waimea.  Ma kuahiwi keia mau kahawai; hui laua iwaena mai.” The Kiu-Waiahulu wind blows and the aforementioned red water flows. Waimea is the district.  Waiahulu is a stream ma uka of this land on the right [northwest] side when you face the sea; as for the stream to the left [southeast], this is the sandalwood-red water of Waimea.  These streams are in the mountains and meet in their midst. (Kuluwaimaka Collection, M. 51-1:58-59, Bishop Museum Archives. My translation.)

Waiahulu can be translated as “feathered, ruffled, foamy or discolored water” (‘ahulu), the effect, perhaps, of the Kiu wind that blows over the stream. The name might also be read as “wai-a-(ka)hulu” – water that derives from esteemed older generations; as such it may be taken as a comment on Emma’s noble ancestry, a subject of much concern in those days of escalating genealogical rivalry between Emma and the Kalakāuas.

3.  Hālau-a-Ola.  Beckwith, (Hawaiian Mythology, 329, 329 n. 21) credits Ola and his menehune with of the construction of a “three-stepped heiau called Ahu-loulu at the foot of Pu‘u-ka-Pele crater cone on Kaua‘i” and of a second heiau called Hauola at Wai‘awa, an area to the west of Waimea Canyon with a ridge named Hauola that runs up into the Pu‘ukapele reserve. Either can qualify as the “Hālau-a-Ola” of Emma’s chant. The name itself is reminiscent of the profession of Emma’s adoptive father, Kauka Rooke, and can be interpreted as the “long-house of life, health, well-being, or salvation.” The name’s shortened form, hauola, is used in expressions symbolic of tranquility and long life:

La’i Hauola i ke kai mā‘oki‘oki.

Peaceful Hauola by the choppy sea.

Peace and tranquility in the face of disturbance.

(Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #1939.)

Li‘uli‘u wale ka nohona i ka la o Hauola, a holoholo i ke one o ‘Alio.

Long has one tarried in the sunlight of Hauola and walked on the sand of ‘Alio.

Said in praise of an aged person. There is a play on ola (life) in the name Hauola.

(Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #2012.)

Finally, we must not forget a more obvious association. The Pu‘ukapele forest is where Emma’s party stopped to enjoy the first of several hō‘ike hula. They may well have chosen a grove of koa trees for this entertainment, and that place may well have been named “Hālau a Ola,” Ola’s gathering house of hula, in commemoration of the event.

4. Malu i ka hale lau koa.  “Ola,” of the previous line, is often linked with the koa tree as an expression for long life, as in the saying “E ola koa. Live like a koa tree. Live a long time like a koa tree in the forest” (‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #365). One who lives in “the shelter of the house of koa,” is one who is favored by the protection of brave men – of warriors (koa). The reference, in this case, may be to the junior branch of the Kamehameha line (Keli‘imaika‘i) from which Emma descended, or to the premier branch of the Kamehameha line into which she married. “Lau koa” is also faintly reminiscent of Ka‘ililauokekoa, the legendary Kaua‘i princess who was courted by Kauakahiali‘i, the high-born chief of Pihanakalani; the romance of Emma and her high-born chief, Alexander Liholiho, had a similar “fairy-tale” quality which might not have been lost on our obviously learned poet.  

5.  Waineki.  This is the third wai of the opening lines of the chant; all, we believe, are meant to suggest Emma’s waiwai, her immeasurable value to the poet of “A i Waimea.”  If Waimea speaks of her rank and Waiahulu speaks of the esteem in which she and her ancestors are held, then Waineki speaks of her capacity to stir the hearts of all who know her.  Waineki is the reed surrounded water of which the kūpuna were fond of saying:

Hako‘i ka wai a ka neki.

Water agitated among the rushes.

The throbbing of the heart of one in love at the sight of the object of his affection.

(Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #407).

When Queen Kapi‘olani traveled to Kaua‘i to assess the maternity needs of that island, the chant “Hanohano Waimea i ka Wai Kea” was one of three mele composed in her honor. We can see where the place-names, language, and symbolism of the earlier Emma chants carry over to the newer Waimea composition. In all likelihood, the poets who wrote in celebration of the two visits, Emma’s and Kapi‘olani’s, were drawing from an image bank that was considerably older than either queen. Waineki, at any rate, seems to inspire associations of love:

Ua ahi uka i ke ahe a ke kiu       

Ike i ka auwai a ka menehune       

Ke kupu eu o Kikiola           

Nana i ho‘oni Poli-o-Lehua       

He hoa kaana no Limaloa       

No ke olani o Kalanamaihiki       

Hiki mai ke aloha wela o Waineki   

Hoapaapa ana i Papiohuli 


The upland is astir by the blowing of the kiu

Those mischievous ones of Kikiola

She will see the ditch made by the menehune

That moved the stone called Poli-o-Lehua

(She) is a playfellow of Limaloa,

That clever lad of Kalanamaihiki

Love arises and glows (even) to Waineki

Where it teases Papiohuli.   

(Lines 5-12, “Hanohano Waimea i ka Wai Kea,” in Pukui, Hulas of Kaua‘i, 36;

also in Pukui, Nā Mele Welo, 160-161.)

6.  Kauhale a Limaloa.  Limaloa, the long-armed god of mirages, was famous for arranging houses out of clouds in both the skies and lowlands of west Kaua‘i. Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau #1104 repeats the entire third verse of “A i Waimea” with the following definitive explanation:

Ho‘onohonoho i Waineki kauhale o Limaloa.

Set in order at Waineki are the houses of Limaloa.

Limaloa, the god of mirages, made houses appear and disappear on the plains of

Mana. This saying applies to the development of ideas, the setting of plans, or the arranging of things in order.

The lines of the chant refer to the construction of a hale kāmala, a temporary shelter, at Waineki. They also indicate, in a sad way, the ephemeral nature of all the plans, both private and public, that Emma and her husband must have laid for the long relationship and rule that seemed to lie before them. Much is written in Hawaiian language newspapers of the 1870s about the humorously deceptive mirages of Manā; two selections are offered below:

We continued to the place said to be the one on which Limaloa built his houses (of mirage). It is a plain where small shrubs of the upland, the ‘a‘ali‘i grow. These shrubs are the ones used by Limaloa in his house building said the natives. The larger ones have all been eaten by the horses. We did not see the mirage because the ponds were so full of water. It was better when dry and the salt encrusted floors were exposed...We two heard from the natives that when the first flock of cattle was released by the first white inhabitants the cattle mistook the rippling water of the mirage for real water and ran after it...(“A Visit to Kauai” by JKH, Kuokoa, September 2 etc., 1871. Pukui translation in HEN I:3075-3080, BMA. JKH gives details of a boat trip from Honolulu to Koloa, and of traveling by horseback to Polihale. Many places are named and described. Lāwa‘i is passed and the author mentions that Queen Emma had recently stayed there.)

Olelo mai la ko‘u kookoolua ia‘u, ke ike la oe i kela lokowai nui e lana mai la, ae aku la au, i mai la no kela ia‘u he nui ka i‘a maloko o kela wai, oia ke awa, amaama, a me kekahi mau ano ia e ae. Ia i ‘la no nae e ha‘i mai nei ia‘u ke hoomaopopo la au i ua wai nei, oiai o kahi mua au i ike aku he wai, aohe ihola he wai, he puulepo nui ke ahua mai ana. My companion said to me, “Do you see that large pond floating there?” I said, “Yes.” He told me that many fish were inside, the awa,‘ama‘ama, and some other kinds. While he was talking to me, I realized that this previously mentioned water, although I had first thought it to be water, was actually not water at all. It was a hill of dirt rising up before us. (“Huakai makaikai ia Kauai,” D. Keawemahi, Ka Lahui Hawaii Aug. 10 etc., 1876, HEN Thrum 203-249, BMA. My translation.)

7.  Kū ana i ke kualono.  The line has been translated, “Till the mountain top was reached.” , however, can mean “stop, halt, anchor, moor,” as well as “reach, arrive;” and kualono, in the most literal sense, is not the mountain top itself, but the “region near a mountaintop.” The chronology of the Kilohana ascent and the emotional emphasis placed on Tuesday night’s “huddle” suggests that this line might actually refer to stopping short of the lookout -- to spending the night “moored” to a makeshift platform on a trail that would soon take the travelers to the top.  

8.  Pū‘ili hua ‘ōhelo.  Pū‘ili means “to clasp, hold fast in the hand, embrace, grasp firmly.” Although the word is translated as the act of picking ōhelo berries, the connotations of embracing, hugging, and grabbing seem ideally suited to a description of the efforts of Emma’s party – her ‘ōhua, her “human lei” of ōhelo – to ward off the chill of their miserable night in Alaka‘i. We remember that Emma herself conceived of this pū‘ili as an act of lei making: “The experience has become something of a boast for all the people accompanying me, their huddling together with their beloved Queen being a royal wreath for them” (Emma to Fanny, 2-1-1871, HSA).


1 By my unofficial count, no more than 4 of the 21 kahiko performances in the 2001 Kamehameha Competition were traditionally transmitted. Again by my unofficial count, no more than 5 of the 42 kahiko performances in the 2001 Merrie Monarch have genealogies deeper than a single generation.

2 Māpuana de Silva, personal communication, January 14, 1993.

3 Mountain-ascending journey.

4 Kaua‘i Historical Society, April 1970, 3-9.

5 Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1984:203-205.

6 Honolulu: The Queen Emma Foundation, 1999, 247-251.

7 Honolulu 1944, 135-141.

8 The Atlantic Monthly, 215, January 1965, 68-71.

9 Letters from Emma to Fanny Young and Lot Kamehameha, Lāwa‘i, 1871, Folders NA-3 and NA-7.

10 Hulas of Kaua‘i, HI.M.72:42, Bishop Museum Archives.

11 Queen Emma Foundation and Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu, 2001. In a recent newspaper interview, Nogelmeier estimated the total number of Emma’s Kilohana-connected mele as close to 100.

12 Forbes, 3.

13 Kanahele, Emma, 245. Hikoni was alive at the time of her gift; she placed herself, then, under Emma’s care. Nogelmeier notes that Emma’s “Maika‘i ke kuahiwi, nani ke nānā” is credited to Hikoni (130).

14 Emma Collection, NA-3, Hawai‘i State Archives.

15 Emma Collection, NA-3, Hawai'i State Archives; Forbes 7; Kanahele 247. The Forbes and Kanahele transcripts of the letter offer the place-name “Kahaanamahuna” without comment; Emma's handwriting in the original letter trails off the bottom of the page at this point, rendering the name illegible to our eyes.

16 Joesting, 203.

17 Kanahele, 247.

18 Joesting, 203-204.

19 JPA Keli‘ihune, "Huakai Hele Ma Alakai..." Kuokoa, 11-11-1860. English translation provided. Keli‘ihune’s excellent account goes on to detail the conditions of the trail as the party crosses Alaka‘i, ascends to Kilohana, and follows the Hanalei trail down to Wainiha.

20 Joesting, 203.

21 Forbes, 7.

22 Forbes, 5.

23 Emma Collection, NA-7, Hawai‘i State Archives. Emma’s letters to Fanny are in Hawaiian; translations have been made by archivist Jason Achiu. Short biographies of many of the people listed in these letters can be found in the notes to Alfons Korn’s News From Moloka‘i, Honolulu: University Press of Hawai‘i, 1976.

24 Emma to Fanny, 1-28-1871.

25 Joesting, 204.

26 Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #686.

27 “Ka uka o Kilohana ka ‘ano‘i,” MS SC Roberts 3.5:80-91, Bishop Museum Archives; Pukui correction and translation. “Sister” chants – quite similar in detail and length – are found in HEN III:275-277, Bishop Museum Archives, and “Mele by Moehonua,” Emma Collection, NA39, State Archives.

28 Pukui, Elbert, and Mo‘okini, Place Names of Hawai‘i, 226.

29 Emma to Fanny, 1-28-1871.

30 Forbes, 6.

31 S.K. Kuapu‘u, “A Short Tale,” Ka Hae Hawaii, April 10, 1861. Place Names of Hawaii, 91. The Kuapu‘u account does not include the kīki‘i (“lean back, heel, tilt, extend”) of Emma’s version. Nanā means “snarling; to strut or provoke.”

32 This is probably the same Kuapu‘u listed by Forbes [7] as among those who later recited "meles composed in honor of [Emma’s] trip,” and who was named by Emma [Letter to Fanny, 1-28-1871] as having given a “good speech” at the feast celebrating her safe return.

33 Kuluwaimaka Collection, Bk 1:38, Bishop Museum Archives. My translation.

34 Joesting, 204. Kanahele (248) describes the site as “a flat spot of about 30 feet square with a 200 foot pali guarding the south side.” The dancing, he adds, “went on for more than two hours.”

35 “Ka uka o Kilohana ka ‘ano‘i,” MS SC Roberts 3.5:80-91, Pukui correction and translation. *There is an off-chance that this line does, in fact, allude to Emma's po'e hula since it can also be translated: “Many are the friends who pa‘iniu – who beat the niu, as in dance.”

36 Emma to Lot, 3-11-1871, Emma Collection, NA3, Hawai‘i State Archives.

37 Ibid.

38 Emma to Fanny, 1-28-1871.

39 Joesting, 204.

40 Martha Beckwith (Hawaiian Mythology, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1971:328-330) summarizes the different accounts of this legendary Waimea builder-chief whose menehune assistants constructed for him Hauola, Kikiaola, Kapuahiaola, and Kikipapaaola – the heiau, watercourse, oven, and stick road that still bear his name.

41 “Ka uka o Kilohana ka ‘ano‘i,” MS SC Roberts 3.5:80-91; Pukui correction and translation.

42 Joesting, 204. Knudsen in Kanahele, 248: “…to cheer up and to help, she chanted some of the ancient meles to their delight.”

43 Pukui, Hulas of Kaua‘i, 42-45; lines 16-32 of a 32 line text.* There is some evidence to suggest that Kalehuamakanoe was the name of a resting place along the Alaka‘i trail. See, for example, Kelsey’s chant commentary cited earlier in this report. It is even possible that Kalehuamakanoe was the name of the site where Emma’s party built its ‘ōhi‘a platform and weathered the cold of Tuesday night.

44 Emma to Fanny, 2-11-1871, HSA. The phrases “feast for the ‘cold skin’” and “in honor of ‘our cold skin’” appear several times in Emma’s correspondence.

45 “A Kilohana o Kalani,” contributed by Kapeliela Malani, MS SC Roberts 5.4:113b-118, Bishop Museum Archives. Lines 1-12 of a 32 line text. My translation. Similar chants can be found in Pukui, Hulas of Kaua‘i, 42-45; HMS M 5:185-186, Bishop Museum Archives; and MS SC Roberts 4.3:53-54, Bishop Museum Archives.

46 Joesting, 205.

47 Emma to Fanny, 1-28-1871, HSA.

48 Emma to Fanny, 2-1-1871, HSA.

49 Forbes, 7.

50 Emma to Fanny, 2-1-87, HSA.

51 Emma to Fanny, 3-1-1871, HAS. Hanawai is probably Hiram Kahanawai, “a relative of Queen Emma by a junior line of descent...Hiram had been chief steward in the royal household under Kamehameha IV and continued to serve Emma in that capacity during her widowhood” (Korn, News from Moloka‘i, 15n.3).  A handwritten version of “A Kilohana Makou” bearing the signature Hiram Kahanawai is found in the Lili‘u Collection, HMS M 5:185-186, Bishop Museum Archives. The handwritten original of Moehonua’s chant, bearing Moehonua’s signature, is housed in the Emma Collection, NA39, Hawai‘i State Archives. The two mele, though not identical, are quite similar in length, structure, and language.

52 “A Kilohana o Kalani,” contributed by Helen Desha Beamer, MS GRP 81, 4.35, Bishop Museum Archives. Kawena Pukui translation.

53 Roberts 3.9:74-76, Bishop Museum Archives.

54 Ibid, 76.

55 Joesting, 231-232.

56 MS SC Roberts 3.9:77-81a, lines 9-14 of the 14-line chant. Kawena Pukui translation.

57 “A Kilohana o Kalani la,” from Paele’s book MS SC Roberts 4.3:53-54, Bishop Museum Archives.

58 Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #2044.

59 John Charlot, The Hawaiian Poetry of Religion and Politics, Honolulu 1985:61 n.56, 62 n.60. Emma and Kalākaua would soon be locked in a bitterly contested campaign for the throne; their enmity would last well into the next decade. Many of Emma’s mele of the period, including “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani” and its Hawai‘i Island pi‘i-mauna counterpart “I Mauna Kea ‘o Kalani,” can be interpreted as testaments to Emma’s fitness to rule the nation.

60 Korn, News from Moloka‘i, 38-39. Peter Ka‘eo was a member of Emma’s Kilohana expedition (Ibid.:146, 147 n. 3). At the time of this letter, he had contracted Hansen’s disease and was living at Kalaupapa.

61 Forbes, 7-8, 18n.3.

62 Alfons Korn, Our Victorian Visitors, Honolulu: The University of Hawai‘i Press, 1958:191, 287, 333 n. 20, 336 n. 7.

© Kīhei de Silva, 1993, 2001, 2013.  All rights reserved.
This essay first appeared in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 1993 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet; it was revised in 2001 for that year’s HMI Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet, and it is offered again here in slightly revised and updated form.