Namakaokapaoo, the Spear Fighting Plain

This excerpt is from Ka Lahui Hawaii and was published in 1877. It mentions Namakaokapaoo, “the spear fighting plain” in Honouliuli, as well as Kauwaimaikalani, a warrior in the time of chief Keawenuiaumi, “the mischievous child of the Lihue cliffs at Honouliuli.”

…E ke hoa, no keaha la oe i lele kamoko mai nei i ke kahua ka-ka laau o Namakaokapaoo? Ka mea i waiho i ke au-paoo (uala), a inai me na maka o Kauwaimaikalani, ke koa kaulana o Hawaii, i ke au o Keaweaumi ke alii,  ke keiki kamaeu hoi o na pali Lihue o Honouliuli, ka mea hoi nana i kaniu i ke poo o ua koa kaulana la o Hawaii me ke Koa-ie o luna o Puukuua. A nolaila, e ke hoa, ua oki oe. Me ka mahalo.

Daniel Kalou.
Honouliuli, Ewa, Feb. 17, 18771

The translation is below.

Friend, why have you leapt into the dispute here on the spear fighting plain of Namakaopaoo? The one who set aside the shoots of the sweet potato, garnished with the tears of Kauwaimaikalani, the famous warrior of Hawaii in the time of the chief Keawenuiaumi, the mischievous child of the Lihue cliffs at Honouliuli. The one who severed the head of the famous warrior of Hawaii with the Koaie from the top of Puukuua. Therefore friend, you are finished. With appreciation.

Daniel Kalou.
Honouliuli, Ewa. Feb. 17, 18772

1“Namakaokapaoo,” Ka Lahui Hawaii, March 1, 1877, p. 1.

2Translated by Maly.

Related Documents

There are thousands of references contributing to the history of Honouliuli Ahupuaa. From those references are found classes of information covering such topics as

•  Residency: land ownership and access;
•  Paakai: salt making;
•  Kai lawaia: fisheries and access;
•  Ranches and the land development programs in Honouliuli;
•  Water development, railroads, and the Ewa Plantation; and
•  Military condemnation of Honouliuli lands and offshore waters.

The selected narratives categorized as Land Use: Development Period provide eyewitness accounts to historic events. While there are few identifiable references for the immediate area of the Hoakalei program, the narratives give us an historical context for understanding changes on the land since western Contact.

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.

There are several traditions pertaining to a youth by the name of Namakaokapaoo that have been published in the Hawaiian-language newspapers, with lengthy accounts in print between 1894 and 1917. The earliest reference identified while preparing this study was published in a short rebuttal by a native of Honouliuli to another writer in the Hawaiian newspaper Ka Lahui Hawaii. While the February 17, 1877 account is a short one, it references the sweet potato fields of Namakaokapaoo, observing that Namakaokapaoo is the skilled fighter of the cliffs of Lihue. The narrative references the severing of a chief’s head with a weapon made of koaie (Acacia koaia) from the heights of Puukuua.

Later accounts of the tradition provide detailed narratives of events on Maui and Kauai, with passing poetic references to Oahu, Hawaii, Niihau, and other locations. It is in Abraham Fornander’s Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities [11:274–283] that we find events in the life and deeds of Namakaokapaoo taking place on Oahu. A summary of the Oahu version of the tradition of Namakaokapaoo follows below, and cites several names and features of the Ewa District.

Namakaokapaoo’s father was named Kauluakahai (descended from gods of Kahiki). His mother was named Pokai. They lived near the shore at Lihue in Honouliuli.  After Pokai became pregnant, Kauluakahai traveled to Kahiki. Thus, when Pokai gave birth to Namakaokapaoo, the two of them lived in with little to sustain them. One day, Pualii, a man who lived in the uplands at Keahumoa, situated just below Kipapa, went to the shore of Lihue to fish. While on his way, he passed the place where Pokai and Namakaokapaoo lived. Seeing Pokai, Pualii fell in love with her, and asked her to be his wife. Agreeing, Pokai and Namakaokapaoo went to live at Keahumoa. There, Pualii tended two large mala uala (fields of sweet potatoes).

In his work, Pualii had made an oath that none of the potatoes would be eaten until he had made an offering of an ulua fish, and then eaten of the produce first, himself. When the mala were ready to harvest, Pualii went down to Lihue to catch his ulua. While Pualii was on the shore fishing, Namakaokapaoo and a group of his friends went to the mala uala and pulled up all the potatoes and began to cook them. Pualii returned, saw what had been done, and went with a large koilipi (stone adze) to kill the boy. As the koilipi fell, Namakaokapaoo offered a prayer to his deified ancestors, and the adze turned and cut off Pualii’s head.

“Namakaokapaoo picked up Pualii’s head and threw it towards Waipouli, a cave situated on the beach at Honouliuli (a distance of about five miles).” [11:278]

The mala uala where this occurred have been called “Namakaokapaoo” since that time, and are found on the plains of Keahumoa.

Word of this event reached Amau, king of Oahu, who was dwelling at Waikiki. The king wanted to challenge the youth, and proceeded to Keahumoa for the contest. Learning of this, Namakaokapaoo went to his mother and took her down to a cave situated at Waipouli, where he hid her for a while. He then returned to Keahumoa and met with Amau and his warriors and killed them all. Namakaokapaoo then established his mother Pokai as ruler over Oahu.