Aloha Hōnaunau

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva                                                        << HMI MM 11 preview

Haku mele: Kīhei de Silva.

Date: August 26, 1991.

Discography: Manu Boyd put “Aloha Hōnaunau” to music and released it on Ho‘okena V, Ho‘omau HICD-1005.

I began writing this mele with the idea of commemorating, for my daughters, our family’s kulāiwi relationship with Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, a relationship that stems from my mother’s ties, through her mother, to the founders and keepers of Hale o Keawe. What started as a little haku mele project turned into a fairly major piece of research and writing, the most inspiring outcome of which was my discovery of Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s role in the history of the pu‘uhonua.

I learned that Charles Reed Bishop acquired the ahupua‘a of Hōnaunau in 1867 from the estate of the then-deceased Kona chief Levi Ha‘alelea[1] and gave it as a present to his wife Pauahi, “a most fitting gift, in the light of her direct descent from the chiefs who had maintained the pu‘uhonua.”[2] I learned, too, that Pauahi – whose grandfather Ka‘ōleiokū was the last ali‘i to be interred at Hale o Keawe – traveled to Hōnaunau shortly after Bishop’s purchase and replanted a coconut grove there during ceremonies that confirmed her new-but-old stewardship of the land. [3]

Pauahi’s grove – that of an ali‘i “‘ōpu‘u hou i ka ‘āina” (an ali‘i budding, sprouting again on the ‘āina) – was planted on the site of the old “chief’s residence” known as Kauwalomālie,[4] the land section just inside the entrance to the current National Park and overlooking Keone‘ele cove. In 1919, J.F.G. Stokes interviewed three Hōnaunau residents who had participated in the ceremony:

  1. Their account was that the men dug the holes. Mrs. Bishop placed the nuts with her own hands, and the local women covered them over with earth. A great feast followed. The participants were people who were born on the land. [5]

At least 16 of my “born on the land” ancestors were alive at Hōnaunau in 1867. These include two sets of great-great-great grandparents [6] and the two great-great grandparents[7] who descend from them. Their residence, on land known as Ko‘olau,[8] was located just ma uka of Kauwalomālie’s inland boundary; it bordered, in fact, on the grove that Pauahi planted. Although we have no family record of the event, I find it inconceivable – in terms of genealogy and geography – that the Keli‘ikuewa and Nāhālau ‘ohana did not participate in Pauahi’s niu planting ceremony; they were, after all, the traditional caretakers of Hale o Keawe and descendants of the same Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku with whom Pauahi makes her Hōnaunau connection.

My rediscovery of these forgotten connections – Pauahi, Nāhālau, and Keli‘ikuewa at Kauwalomālie, Hōnaunau in 1867 – gave new direction to my early efforts at composition: my mele for family ties evolved into a mele inoa for Pauahi that commemorates the history of the pu‘uhonua and its presiding chiefs, from ‘Ehukaimalino in the 15th century to Pauahi in the 19th.

My family is still present in “Aloha Hōnaunau,” – and the mele still commemorates, for my daughters, our connections to the pu‘uhonua – but the Nāhālau and Keli‘ikuewa occupy a watcher’s role in the final composition: they provide the eyes through which Pauahi’s arrival is recorded and the memory by which the succession of Hōnaunau’s stewards is recounted. Pauahi is acknowledged by these watchers as an ali‘i of a new order whose kapu “does not burn, does not” and whose gloom-dispelling presence gives hope that a measure of sacredness will again return to the land.

In the end, I composed “Aloha Hōnaunau” as a mele hula pahu; its elevated subject matter – pu‘uhonua, ali‘i, iwi, guardians, and sacredness – made requisite this form of poetry and presentation. I studied the three hula pahu in Māpu’s tradition (“Kaulīlua,” “A Ko‘olau Au,” and “‘Au‘a ‘Ia), settled on the first as my model, gathered up my research, and after weeks of obsessed writing and rewriting came up with a chant that represents my best effort at honoring its predecessor. The mele, then, is through-composed, not strophic; its line-lengths are less regular than those of the ‘ōlapa / ku‘i traditions; its language is more terse, name-packed, and staccato; its vocabulary is more esoteric; and its grammar is less “pretty.” 

...Or that, at least, is what I tried for. I am not one to treat lightly compositions of this nature or to compose them at the drop of a hat; nor are we, as a hālau, given to making hula pahu out of every mele in sight. We are opposed, in fact, to the proliferation of contemporary hula pahu and their all too frequent violations of the traditional form, as we understand it. Consequently, we have also tried our best to model our performance of  “Aloha Hōnaunau” after the most respected of contemporary examples: that set by Kawena Pukui and her mele hula pahu “‘O Poli‘ahu i ke Kualono o Mauna Kea.”

According to Adrienne Kaeppler, Kawena’s “Poli‘ahu” is based, in drumming and lower-body dance movements, on the traditional “Kalani Kamanomano” of her teacher Keahi Luahine; its upper body movements, on the other hand, “allude to words in the text, as in hula ‘āla‘apapa.”[9]  Our “Aloha Hōnaunau” is based, in drumming and lower-body dance movements, on the traditional “Kaulīlua i ke Anu o Wai‘ale‘ale” as taught to Māpu by her teacher Maiki Aiu Lake; our upper body movements allude, ‘āla‘apapa-like, to words in the text. According to Elizabeth Tatar, Kawena’s chant and dance were composed and choreographed for her daughter Pele Suganuma for presentation at a December 19, 1955 Bishop Museum program in honor of the birthday of Bernice Pauahi Bishop. [10] “Aloha Hōnaunau” was composed and choreographed for our daughters Kahikina and Kapalai, and presented by Kahikina and her Kamehameha Schools’ hula sisters at the Schools’ December 19, 1991 Founder’s Day program in honor, again, of Pauahi’s birthday.

“Poli‘ahu” demonstrates Kawena’s ability to create new hula pahu within the guidelines of tradition. It is both mele and hā‘awina, poetry and lesson. It is stands as a model, for those who will attend to it, of the careful perpetuation of our heritage of composition and dance. We hope that “Aloha Hōnaunau” gives evidence of proper attention to her model. The passage below, from Betty Tatar’s “Strains of Change,” provides an accurate and disturbing picture of those who have not:

  1. Performance of the new repertoire of hula pahu may be distinguished by the dancers’ formation, speed, athleticism, and variety of movements, accompanied by pahu playing fast, syncopated, irregular rhythms that appear improvised and that differ only slightly for each hula pahu performed.... Certain movements are outstanding for their reflection of Tahitian and Samoan dance influences, for example, quick, sharp turns of the head, sliding and stamping feet, thigh and arm slapping, and sharp, wide movements of the arms to signal-like positions. In contrast, traditional hula pahu were distinguished by slower, repetitive, hip-oriented movements in a low, more stationary position, and flowing arm and hand gestures accompanied by slower, regular rhythms forming a repetitive phrase and/or beat pattern... [11]

Adrienne Kaeppler – who, like Tatar, is a long-time observer, researcher, and critic of hula pahu – offers a final point to our discussion of “Aloha Hōnaunau.”  She notes that the traditional hula pahu was multi-dimensional; each of its many facets – words, voice, drumbeats, choreography, and the physical design of the drum itself – contributed to a powerful whole:

  1. Hula pahu in its traditional form and context was an elevated and dignified performance which required skill and knowledge in the highest degree for presentation on the most important occasions. Poetry, vocal production, sounding of the pahu and pūniu, dance movement, and sculptured drums were combined into an aesthetic production that in its totality was greater then the sum of its parts. ...each of these elements [poetry, music, and dance], in addition to the drums themselves, was a highly developed cultural form in its own right, and yet only in combination, was the full potential of the hula pahu realized. [12]

Our efforts to approach “the full potential” of the hula pahu – insofar as it can reasonably be approached in this new day – include my composition of a mele to be used as the ka‘i for “Aloha Hōnaunau,” my carving of a pahu made specifically for the performance of “Aloha Hōnaunau,” and our dancers’ preparation of pā‘ū made specifically for this Merrie Monarch presentation of oli and hula.

Our mele hula ka‘i, “Kīlaulani,” offers the poetic statement of family ties to Hōnaunau that “Aloha Hōnaunau,” was originally meant to provide. It honors my mother, Lorna Pi‘ilani de Silva, and the connections that bind us, through her, to our ancestral homeland and duties.

The pahu, Pōhaku Nānā Lā,[13] was cut and shaped (without power tools of any kind), from a coconut stump given to me by my sister Kalei Kamaka‘ala, to the dimensions of the small pahu hula taken from Hale o Keawe in 1825 by Lord Byron of the HMS Blonde;[14] its base is carved into the same three tiers of hoaka – two rows of up-facing arches resting on one row of down-facing arches – that constitute the design of the Hōnaunau drum.

Our dancers hand-painted their pā‘ū (named Kūkūohi for the steeply pitched roof of Hale o Keawe) with the same three-tiered arch-design of the pahu to which they dance and the pahu to which it alludes. All told, these hoaka speak to us of

the pao-constructed walls of Hale o Keawe, of the continuity of generations despite all that disrupts us, and of the capacity of our people – through word, drum, and dance – to reach across time and hold fast to who we are.  

Pōhaku Nānā Lā has traveled with us to the Festivals of Pacific Arts in New Caledonia, Palau, and American Samoa. She was our voice, over and over again, as we danced the pahu trilogy at festival stages in Noumea, Poindimie, Ponerihouen, Koror, Peleliu, Tafuna, Fagatogo, and Utulei. On many occasions, we danced the trilogy before and after groups whose drums were so big that their players had to stand on stools to reach their drumheads. On many occasions we watched drum dances whose rhythms, choreographies, and costumes were obviously influenced by the desire to appeal to a tourist audience and to outdo the tourist-appeal of other Pacific nation performances. There was no way, however, that we succumbed to anything like pahu- or performance-envy. We reminded ourselves, then and now, of the words with which Kawena Pukui and Craighill Handy concluded their small but powerful book, The Polynesian Family System in Ka-u, Hawaii. Kawena wrote: “Let more famous chanters beat their own drums; this one is ours, tis ours, indeed, THIS ONE!” (206).  This sentiment holds true for our presentation of “Aloha Hōnaunau.”  Much care has gone into this small and decidedly non-flamboyant package; how it fares in comparison to other “drums” is of little consequence. ‘Tis ours.

Aloha Hōnaunau

Aloha Hōnaunau Makaokalani [15]

I ke ahe ‘olu o ‘Ehukaimalino [16]

‘O ke ‘ehu ‘oe no Kānepōhāka‘a [17]

Ho‘oka‘a ‘ia i ke alo o ka moku [18]

He moku ke ali‘i Kūikeka‘ai[19]

A he moku ke ali‘i ‘o Keawe‘ī [20]

‘O ke ko‘iaweawe, ‘o ke ko‘i‘ula

‘O ka ho‘okū, ‘o ka moe, ‘o ka pao [21]

Kū ka pao a ka lani i kāle‘a ai [22]

‘O Kaiki‘ale‘a i ‘Akahipapa [23]

‘Akahi nō a komo ke anu ia‘u [24]

Nāhā ka hale i ka nalu o Nāihe [25]

‘Ohi nō ka nalu nui a koe kēia

‘O ka lei mo‘opuna a Ka‘ōleiokū [26]

He kūpaoa, he ‘a‘ala i ka niu maka [27]

Ua ho‘onōla‘e ‘ia e ka lani [28]

‘O ka lani ‘ōpu‘u hou i ka ‘āina [29]

Me ka lima wela ‘ole, e ‘ole ho‘i [30]

E ho‘i nō ke kapu i ka pae moku

No Pauahilaninui lā he inoa.

Loved is Hōnaunau Makaokalani

In the gentle breath of ‘Ehukaimalino

You are the dust of Kānepōhāka‘a

Rolled into the presence of the moku

The sennit-wrapped chief is a district, an island

And a district, an island, is the chief Keawe‘ī

The column of light rain, the red-hued cloud

The post, the beam, the vault

Here stands the vault in which the chiefs honored the ancestors

Kaiki‘ale‘a at ‘Akahipapa

For the first time, cold penetrates me

The house is shattered in the surf of Nāihe

The huge surf takes all but this one

The beloved grandchild of Ka‘ōleiokū

A perfume, a fragrance in the young coconut

A gloom dispelled and vision cleared by the chiefess

The chiefess born again to the land

With hands that do not burn, do not

May sacredness return to the island cluster

For High Chiefess Pauahi a name chant.


1.  Hale o Keawe was dismantled by Ka‘ahumanu in 1829; its bones were removed to Ka‘awaloa, its large timbers were used in the construction of a school and government house, and smaller pieces of its kauila wood framework were given as souvenirs to the missionaries. The pu‘uhonua was deeded to Miriam Kekāuluohi, a granddaughter of Kamehameha I, in the Māhele of 1848, and it was inherited, upon her death, by Levi Ha‘alelea, her second husband. In 1866, the property was auctioned by Ha‘alelea’s estate to Charles Kana‘ina, the father of William Charles Lunalilo. Kana‘ina, however, did not pay the $5000 bid, and Charles Reed Bishop stepped in to purchase Ha‘alelea’s land for that same amount on April 1, 1867. In 1891, six years after Pauahi’s death, Bishop deeded the land to the trustees of the Bishop Estate who leased it to one of their members, S.M. Damon. Damon was responsible for the 1902 restoration work on the Great Wall and the stone platforms of two heiau, Hale o Keawe and ‘Ale‘ale‘a. The County of Hawai‘i took over Damon’s lease in 1921. That lease expired in 1961 when the then County Park was acquired by the U.S. National Park Service. The history of land ownership at the pu‘uhonua is recorded by Kenneth Emory in Edwin Bryan and Kenneth Emory’s The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawaii, Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1986, 112-114.

2.  Ibid, 112.

3.  Pāuli Ka‘ōleiokū, the “child of Kamehameha’s youth,” died in 1818; Kamehameha was a great grandson of Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku, the founding chief of Hale o Keawe (Dorothy Barrere, Tracing the Past at Honaunau, Honolulu: Hawaii Natural History Association, 1994, 9).

4.  John F.G. Stokes, 1919; in Bryan and Emory, 219.

5.  Ibid, 220.

6.  Keli‘ikuewa (k) and Kahili (w), and Nāhālau Kama‘ilohi (k) and Kauli (w). Keli‘ikuewa is a direct descendent of Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai, the founding priest of Hale o Keawe; Nāhālau is a direct descendant of Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku, its founding ali‘i. Nāhālau’s father P. Nāhālau was kahu to the young Alexander Liholiho and the first caretaker of Mauna ‘Ala.

7.  Ke‘ōlewa Kekuewa (k) and Loika Kama‘ilohi (w). Three of their children were born before 1867; my great-grandfather Henry Kalā Kekuewa (b.1873), however, “missed” Pauahi’s ceremony by a few years.

8.  Bryan and Emory, 219. Ko‘olau was probably named for the Keli‘ikuewa Ke‘ōlewa Ko‘olau Moanauli (b.1823) identified in note 6 above. My mother was raised at Ko‘olau; my aunty Carla Freitas and my cousin Zadoc Kekuewa still live there with their families.

9.  “The last hula pahu associated with this Kaua‘i tradition [of Keahi Luahine] is “Poli‘ahu,” composed by Kawena for her daughter Pele in the 1950s, in honor of the snow goddess. Following Keahi’s tradition [in “Kalani Kamanomano”], it is based on the ‘ūlili lower-body motif with arm movements that allude to words in the text, as in hula ‘āla‘apapa.” Adrienne Kaeppler, Hula Pahu, Hawaiian Drum Dances, v.I:172.

10.  “The chant and dance ‘‘O Poli‘ahu i ke Kualono o Mauna Kea,’ was composed and choreographed by Mary Kawena Pukui around 1955 for a program at Bishop Museum on December 19, 1955, in honor of the birth date of Bernice Pauahi Bishop.” Elizabeth Tatar, Hula Pahu, Hawaiian Drum Dances, v.2:250.

11.  Elizabeth Tatar, Strains of Change, The Impact of Tourism on Hawaiian Music, 23.

12.  Adrienne L. Kaeppler, Pahu and Puniu, Honolulu: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, 1980, 3-4.

13.  The pahu is named for a boulder, Pōhaku Nānā Lā (Rock for Looking at the Sun), that sits partially submerged on the lave flats to the west of Hale o Keawe. My mother explained that children could dive under the rock, look through a tunnel of water, and see the sun sparkling above like a green diamond. Her description corresponds closely to that provided by Stokes in Bryan and Emory, 197-8. The arches of my pahu suggest the tunnel beneath the boulder; the negative-space “diamonds” formed at the intersections of down- and up-facing arches suggest the sparkling sun. Boulder and pahu are metaphors, for me, of “seeing” my mother and her family across the watery distance of time. I began work on Pōhaku Nānā Lā during Thanksgiving vacation in 1991 and completed it in time for the initial performance of “Aloha Hōnaunau” at the Kamehameha Schools’ Founder’s Day ceremony on December 19 of that year.

14. This pahu is catalogued by Adrienne Kaeppler in Pahu and Puniu, 22.

15.  Hōnaunau Makaokalani: A reference to the chief Hōnaunau-‘ihi-kapu-maka-o-ka-lani, named in one tradition as the legendary founder of the pu‘uhonua. “The Legend of Kamiki,” Ke Au Hou, September 13 and 20, 1911; Bryan and Emory, The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, 125-6.

16.  ‘Ehukaimalino: A Kona chief of the late 15th century (Barrere suggests 1475 as a likely date). A contemporary and subordinate of Līloa, ‘Ehu-kai-malino was in a “position to establish or maintain the sanctity of a pu‘uhonua by his uncontested right to rule...Kona” (Bryan and Emory, 117-118). He was previously thought to have founded the oldest of the three heiau at Hōnaunau: the name of that place is no longer remembered; residents at the turn of the century referred to it as “the old platform” (Ibid). Recent archaeology, however, indicates that the oldest Hōnaunau heiau is actually the lowest of six platforms at ‘Ale‘ale‘a dated to A.D. 1000-1300 and ascribed to an unknown builder, “perhaps the ruler of the once-independent Kona” (Ross Cordy, Exalted Sits the Chief, 265).

17.  Kānepōhāka‘a: A reference to Kāne-i-ka-pōhā-ka‘a, Kāne-rolling-stone / Kāne-the-thunderer, one of the ancestral gods of the pu‘uhonua. His name appears in the ‘aumakua prayer of a Hōnaunau priest published in Ke Au Hou, Sept. 13 and 20, 1911 and translated by Kawena Pukui in Emory and Bryan, 120. The name appears in a second Hōnaunau context – that of Kamehameha’s oli for Kīwala‘ō cited in note 3 below. Pōhā is the short form of pōhaku, stone. Pōhā ka‘a refers to the peal of thunder “so called because thunder was believed caused by the gods hurling stones in the heavens” (Pukui and Elbert, Dictionary, 308).

18.  Ho‘oka‘a ‘ia i ke alo o ka moku: This and the previous line of “Aloha Hōnaunau” echo a pair of lines in the oli offered by Kamehameha I while preparing ‘awa for Kīwala‘ō at the time of Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s interment at Hale o Keawe; the text of this oli is given in two Hawaiian language newspapers – Ka Nai Aupuni, 1-13-1906, and Ka Hoku o Hawaii, 8-25-1921 – and is translated by Kawena Pukui in Bryan and Emory, 125-6.

  1. Ia Kane-i-ka-poha-kaa

  2. O Kane-of-the-rolling-stone

  3. Hookaa ia i ke alo o ka moku

  4. Roll hither into the presence of the moku (i.e., Kiwala‘o)

A moku is an island or district, and the chief that rules over it.

19.  Kūikeka‘ai: Keawe-kū-i-ke-ka‘ai was a Kona chief of the 17th century who is credited with construction of the last phase of ‘Ale‘ale‘a heiau (Dorothy Barrere, Tracing the Past at Honaunau, 81). Kū i ke ka‘ai – “bound in the sennit container” – is descriptive of the practice, perhaps promulgated by this Keawe, of enclosing a chief’s bones in sennit basketwork before laying them in a sacred depository. This practice is discussed in Bryan and Emory, 117-123; a chant for the names of the cords with which Keawekūikeka‘ai’s bones were bound is given by Kawena Pukui in Nā Mele Welo, 28-29.

20.  Keawe‘ī: A reference to Keawe-‘ī-kekahi-ali‘i-o-ka-moku, Keawe-supreme-a-chief-of-the-island, who was the last of Hawai‘i’s ruling chiefs “to keep his royal court primarily in Honaunau” (Cordy, 266). Although the identity of the actual builder of Hale o Keawe is not known for certain, it is generally accepted that the third and best known of the heiau at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau was “erected either by or for [this chief] as a depository for his and certain other chiefs’ bones...its chief function as a heiau was that, through deification of the chiefs whose bones were deposited there, the sanctity and inviolability of the pu‘uhonua were placed under their supernatural protection, as well as the physical protection of the enclosure and the priests” (Bryan and Emory, 118). Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku ruled Hawai‘i two generations after Keawekūikeka‘ai, perhaps from 1720-40 (Cordy, 266). It is thought that the function of Keawekūikeka‘ai’s ‘Ale‘ale‘a heiau as a sacred depository was transferred to the new structure, and that the old ‘Ale‘ale‘a was converted to a recreation site for Kona’s ali‘i. Although the newer heiau is known today by only one of its names – Hale o Keawe – we should remember that it was also and perhaps originally called Ka-Iki-‘Ale‘a, The Little ‘Ale‘a (Bryan and Emory, 118).

According to a tradition cited by Fornander (An Account of the Polynesian Race, VII:131) and Stokes (“Burial of King Keawe,” Papers of the Hawaiian Historical Society, 17:66), Hale o Keawe was built by Kanuha, a son of Keawe by an unnamed wife. This Kanuha is the great-great-grandfather of my great-great-great grandfather Nāhālau. Kanuha’s bones were among the 23 sets of iwi inventoried by Levi Chamberlain in 1829 when they were removed from Hale o Keawe and hidden in a cave at Ka‘awaloa (Bryan and Emory, 132, 135).

21.  ‘O ka ho‘okū, ‘o ka moe, ‘o ka pao: The construction of the great wall of the pu‘uhonua, of the third and fourth increments of ‘Ale‘ale‘a heiau, and of Hale o Papa (a smaller structure south of ‘Ale‘ale‘a) is detailed by Stokes in Bryan and Emory, 169-171. The method of construction, called pao (vault, cave), involved setting the interior stones of each structure in post () and beam (moe) fashion. Although the outer faces of the resulting walls are quite solid, the interiors are honeycombed with tiers of pao.

22.  Kū ka pao o ka lani: The vaulted, pao construction of the pu‘uhonua’s walls came to symbolize the depository of Hale o Keawe itself. Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau #1893, for example reads:

Kū ka pao o Keawe

Keawe’s burial place stands.

Said of Hale o Keawe in Hōnaunau, Kona, Hawai‘i

23.  ‘Akahipapa: Stokes describes the site as “the tongue of lava to the north of Hale o Keawe, attached to the shore at low tide...on it a tall spear is said to have been set up from which a white flag flew to mark the entrance to the pu‘uhonua (Bryan and Emory, 187). Persons seeking refuge at the pu‘uhonua were reputed to have swum to this point from Pu‘u o Ka‘ū (at the seaward arm of the cove at which the boat ramp is currently located); once they reached ‘Akahipapa, they were safe (Ibid, 187, 218).

24.  ‘Akahi nō a komo...: From Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau #90:

‘Akahi a komo ke anu ia‘u, ua nāhā ka hale e malu ai.

Cold now penetrates me for the house that shelters is broken.

25.  Ka nalu o Nāihe: A reference to the surfing chant that begins “Kū ka nalu, ka nalu nui o Nāihe.”  When Stokes visited Hōnaunau in 1919, “he heard the old Hawaiians refer to the kai mimiki o Nāihe [the tidal wave/vortex of Nāihe] sweeping in from the northeast, crashing on the land...[and] flattening out the foundation of Hale o Keawe... Haihā Nāihe was the chief of South Kona and guardian of the pu‘uhonua until his death in 1831” (Bryan and Emory, 114, 131). Although Nāihe is associated with at least two tidal waves that preceded his stewardship of Hale o Keawe by several generations, his kai mimiki may well be metaphorical. Hale o Keawe was the last great heiau to survive the collapse of the kapu system in 1819. The heiau and its bones remained undisturbed until Ka‘ahumanu’s arrival in 1829. Nāihe seems to have been a reluctant participant in her efforts to consign the house and its bones to oblivion: Samuel Ruggles and Laura Fish Judd report that “he was stern and silent...[and] not quite rid of the old superstition” and that Ka‘ahumanu thought he “was wavering in respect to [the bones’] removal” (Bryan and Emory 130). He seems, at one and the same time, to represent change and resistance, destruction and survival. It is perhaps for this reason that his surfing chant was often used by the graduates of Lōkālia Montgomery as the oli introducing the hula pahu of her tradition (personal communication, Kekau‘ilani Kalama and Sally Wood Naluai, July 27, 1990). While the ancient kapu have been toppled by the tidal wave of a new culture, a part of the old does remain.

26.  Pāuli Ka’ōleiokū: The grandfather of Pauahi (through Konia) and “a son born to Kamehameha in his youth” (Dorothy Barrere, Tracing the Past in Honaunau, 9). He died in 1818; his were the last bones to be interred at Hale o Keawe (Bryan and Emory, 93).

27.  He kūpaoa, he ‘a‘ala i ka niu maka: This and the next line refer to Pauahi, her lineage (‘a‘ala is figurative of high birth), her coconut-planting at Hōnaunau, and the healing, visionary nature of her life’s work. For this reason, the line echoes a prayer for healing addressed to Hi‘iakaikapoliopele:

  1. He ‘a‘ala, he kūpaoa, noho i ka malu,

  2. The fragrance, the sweetness that grows in the shade

  3. E ho‘omau ‘ia e ke kino

  4. There a person keeps the peace

  5. E ka wahine noho mai la nō a

  6. The lady who dwells there

  7. E ola ē

  8. May healing be granted.

(Elizabeth Tatar, Nā Leo Hawai‘i Kahiko, Ia:4)

28.  Ua ho‘onōla‘e ‘ia e Pauahi: This and the previous line are inspired by Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo

  1. No’eau #2317:

  2. Niu maka o nola‘ela‘e

  3. Green coconuts for a clear vision.

  4. In ancient days the water of young coconuts (niu hiwa a Kane) was used by priests in divination.

29. ‘O ka lani ‘ōpu‘u hou i ka ‘āina: A reference to Pauahi, to Kapihe’s prophecy of Kamehameha’s rebirth, and to Kamehameha’s uncle Kalani‘ōpu‘u whose body lay at Hale o Keawe “while events were shaping which would raise his nephew to kingship of all Hawai‘i” (Bryan and Emory, 93). The line echoes one found in “Mele Ko‘ihonua no Kamehameha ‘Ekahi”:

‘O ka lani ‘ōpu‘u hou i ka moku

The newly budded chief of the land.

(Tatar, Nā Leo Hawai‘i Kahiko, Ia-7.)

Pauahi, of course, is this newly budded chief, the reborn Kamehameha who “rules” anew through love and education.

30.  E ka lima wela ‘ole: A reference to Pauahi’s hand-planting of the Hōnaunau coconut grove and to the fact that her sacredness is of a different order. Unlike the high-born kapu chiefs of old, hers is not a burning kapu; she was ever approachable and ever gentle. Again, this line of the mele is fathered by “Mele Ko‘ihonua no Kamehameha ‘Ekahi”:

E ka māmā lima wela ‘ole, e ‘ole ho‘i

A swift one...with hands that do not burn, do not


The kapu and niu references of these closing lines are especially meaningful to me in light of the fact that coconuts, under the old system, were cultivated, eaten, and worked (into sennit, utensils, etc.) only by men (Isabella Abbot, Lā‘au Hawaii, 35). Pauahi’s replanting of the Kauwalomālie coconut grove thus embodies, in my mind at least, her personal reconciliation of old and new. She breaks an old kapu in order to maintain an old responsibility; she sets aside the old religion but not her reverence for ancestors, homeland, and concept of pu‘uhonua. With light, love-imbued hands, she redefines and restores.

© Kīhei de Silva 2001.  All rights reserved.
This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 2001 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.