A Hawaiian Tradition of Hiiaka who is Held in the Bosom of Pele

The epic tradition of the goddess Pele and her youngest sister, Hi‘iaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele, a.k.a. Hi‘iaka, was referenced in "A Little Story and Some Chants: Traditions of Hi‘iaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele." From 1860 to 1928, several important Hawaiian-language publications provided readers with variations in the telling of this tradition. The narratives cited below were published under the heading “He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele” in the Hawaiian newspaper Ka Hoku o Hawaii from September 18, 1924 to July 17, 1928, through the partnership of Julia Keonaona, Steven L. Desha Sr., Isaac Kihe, and others. They artfully retold this tradition, embellishing it with descriptions of places and events in history, thus bringing the knowledge of place forward to that later generation.

The excerpts below offer important details pertaining to wahi pana, traditional and customary practices, and the naming of places visited by Hi‘iaka as she traveled into and across lands of Honouliuli Ahupua‘a. It should be noted also that this tradition is the source of the name “Hoakalei,” as cited by Maly through translations of the Hawaiian narrative in 1993. Kūpuna Arline Wainaha Ku‘uleialoha Brede Eaton, Sister Thelma Parish, and Aunty Mary Kaipo Malama Serrao chose the name “Hoakalei Cultural Foundation” commemorating the history of Hi‘iaka’s journey through Honouliuli.

Seeing the beauty of Kaala, Hiiaka chanted:

Beloved is the dew of Kaala,
That dew which bears the fragrance of the nene grasses,
[fragrant dew which] Kissed the natives of Puuloa,
One searches far for love…1

…As Hiiaka and her companions prepared to depart from Pokai, she told Lohiau and Wahineomao, that they would travel by canoe, while she would travel for a while over land. They would meet again at Kou [Honolulu], and she instructed them “As you travel, you will arrive at a place where a point juts out into the sea. That will be Laeloa [Barbers Point]; do not land there. Continue your journey forward, and as you continue your journey, you will see a place where the ocean lies calmly within the land. That will be Ewa; do not land there. Continue your journey and you will reach a place where the mouth [of the land] opens to the sea (hamama ana ka waha i ke kai). That is Puuloa, do not land there either. That is the entry way to Ewa… The travelers then parted and began their journeys.2

Hiiaka continued to the uplands along the trail which passes through Waianae. Now the trail upon which Hiiaka chose to travel, is the trail which passes through the heights of Pohakea. Hiiaka passed along the kula (plain) of Maili, and then turned to look at the uplands. She saw the dazzling light of the sun on the uplands of Lualualei and Hiiaka chanted:

The sun is hot!
The sun is hot!
The heat of the sun is on the plain of Lualualei
The sun chews it up entirely…

Hiiaka then continued her ascent on the trail in the stifling heat of the sun, and she chanted:

The path is at Waikonene,
Ascending at Kamoaula,
The heat of the sun is upon the breast,
Ilio is born upon the back of Puhamaloo,
The naulu winds rage,
Breaking the stream, but the breast of Puhawai is quiet,
The kaiaulu breeze seems to fight and rebel against the people,
Striking and causing the noses to rage,
The mucus flows freely,
In the hot sun of Lualualei.

From the heights of Pohakea, Hiiaka looked to the shores of Ewa, where she saw a group of women making their way to the sea. The women were going down to gather papai (crabs) and limu (seaweeds), and to gather the mahamoe, okupe (both edible bivalves), and such things as could be obtained along the shore of that land. Hiiaka then began to chant about those ladies:

The Kehau breeze is there below Waiopua,
Bearing the fragrance of the kupukupu ferns across the plain,
The coolness is laid upon the grasses,
A coolness laid upon the sea of Ewa,
Ewa is made cold (unfriendly)
because of the fish which hushes voices,
Be silent in that breeze.

Hiiaka saw the women moving ahead to the shoreline, just like the cold Waikoloa wind that blew from the uplands of this place. And this was why Hiiaka had chanted to them. Hiiaka then turned towards the canoe on which her companion and the man [Lohiau] were traveling. They were paddling and were no longer talking, for Hiiaka had admonished them, warning—

Ewa is made cold because of the fish that hushes voices,
Be silent!

Now, the famous fish of Ewa in those days when the wind blew because of conversations, was the pipi (pearl oyster). Only when it was very calm could one go to catch the pipi. If anyone spoke while going to get the pipi, the breeze would cause rippling on the water’s surface, and the pipi would be hidden from sight.3 In this way, Hiiaka had instructed Wahineomao and Lohiau to be quiet like the women of Ewa who were going fishing. If one spoke, the angry winds would blow and bring misfortune…4

…Turning her gaze towards the island of Hawaii, she could see the flames of Pele in the lehua forest of Hopoe, and she chanted out

Beautiful is Palailai, sacred assembly of the woman,
I set up the drum of the sacred voice,
The voice of the ocean is what I hear,
The natives hear it
[The stormy ocean of Waialua, could reportedly be heard in Ewa],
The birds drink the water caught in the noni leaves,
The billowy clouds pass in the calm,
The fires of Hawaii rise above me…

…Hiiaka then departed Pohakea, descending to the plain of Keahumoa [in the uplands between Waipio and Honouliuli]. It was at this place that she saw several women gathering the blossoms of the mao5 with which to string garlands for themselves. She then saw them sit down and begin to string and complete the garlands for themselves, so that they could adorn their necks. These women adorned themselves in the mao garlands and were really quite beautiful. Hiiaka then felt her own neck, for she was without a lei. Hiiaka then thought about what to say to the women regarding the garlands with which they had adorned themselves. She then thought within herself, I am going to ask them for a lei that they had been burdened with making. If they have aloha for me, then there is no kindness which they shall not have, but if they deny me, so it will be. Hiiaka then offered a chant to the women who had strung their garlands upon the plain which is burned by the sun.

The plain of Keahumoa wears the mao blossoms as its lei
Adorning the women who string garlands in the wild
It is like the lehua blossoms of Hopoe
Lehua blossoms upon which the sun beats down
On the nodding koaia flowers of the cliff
On the rooftops of the houses at Apuku
Rising in the presence of the cliff of Puukuua
The land is indeed a chief
Man is indeed a slave
I am indeed a slave to aloha—love
It is love which invites us two—come
I come–

Then one of the women answered her in a kindly manner, “Wait stranger, before you go on your way, here is your lei.” It is true what you have said, “He kauwa ke kanaka i ke aloha” (Man is a slave of love or compassion), and it is aloha which beckons to us and moves us to come forth. The woman then moved forward and placed her lei upon Hiiaka, and the other women did the same as well. The women then saw the true beauty of Hiiaka and they urged her to join them for a meal at their home on the shore of Ewa.

Hiiaka then spoke to them, “I am not hungry, for your kindness has satisfied me. Here are the words which I share with you—In your dwelling, if one of you should meet with trouble, or if one of the people for whom you have aloha is in need, offer the chant which I offered to you, asking without shame for garlands that you had made. The chant is a prayer for the passing of troubles from you or your loved ones. Now come and kiss me, and I will depart from this long open plain.”

The women stepped forward to kiss Hiiaka, and as they rubbed noses each one of them remembered the chant which Hiiaka offered when she asked for their garlands of mao. Thus this chant became a prayer for those women in their days of trouble. Hiiaka then departed from those women who strung garlands of mao on the plain and traveled towards the shore of Ewa, towards Puuloa. Turning towards the ocean of Honouliuli, Hiiaka saw the expanse of Leinono6 and she said within herself:

Say! I have not forgotten you Leinono, though perhaps you think I am no good because I don’t know you. Therefore, I call to you Leinono with this chant:

Bright eye, the rising sun,
Companion that travels arm-in-arm with the expanse of Ewa,
The Amu wind that causes dust to mound up,
Is the first born of the Moae wind,
A child that is embraced by the Ewa-loa (expanse of Ewa),
Hail Leinono,
Our companion.

Finishing her chant, Hiiaka then turned and saw her companion and Lohiau paddling their canoe. And her love welled up for her traveling companions. It was also then, that Hiiaka came to understand that Lohiau would be killed by Pele when they reached Hawaii. Hiiaka then turned and continued her journey along the path that crossed this unpeopled plain. While walking along, she saw two women who were busy stringing garlands of ilima [Sida fallax] blossoms. The women were sitting alongside the trail upon which Hiiaka was traveling. Now when these two women saw Hiiaka, one said to the other, “Say, this is Hiiaka who is descending along the path, we must depart with haste, lest she kill us.”

The two women hastily departed, and reached a stone that was situated along the side of the trail which continued on to Waianae. It was at this stone that the two women transformed themselves into their supernatural moo [lizard] forms.

One of the lizards then went and hid in a little space on the stone, and the other went nearby. One moo said to her companion moo…7

…“It is fortunate that we have hidden ourselves at this place, so that we may escape being killed by Hiiaka.” Now from ancient times till recently, the place at which this stone was situated, was called “Pee-kaua” (We two hidden). Now that the road has been made, the stone at which these two moo wahine (lizard women) hid has been destroyed.

When Hiiaka saw that these two women had fled and taken their moo forms to hide on the stone along the trail, she chanted out to them:

Greetings to you two women of the plain,
It is a barren plain in the sun,
Where the sun bears forcefully down,
Having gone to hide,
We two are hidden at Pee-kaua,
Aloha to you two,
Here I am traveling on.

Hiiaka then continued walking towards the shore. Hearing Hiiaka’s chant of affection, these two moo women said to one another, “Say, this is truly remarkable, for we will not die, but have been saved by Hiiaka. She has given us her aloha as she descends in the heat of the sun, and so it is that we shall remain upon this plain.”

Descending to the flat lands of Honouliuli, Hiiaka then turned and looked at Puuokapolei and Nawahineokamaomao who dwelt there in the shelter of the growth of the ohai, upon the hill, and where they were comfortably refreshed by the blowing breezes. Hiiaka then said, “Puuokapolei and Nawahineokamaomao, do not forget me, lest you two go and talk behind my back and without my knowing, so here is my chant of greeting to you”

Greetings to you two o Puuokapolei and companion
O Nawahineokamaomao
Set there, and dwelling
In the shade of the ohai
Stringing garlands of kukui in the day,
Adorning yourselves in the garlands of the maomao
Kaunaoa (Cuscuta sandwichiana) is the lei of the shores of Kaolino8
There is joy in traveling.

When Hiiaka finished her chant, Puuokapolei said, “Greetings. Love to you, o Hiiaka! So it is that you pass by without visiting the two of us. Lo, we have no food with which to host you. Indeed, the eyes roll dizzily with hunger. So you do not visit us two elderly women who have cultivated the barren and desolate plain. We have planted the uwala (sweet potato) shoots, that have sprouted and grown, and have been dedicated to you, our lord. Thus as you travel by, pull the potatoes and make a fire in the imu, so there will be relief from the hunger. For we have no food, we have no fish, and no blanket to keep us warm. We have but one kapa (covering), it is the pilipili-ula [the grass Chrysopogon aciculatus]. When it blossoms, we go and gather the grass and plait it into coverings for us. But in the time when the grasses dry, and none is left on the plain, we two are left to live without clothing. The cold breeze blows in the night, the Kehau and Waikoloa, the cold does not remain though, and when the grasses of the land which give us warmth, begin to grow again, our nakedness is covered, and we are a little better off than the flowers of the mao. It is because we are left without our covering of the pilipiliula grass, that many people have come to say, ‘Waiho wale iho ka mauu o Kaiona’ (Kaiona is left exposed by the grasses) [Nothing is left to the imagination]. Aloha to you, and aloha be with you in your travels o Hiiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele, our lord.”

Hiiaka then turned and continued her walk in the stifling heat of the sun on the plain of Puuokapolei. Hiiaka saw a mao blossom as she descended, and she picked it in the heat of the sun and chanted out Kona is made dizzy in the long days of Makalii [in the summer],

The wiliwili [Erythrina] trees sway, then comes the calm,
The birds of Kanehili endure,
The sun is exceedingly hot on Puuokapolei,
The mao growth is stunted on the seaward plain,
The nohu [Tribulus cistoides] flowers are like a halakea (kapa) covering
The puaula [young kumu] fish seem to flash along the shores of Kaupea
A companion [is the] Naulu wind,
It is a traveling companion for me.

When Hiiaka finished her chant, she continued toward the shore, and looking to the ocean, she saw the canoe of her friend and Lohiau, and chanted:

My man on the many harbored sea of Puuloa,
As seen from the plain of Peekaua,
Let us dwell upon the ohai covered shore,
Where the noni blossoms are twisted together,
Descending along Kanehili
I am winding along

Hiiaka then turned and looked back to Puukuua, Kanehoa, and Haleauau and said, “Do not forget me Puukuua ma [and companions]. And so you do not think that I will forget you, here is a chant of endearment for you:”

It is I who travel along the shore of Puuloa,
Where the ohai is at Kaupea,
In the awe-inspiring sun,
It is seen,
It has been seen by me,
At the mountain cliffs,
Puukuua at Haleauau,
The sprouting of the kukui growth,
Dancing in the sun of Kanehoa,
Love to you my companions.

…Upon finishing her chant, Hiiaka continued down the trail and arrived at Kualakai. At Kualakai, the trail took her to a spring of cool water. Looking into the spring, she saw her reflection shining brightly upon the water’s surface. Hiiaka also saw two lehua trees [Metrosideros polymorpha] growing on each side of the spring. Now these two lehua trees were completely covered with blossoms. She then picked the lehua blossoms of these two trees and made garlands for herself.

Hiiaka fashioned four strands to her lei, she then removed the garlands of mao which she had received when descending from Pohakea, and set them aside.

She then took the garlands which she had made, and adorned herself with them. Hiiaka then heard the voice calling out from the area of Kanehili:

Hiiaka is the woman
Who picked the flowers of Hoakalei,
And with a needle strung and made them into four garlands, the sectioned lei of the woman,
O my younger sibling.
My younger sibling who came from the place where the dusty wind rises from below
Overturned in the sea of Hilo-one,
The aloha is for Hilo,
Love for the lei.

That place, Hilo-one, which is mentioned in the mele, is situated on the northern side of Kualakai, towards Kalaeloa. And the name of the spring in which Hiiaka looked and saw her reflection was Hoakalei (Reflection of a lei). It was at this place that Hiiaka saw the two lehua trees growing, from which she picked the blossoms to make her four garlands.

Hearing the chant, Hiiaka turned toward where it had come from, and saw her older sister Kapo looking at her. Kapo had arrived at Oahu from Maui, where she was teaching the practices of the hula. Seeing Kapo, Hiiaka cried out with affection for her older sister…9

So, it is you o Waialua-iki,
Of the sun darkened cliff of Uli,
Liawahine has gone traveling,
O woman that stands calling from the cliff,
I am adorned with a lei,
Yes, I am wearing garlands of the misty-centered lehua blossoms,
The lehua that grows along the water’s edge at Hoakalei,
My lehua of Hilo-one,
On the shores of Kaolina and Kaupea,
I am adorned.

The reason that Hiiaka presented this chant to her elder sister Kapo, saying, “kui pua lei, o Hoakalei” (Stringing flower garlands of Hoakalei) was because in her chant, Kapo had inquired about Hiiaka’s picking the flowers from the spring of Hoakalei and making them into four garlands for herself… As it is seen in this mele (chant), Hilo-one is on Oahu, there at Kualakai, near Kalaeloa.

Thus it is understood that through traditions like this, we are given direction in knowing about the names of various places of the ancient people, and which are no longer known in this time… Hiiaka then continued her journey toward the shore of Puuloa, and she thought about the words that she had earlier spoken to Wahineomao and Lohiau, and she chanted:

I will not travel to the shore of Kaupea,
To Kaupea where the ohai of Kanehili are found,
I will turn away…

…Hiiaka then arrived at a place where many people were gathered together, and she overheard them talking about preparations for a journey to Kou, which is the old name for Honolulu. The people were preparing to go to the court of the chiefess Peleula, who was hosting kilu10 games…11

…Learning of the contest that was to be held at Kou, Hiiaka had reservations about having Lohiau stop at the court of the chiefess Peleula. So she chanted, calling to Lohiau, telling him to bring the canoe to shore at Puuloa. When Hiiaka chanted, everyone became quiet, because they were awed by the beauty of her chanting voice. One of the women in the group then called to Hiiaka, “You are a stranger to us in appearance, but your chant indicates that you are very familiar with this shore, how is that so?” Hiiaka confirmed that she was indeed a visitor, and yet familiar with the places of this land. She then said, “Ua maikai no kau noi e ke kamaaina maikai, aka, i Kou hoi e hui aku ai na maka” (You have asked a good question, kind native, but, it is at Kou, that all the faces [eyes] shall meet).

Thus it is seen that when Hiiaka responded to the woman of Puuloa, that this famous saying of the people of Oahu came about, “Hui aku na maka i Kou” (The faces shall meet at Kou)… Now, Lohiau had heard the chant of Hiiaka, and he drew the canoe to the shore. When Hiiaka boarded the canoe, she bid farewell to the people of Puuloa and said, “Hui aku o na maka i Kou” [in other words, we will meet again].

They then directed their canoe seaward, and went out of opening of Puuloa. Hiiaka turned and looked towards the land where she saw the dwelling places of Kinimakalehua, Leinono, and Kealia. She called out to them, “So you do not forget me, here is a chant for you” —

Reddish yellow are the rains of Kinimakalehua,
Leinono is the companion above, and Puuloa is shoreward,
The journey across the expansive sands of Ewa has been made arm-in-arm,
I am at Ewa, I greet you o Leinono, We are all companions

In this chant of Hiiaka, she spoke the famous saying that is the pride of the descendants of Ewa; “Ke one kui-lima laula o Ewa” (The sands of Ewa, across which everyone joined hand-in-hand). These words of Hiiaka are a famous saying of this land to this day. As the canoe continued toward Kou, passing the land of Kalihi, Hiiaka looked again towards Leinono and Kealia, and she chanted:

Hail to you o Leinono, o Kinimakalehua, o Keālia who is below, aloha,
Here is the supplication, the offering, of the one who has traveled by.
It is a voice or song, only a voice—

She then turned forward and the canoe arrived at Nuuanu…12

1“He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele…,” January 18, 1927.
2Ibid., January 25, 1927.
3It was believed that talking would cause a breeze to blow that would frighten the pipi [26].
4"He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele…," February 8, 1927.
5Gossypium tomentosum, an endemic yellow-flowered hibiscus that grows on the dryland plains. 
6Leinono, also written as Leilono [16].
7"He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele…," February 15, 1927.
8Kaolino, “the brightness,” appears to be a variation of Koolina—interpretively translated as “joyous.”
9Ibid., February 22, 1927. Available in paper form only at the Hilo Public Library.“He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele…,”
10Kilu is a Hawaiian game in which a gourd or a coconut shell, cut in half, are tossed at an opponent’s pob, similar to horseshoes. The individual who successfully hits the pob that he or she had selected was the winner and could claim a kiss or some other favor from the opponent [21:216].
11“He Moolelo Kaao no Hiiakaikapoliopele…,” March 1, 1927. Available in paper form only at the Hilo Public Library.
12Ibid., March 8, 1927.

Related Documents

The epic tradition of the goddess Pele and her youngest sister, Hiiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele, a.k.a. Hiiaka, spans the entire Hawaiian Archipelago, and even beyond, to Kahiki, the ancestral home of the gods. The tradition is the source of many descriptions of places, place names, beliefs, and knowledge of traditional and customary practices. As in the account below, “He Wahi Kaao a me kekahi Mele pu,” published in 1860, portions of the tradition were also cited in excerpts to remind people of various facets of knowledge that was recorded in the larger account. Of particular interest in the narratives below are references to Hiiaka’s travels on O‘ahu, and mention of places in Honouliuli and vicinity. The original Hawaiian is followed by a summary in English.

O Lohiau me Kaleiopaoa, he mau kanaka no Kauai, o Haena ko laua wahi noho; Ua launa kino wailua wale o Pele me Lohiau, ua ku a aloha loa o Pele ia Lohiau: no ka nui o kona makemake kenaku la oia ia Hiiaka e kii ia Lohiauipo i Haena a loaa. Eia ka laua Berita, “e kii oe ia Lohiau a loaa mai me oe a laa iau, Oia ka ka aoao 1. Eia hoi ka ka aoao elua, e malama oe i kuu aikane ia Hopoe, a hoi mai au;” alaila, hele o Hiiaka i Kauai.

A hiki o Hiiaka me Wahineomao i Haena, ua make o Lohiau, lapaau oia a ola, hoi mai lakou a ekolu o Lohiau, me Wahineomao, a me Hiiaka, a hiki i Oahu, pae o Hiiaka mauka o Waianae, ma ka waa no o Lohiau a me Wahineomao, a hiki i Puuloa. Ia hele ana o Hiiaka mauka, a hiki oia maluna o Pohakea, i nanaku ka hana ua make o Hopoe, e ami mai ana i ke kai, alaila hu mai la ke aloha o Hiiaka no ke aikane ana.

A hiki ma Puuloa, kau hau lakou ma ka waa, a hiki i Mamala, halawai me Peleula ma e heenalu ana, hoi lakou i uka i ka hale, hookipa maikai ia po, lealea lakou ia po, he Kilu ka hana ilaila i ike ai o Hiiaka i ka lea o Lohiau.

Haalele ia Honolulu, hiki lakou i Molokai, noho i ke kaha o Palaau, a make i ka make a ka pololi, lohe mai lakou he hale komo ko Olepau ke alii o Maui, manao aku hoi e ola ka pololi ilaila, i ua la nei i komo ai ka hale o Olepau hiki lakou a ekolu ilaila. I ka ike ana mai o Waihinalo ka wahine a Olepau, ua maopopo ia‘ku kona ano, he ano pi.

Hoohuli ae la, oia ia Olepau iluna ke alo, hukihuki i ka umiumi. Alaila hapai ae la o Hiiaka i keia mele, a pane aku ia Waihinalo.

Mehameha kanaka ole ka hoi Puuomoeawa–e,
O Kaupea i ka aina kanaka ole,
A kulou anei e uwe ana—
E kala ka uwe he keiki makua ole.

(He mau mele kike ana keia wahi, aole nae i loaa ia‘u aka makemake nae o Olepau e ike ia lakou a ekolu aole nae e hiki.) Ua ninau mai o Hiiaka ia Waihinalo i ka wahine a Olepau, Ia wai Maui?

Hai mai o Waihinalo ia Olepau.
O Kalani kelii Kauhilonohonua,
O Kamakea kahiko a Kiha,
O Kiha nui lulu moku,
O Kaulahea nui o ka lani–e;
Ia ia Maui–a.

Hai mai o Hiiaka, ua makeia. Haha ae ka oe la! O olo ka pihe i ke aumoe, Owawa ka pihe i ke kakahiaka, o ka haka maia a Olepau, ua pau i ka ai ia e ka wahine. Ua make o Olepau, o Olepau Aloha.

Hoole mai o Waihinalo wahine a Kapoipoi, aole e make kuu alii ia oe, ke hai mai nei na kua wahine oia nei. O Walinuu ma laua o Walimaanoanoa, o Papa o Hoohokukalani, e hoole mai ana, aole e make.

Pane mai o Hiiaka i ka hua o ka make.
Ua make ke lii nona nei moku,
He puaa kau ko Molokai,—
He ilio kohekohe Lanai,
He pale ka aaka o Kahaloa,
He puoa kai Molokini,
Huli kaele o na Hono,
Paiauma wale na aina,
Oho ki kepakepa na moku,
Uwe ka wahine, uwe ka hanehane,
Uwe ka leoleo i ke kula, i ke pili la i Kamaomao,
Ia kaa kumakena ia o Maui–e;
Make Olepau, o Olepau aloha.

Pau na mele a laua i paio ai. Iloko o ka Hale komo o Olepau o Kapo, he hoahanau no Hiiaka. Ike oia aole hookipaia kona hoahanau; ku ae la oia a hoi i kona hale, hoolale oia ia Puanui kana kane i mea ai kahu i paha, o Luau. Ua makaukau ka hale o Kapo i na mea ai; (E hoi mai ana o Hiiaka ma a waena o ke Alanui; ua loohia ia o Olepau e ka mai, a aneane e pilikia; Hoounaia ke kanaka e kii ia Hiiaka, me ka puaa pu, hoolohe mai o Hiiaka e alala aku ana ka puaa, ia wa, ua hoaa loa ia ke kanaka me ka puaa, ua ninau ke kanaka ia Hiiaka, ua hoohokaia: pela ko laua loaa ole ana, a hiki lakou ma ka Hale o Kapo, ua makaukau, ua pau i ka ai; a hiki i ke aumoe make iho la o Olepau, nona ka mea i manaoia.)

B. Kalaiohauola. Wailua, Kauai, Iulai 4, 1860.1

Below is the summarized translation of the above account, “A Little Story and Some Chants.”

Hiiaka and her companion Wahineomao traveled to Haena, Kauai and returned Lohiauipo, Pele’s mortal lover to life. Hiiaka, Wahineomao and Lohiau then departed from Kauai on their journey to the island of Hawaii where Lohiau would be reunited with Pele. Arriving at Waianae, Hiiaka went overland, instructing Lohiau and Wahineomao to continue by canoe, where she would later rejoin them at Puuloa.

Hiiaka walked inland and passed over the summit of Pohakea, from where she looked to Hawaii and saw her beloved friend Hopoe dancing on the shore. She then descended (across Honouliuli), and arrived at Puuloa where she boarded their canoe, and traveled on to Mamala and then met with the chiefess Peleula (for whom the place in Honolulu is named). They then traveled by canoe on to Molokai and then to Maui… 

While on Maui, Hiiaka chanted a mele in which she described certain places where she had traveled. One of the lines returns to the plains of Honouliuli in which she said:

“O Kaupea i ka aina kanaka ole…” (Kaupea is a land without people…)

1“He Wahi Kaao a me kekahi Mele pu,” Ka Hae Hawaii, July 4, 1860, p. 60.

Moolelo contain expressions of native beliefs, customs, practices, and history. The Hawaiian landscape itself is storied, and each place name is associated with a tradition—ranging from the presence and interactions of the gods with people, to documenting an event, or the characteristics of a given place. Unfortunately, today, many of those moolelo have been lost. Through the moolelo that have survived the passing of time, we are able to glimpse the history of the land and people of Honouliuli Ahupuaa.

Included here are a collection of narratives written by native Hawaiian authors and historians, as well as non-Hawaiian visitors and residents of the land during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The narratives document traditional lore and knowledge, customary practices and beliefs, and the importance of place names which have survived the passing of time. A number of the accounts come from Hawaiian-language resources which have not been previously available in English. Other citations revisit some of the better known historical accounts, while attempting to shed new light on them, with efforts made to place them in a Hawaiian cultural context based on a wide range of resource materials.

Transcripts and/or translations of the Hawaiian-language accounts are given either verbatim, or in summary for longer narratives, with emphasis on the key events—their association with akuaaina, and kanaka of Honouliuli Ahupuaa. The citations span the period from antiquity to the 1920s. We have elected to include the Hawaiian-language transcripts in an effort to provide present and future generations with easy access to these important narratives as a means of fostering ongoing cultural attachment to place, and for educational and interpretive purposes. In this way the kupuna speak for themselves, and pass their voices on to inspire continued knowledge of place, practice, and use of the native place names.

It will be noted that in a number of instances, place names originated as the names of notable figures—either gods, demigods, chiefly personages or deified ancestors—while other names describe events or particular characteristics of named locations.

From the earliest of human times, the Hawaiian landscape has been alive with spiritual beliefs, traditions, customs, and practices. Unfortunately, with the passing of time, irretrievable traditional knowledge has been lost. This is in part a result of the rapid decline of the native population, and enforcement of restrictions placed upon Hawaiians in education and all facets of life which culminated in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government in 1893. By 1900, English became the official language of the schools and government, and native Hawaiian children were punished at school for speaking their olelo makuahine (mother tongue/language). Thus, slowly but steadily, children and grandchildren were distanced from their elders, and the passing on of moolelo (traditions) of place, family, and practice—traditional knowledge—was largely cut off.1

The loss of language, practice, and land were accompanied by changing demographics and the development of large plantations, sprawling communities, military complexes, and resorts. These changes led to the destruction of noted traditional places, or loss of access to sites where traditional and customary practices occurred. Thus, it became difficult, if not impossible, to pass on the experience of practice and familiarity with wahi pana—those sites which would qualify in their native culture and communities as “traditional cultural properties.”

Even with all that has been lost, research in Hawaiian-language materials, historical literature, and in the knowledge of families descended from traditional residents of the land reveals a wealth of history through place names, and in some instances through ongoing practices. Through place names, many wahi pana (storied and sacred places) are found to exist, and for Hawaiians today, those wahi pana remain important. In this modern age, and often in the context of historic preservation, it is the biggest sites and features—such as heiau and mass ilina—that are determined to be the most significant. But Hawaiians have observed that “The land is not sacred because the heiau is there. The heiau is there because the land is sacred.” This sacredness is conveyed in the cultural attachment shared between Hawaiians and the aina (land/natural environment) that nurtured and sustained them and their relationship with the ilina of their ancestors who rose from and returned to the embrace of the aina. This living and ongoing sacredness also implies that there need not be physical remnants of “traditional properties and features” on the ground. When all else is lost, it is enough to speak the names and pass on the knowledge of place.

Inoa Aina: Place Names

By learning place names and their traditions, even if only fragmented accounts remain, one begins to see a rich cultural landscape unfold on the lands of Honouliuli Ahupua‘a. There are a number of place names that have survived the passing of time. The occurrence of place names demonstrates the broad relationship of the natural landscape to the culture and practices of the Hawaiian people. In A Gazetteer of the Territory of Hawaii, Coulter [7] observed that Hawaiians had place names for all manner of feature, ranging from “outstanding cliffs” to what he described as “trivial land marks” [7:10]. In 1902, W. D. Alexander, former Surveyor General of the Kingdom—and later government—of Hawai‘i, wrote an account of “Hawaiian Geographic Names” [2]. Under the heading “Meaning of Hawaiian Geographic Names” he observed,

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to translate most of these names, on account of their great antiquity and the changes of which many of them have evidently undergone. It often happens that a word may be translated in different ways by dividing it differently. Many names of places in these islands are common to other groups of islands in the South Pacific, and were probably brought here with the earliest colonists. They have been used for centuries without any thought of their original meaning. [2]

History further tells us that named locations were significant in past times, and it has been observed that “Names would not have been given to [or remembered if they were] mere worthless pieces of topography” [14:412].

In ancient times, named localities served a variety of functions, telling people about (i) places where the gods walked the earth and changed the lives of people for good or worse; (ii) heiau or other features of ceremonial importance; (iii) triangulation points such as koa (ceremonial markers) for fishing grounds and fishing sites; (iv) residences and burial sites; (v) areas of planting; (vi) water sources; (vii) trails and trailside resting places (oioina), such as a rock shelter or tree-shaded spot; (viii) the sources of particular natural resources/resource collection areas, or any number of other features; or (ix) notable events which occurred at a given area. Through place names, knowledge of the past and places of significance were handed down across countless generations.

1J. W. H. I. Kihe, “Na Hoomanao o ka Manawa,” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, June 5th and 12th, 1924.