How bad leaders and their advisers were dealt with in Kaʻū, 1890.


Before Kamehameha the First had reduced the island of Hawaii to his subjection the various districts were ruled over by petty kings or high chiefs. Anecdotes of three of these aliis who successively ruled over the large district of Kau, are still current among the natives. They are not mythical, but actual events.

Koihala the alii of Kau was about making a voyage from Kona to Kau in his fleet of canoes. He sent word to his people of Kau to meet him with supplies of food on a certain day at Kapua.

The people cooked hogs, dogs and potatoes and prepared poi, water in calabashes and other supplies in sufficient quantities for the chief and his retainers, and started afoot with their burdens to meet him. On arriving at Kapua the fleet came along but did not stop. The alii called to the people ashore to go back to the next landing towards South Point. They resumed their burdens and retraced their steps to this place, the king proceeding by sea. At this place they were told to go on still further to another landing. This was repeated several times and they were finally told to climb the steep pali and meet the king at Kaalualu around and east of South Point. The people were tired, foot sore and hungry from their wearisome travel over the lava and determined upon a different reception to their alii from what he expected. They said “we will teach these chiefs a lesson not to wear us out with their capricious whims. We are hungry and we will eat the food and give him another article of diet instead.” So they sat down and ate up the food and filled the ti-leaf containers with stones and proceeded to near the coast and sat on a slight hill to await the coming of the chief and his party. He landed and proceeded up the ascent to receive his hookupu (tribute of food). When near, the people stood up and, taking the stones from the containers, threw them at the king and his retainers saying, “Here is your pig,” “Here is your dog,” “Here are your potatoes,” etc., and Koihala was killed. The stone, a short way on the road from Kaalualu to Waiohinu is still pointed out as the exact spot where Koihala—the exacting tyrant—met his death.

Another chief, Kahaikalani [Kohaikalani], was told by the priests that he must build a heiau, or temple, on the summit of one of those abrupt hills or craters which lie in the rear of the present Hilea Plantation. The people, men, women and children were all called out to perform this task. Stones in large quantities had to be carried up the steep hill to the summit. When the temple was completed, a certain large tree growing on the land below had to be felled and dragged up to the summit, there to be made into an idol for the temple. On the top of the hill was a dense forest, but none of these trees would suit, out of which the idol was to be made. The tree designated by the kahuna (priest) was cut down, and the people were not allowed to trim it so that it could be easily  dragged to the top. Ropes of bark were prepared, and the people in long lines were made to tug at it, and, after severe labor, they got the log to the steepest part, but could go no further with it. They then said to the chief, “You and the priests go to the lower end of the log and push, and at a signal we will make another effort to get it up to its place.” The king and priests took their stations, and with a great shout the people made a superhuman effort, and the log started again on its upward course. When nearly at the top, upon a signal which was preconcerted, the people let go of the ropes, and the log went crashing down the hill, destroying king and priest in its course. Thus the reign of another tyrant and his advisers was ended.

Halaea, another ruler of Kau, was very fond of fish. His custom was when the people were out in the deep water off the South Point with their long nets, after they had made a good haul, to proceed out in his royal canoe and select from each the best fish that were taken. On one occasion the people determined to put an end to his rapacity. The people were fishing off Kalae (South Point) well out to sea and were very successful. When the king came along as usual to make his selection, the people crowded around him with their canoes and each one passed the fish into his canoe so fast that it was soon swamped and sunk and Halaea drowned.

From these and other similar acts of resistance to tyrannical exactions on the part of their chiefs, the people of Kau were called “makaha,” “robbers,”* and they to-day have the same bold spirit of independence.

A. F. J.

December, 1890.

*A. F. J. (Albert Francis Judd) translates “mākaha” as robbers, but it would be more appropriately interpreted here as fierce as seen in the Hawaiian Dictionary.

[While we definitely should not resort to violence, should we put up silently with foolish leaders?

Also find another version of these stories and so many others in Folktales of Hawaiʻi, collected and translated by Mary Kawena Pukui with Laura C. S. Green, from Bishop Museum Press!]

(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 12/11/1890, p. 2)


The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume XII, Number 140, Page 2. December 11, 1890.

2 thoughts on “How bad leaders and their advisers were dealt with in Kaʻū, 1890.

  1. I have always considered these stories were part of the training of young alii – You work for the people, are accountable to them; treat them well to receive their support and aid

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