Clarice B. Taylor retells Kawena Pukui’s Koihala story, 1949.


All About Hawaii

By Clarice B. Taylor


This is an ancient and true story of a chief of old Hawaii whose overweening ambition was the cause of his downfall.

It is one of the many stories of the people of the district of Kau on the Big Island told by Mrs. Mary Kawena Pukui of the Bishop museum staff.

Mrs. Pukui is a descendant of a Kau family of priests. She was raised in the district until she reached young womanhood, so she says, she is “saturated” with the tales of the country folk.

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The Kau people, Mrs. Pukui assures her readers, were great rebels from ancient days until the time of Kamehameha the Great.

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They not only rebelled against their frequent conquerors, they rebelled against any of their own chiefs who made life miserable for them.

Visitors to Kau can see today the ruins of a great heiau (temple) built on the heights at Makanau. It was the construction of this temple which caused the down fall of the chief.

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Koihala was an ambitious man, chief of all Kau. In order to further his ambitions in war, he promised his gods that he would construct the biggest and finest temple possible for them at Makanau.

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Makanau is inland from the beach where materials were to be obtained. It is also a distance from the quarries where the necessary rock was to be obtained.


But Koihala decided upon the site since it overlooked a great expanse of his district.

So, one year at the close of the Makahiki season, Koihala ordered all the Kau men to labor on the construction of the heiau.

Such an order meant that the men had to give up their fishing, farming and other daily pursuits for the duration of the construction job. They had to rely upon their women for their daily food.

NEXT: Building the heiau.

(Star-Bulletin, 3/21/1949, p. 22)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume LV, Number 17629, Page 22. March 21, 1949.

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