Some advice from the past to composers of today, 1893.


Each Mele that is composed has its own nature, and there are results that follow that cannot be avoided. Should the words of the composition be good from beginning to end, then those who understand mele composition [haku mele] will say that the mele (prayer) is a good one; however, should the words be off, and syllables are dropped, and words of unfortunate nature result, those knowledgeable in haku mele will say that the pule (mele) is not good.

A mele is a prophesy in times of trouble, and it is a prayer that asks to be fulfilled. So it was in the ancient times of Miriam folks; and so it was in ancient times in Hawaii nei, and so it is today.

We publish once again the famous mele composed by Mrs. Kekoaohiwaikalani pertaining to our Hawaiian Band [Bana Lahui] who are enduring the hardships of these trying times we are living in.

[Doesn’t this sound like a call from the past to those of today?]

(Leo o ka Lahui, 9/8/1893, p. 2)


Ka Leo o ka Lahui, Buke II, Helu 765, Aoao 2. Sepatemaba 8, 1893.

“Peacock Government,” 1894.


The concealed reference [kaona] of this term: that is a Wandering Government. The Peacock is a bird that is shiftless and a wanderer: it flies from one place to another. A keeper will grow weary looking for this kind of bird.

The other birds are covetous of the golden-yellow feathers of the Peacock; when the Peacock raises its tail feathers and they stand rigid like a loulu fan that shines brightly in the dazzling rays of the Sun, it is then that the beauty of the Peacock is seen.

This Peacock Government however has not spread out its tail feathers, because it is wet and numbed by the rain, and it appears droopy [? kuouou]. It is not recognized by the world’s Peacock Governments. Why is that? Because it is not favored by most of the Butterflies [Pulelehua] and Monarch Butterflies [Olepelepeohina]! How very amazing!

[Who is the Pikake? Who are the Pulelehua and the Olepelepeohina?]

(Leo o ka Lahui, 7/6/1894, p. 2)


Ka Leo o ka Lahui, Buke II, Helu 977, Aoao 2. Iulai 6, 1894.

A scorching mele by someone calling themselves Mauuhilo, 1893.

Ke ala o ka mea Pohihihi.

E kuhi ana wau he oiaio
Ka manao o ka pua Gadinia
Au i hoohae iho ai
Ke keha la oe i ko laki
Nawai e ole ke aloha
Ua kuikahi like ka manao
Manao aku au a he pono
Eia ka oe a he muhee
Kukala ae oe i ke akea
Na huahele hoonui ike
I ike a o luna me lalo
Na hana kaulana a Biuteona
Noonoo ole iho no oe
A he aupuni nui Hawaii nei
O oe a owau kai ike iho
I ka pua kapu o ke kihapai
Kupu ae ka manao me ka hilahila
Na hana hoi a ke aloha ole
Aole no au i mahui mua
A he waiwai hui na ka opua
He nui no wau a he hiwahiwa
He punahele na ka Ua Kuahine
Haina ia mai ana ka puana
No ke ala o ka mea pohihihi


[I wonder what the story being told here is about. There sadly seems to be betrayal by someone who was trusted. Sadly during this time in history this was not the only instance.]

(Lei Momi, 12/11/1893, p. 7)

Ke Ala o ka mea Pohihihi.

Ka Lei Momi, Buke I, Helu 19, Aoao 7. Dekemaba 11, 1893.

Beginning of line-by-line commentary of “Aia i Honolulu kuu pohaku,” 1929.


1. Aia i Honolulu kuu pohaku

Kapanookalani’s thoughts:—This land Honolulu, it is close to Nanawale, Puna, by the sea. It is a ku, a small land in between large lands.

The stone [pohaku] is Lord [Haku] of the chiefess and in this word, the important idea is chiefess [‘lii wahine].

Kahapula’s thoughts:—Honolulu is on Oahu, where King Kamehameha V dwelt and those who opposed him is the Honolulu in this first line of the mele. It was here his enemies schemed and carried out all their defiant acts against him. While they knew the wish of the King to marry the chiefess Pauahi, her teacher, Amos Cooke secretly agreed to  Bishop for him to meet with Pauahi without the knowledge of her parents. That is how Pauahi became Bishop’s, and this is how Bishop and his relative Lee [? William Little Lee] became dignitaries of the land.

Kupihea’s thoughts:—Honolulu is a fish stone called a Kuula, and was brought here to this Honolulu [on Oahu] from the Honolulu of Puna [on Hawaii]. This Kuula was placed in the tiny land of Honolulu where an Alii called Honolulu lived, who was related to the chiefess Peleula, whose younger sister was the beautiful Waikiki. This place is mauka of the old Rawlin’s Estate. There is a bank of coral where Honolulu is; the fishing altar [Kuula] for the fish ponds [loko i’a] is on the Waikiki side of Liliha Street and between Vineyard and King Streets.

The stone is related to chiefs from times immemorial [mai ka po mai]. It is a manifestation made by God.

Iokepa’s thoughts:—Honolulu is a small land and a canoe landing makai of Nanawale, Puna, between two sand dunes, one on the Hilo side and one on the Puna side, called Puu Waawaa. From this Honolulu is called the Honolulu here [on Oahu] which used to be called Kou before, and after it was called Honolulu until this day.

This is the meaning for the word Honolulu:—The wind is very calm [lulu] an the sea is serene; it is very fine and peaceful. Bay [? Hono] of calm sea; Hono that is peaceful.

Kuluwaimaka’s thoughts:—The stone is related to Kamehameha V. Honolulu in Puna is a lowland next to the sea. Its width is perhaps half a mile long between Na Puu o Pele and Waiakahiula on the Hilo side. Honolulu is a place where you pick opihi [ku’i opihi] and pick limu [hana limu]. There is a fine spring [punawai] there and there is a foot path there.

[And to think that this is but the very beginning of Kelsey’s detailed account of the explanation of the six loea of the mele “Aia i Honolulu kuu pohaku.” This is just the first line! It continues in the following issues!!

One more (huge) reason that Hawaiian-Language Newspapers are priceless!!!]

(Alakai o Hawaii, 12/5/1929, p. 2)


Ke Alakai o Hawaii, Buke 1, Helu 32, Aoao 2. Dekemapa 5, 1929.

Hei, cat’s cradle, Hawaiian style, 1916.

Some String Figures of Hawaii

There are many people studying the history of Hawaii nei and the lifestyle of its people, like what has been done with America, Europe and Asia. And through this studying of history, there has not been a lack of new information which brings benefits by its study. However Judge [Lyle Alexander] Dickey has come up with a new path to this study, not utilized before in Hawaii nei. He is learning string figures, and is collecting the old names and the mele that go with these string figures. He now has about a hundred or more of them.

String figures is something done all over the world. And most people know one or two. From what is known, there is not much of them in Europe and Asia; there are a bit more in Africa; and there is a lot with the Indians of America and the people of the islands of the Pacific. There are two books on string figures of the islands of Britain, the Indians of the Arctic, the Indians, and a few from the islands to the south of us. There is nothing written on the hei of Hawaii nei, even if Hawaii’s figures are most wonderful for the mele which accompany them. Some are not difficult, however some are very problematic because of the many transformations, with different lines of mele going along with each change. Some are very humorous without value, while some are for wooing, while others are riddles. Knowing the way of life of the people, its tales, its history, and the lay of its lands—this is the means of understanding the meanings and kaona (underlying meanings) of these hei. Perhaps the most widely memorized figure is called Hale Kumukaaha. However to this day, Judge Dickey has not gained clarity as to the true meaning and kaona of this hei.

Some figures done by the school children of Hawaii are perhaps not originating in Hawaii nei. The hei called “six eyes” is probably not from here [the first image]. Not a single old Hawaiian can make this figure. Maybe it is a new figure or maybe one from outside of Hawaii.

Some of the hei are associated with daily life, like the canoe, the net, the hammock, the imu, and the water gourd. Some are associated with animals and fish, like the turtle, the mo’o, the manini, the aweoweo, the hapuu, and the bird. Some hei are associated with the house like the kumukaaha structure, the loulu structure, and the paakai structure. There are a very little hei pertaining to body parts, like the piko of Kahoalii and the breasts of Ne. There are many dealing with land and famous fishing shrines as well as men with god-like bodies. Kauiki, for probably a good reason is the most widely known figure. One hei is for Wailua and it is seen in the attached illustration.

There is one famous hei, but it is only known by the oldsters of Hawaii nei, of which is accompanied by the chant starting with: “O Kuhaupio ka la, ka la i ke kula o Ahuena.”

A majority of the people who have the song or chant memorized along with the figures, have died without teaching them to their children. There are so many other things that entertain the new generation, but this entertainment of times long ago is something that the Hawaiian people are proud of. This skill shows intelligence in making the figures and associating it to this thing or that, and it is important that this ancient knowledge be kept. It would be good if someone reading this knows of some old Hawaiian who has a chant or mele memorized close at hand, one who is fond of mele and versed in string figures, or one who knows string figures, that he should Judge Dickey in Lihue, Kauai and tell him of what this person knows. There are many different hei of which the judge has heard, however, he has not found someone now living who can show them to him. There is one that is associated with the net of Makalii that J. S. Emerson saw in Hawaii many years ago; there are also some associated with the story of Pele and Kamapuaa, the paddle o Maui, “haehae ka manu e Kanealoha,” and so forth. These are great and very valuable, and it is important that they be preserved without regard to its simplicity or difficulty. And it is perhaps something that will bring joy when witnessing it being done, or perhaps something exceedingly appalling to consider.

(Kuokoa, 6/9/1916, p. 3)


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke LIV, Helu 23, Aoao 3. Iune 9, 1913.

Because February shouldn’t be the only Hawaiian Language month… 1948.


We frequently speak to our dear readers about our Mother tongue, not about our teaching them the Hawaiian language, but that the light of our beloved language from our forefathers is being extinguished.

Being that this is a new era, and we see and realize that there is a drastic reduction in the number of our generations capable in our mother tongue. There are many of our youths these days who have no knowledge of our language, but when you listen to them singing, they sing Hawaiian songs. Sometimes when our children speak Hawaiian, their production of the language is so strange, and sometimes our naau [gut, heart] aches at their mispronunciation of words.

There are many Hawaiian songs sung with incorrect pronunciation. Our children are neglecting trying to acquire knowledge and proficiency in speaking the mother tongue. Look at the other ethnicities like the Filipinos and the Japanese, they haven’t forgotten their language. If parents spoke in their own language then the children would hear; and when we talk to them, they’ll ask, “he aha kau e olelo mai nei? [what are you saying?]”

Some people bewail, “If only Hawaiian-Language Schools were reopened, that would be a good thing because we’d get knowledge and proficiency in the Hawaiian language and it would revive our language.”

That is astonishing. Should a young Hawaiian have the desire to acquire knowledge and competency in the Hawaiian language, he should try to get this competency by studying diligently by himself and to get together with an adult for help and there would be great progress. Some say that Hawaiian can be gotten just like that, not like the languages of other people. Perhaps it is true, but if you go back and think with great seriousness, you will see that the Hawaiian language is not easy.

Within the many Hawaiian words, spellings might be the same, but the pronunciation and meanings of those words are different.

One thing that will give every youth proficiency is the reading of Hawaiian newspapers and Hawaiian books like perhaps the bible. Those things will give knowledge and competence in our native language.

We point out that because of the great love of a certain father, Joseph N. [Nihiaumoe] Koomoa, for the Hawaiian language, he thought it would be important to publish some Hawaiian songs and Hawaiian Hula and print some booklets, and through that someone could make time to read the Hawaiian language and perhaps that way the person could pronounce the words while understanding the kaona [underlying meanings].

This man sent those Hawaiian songs and hula to a Newspaper company to be printed in booklets, and it will be sold to the person or persons who want those books. This is a good idea of Joseph Koomoa’s, and we hope that your books that are being printed will become books that give knowledge to the Hawaiian youths of this age and of the future. Aloha to us, O Hawaiians.

Should you want one of those books, they will be available at the shop of that Hawaiian on Waianuenue Avenue, and also the former fire station [?] According to what was announced, the books will probably cost 35 cents each.

We want our youngsters to get a hold of this and and improve themselves to the best of their ability so that they can get proficiency in our mother tongue. Letting these go would be like forgetting our own selves.


Forge forward with no fear. So that you can get knowledge and proficiency in your own language—that will be your triumph.

We give our congratulations to you, Mr. Joseph Koomoa, for you attempt to revive the prized language of ours. You will be helping for all times [E kokua mau ia mai nohoi oe i na wa apau. ?]

Help ourselves Hawaiians, and don’t let the benefits go to those others [E kokua iho nohoi ia kaua Hawaii, aole hoi hoolele aku i na pomaikai ia lakou ma. ?]

[Anyone know of any copies of these music booklets by Joseph N. Koomoa still in existence???]

(Hoku o Hawaii, 2/11/1948, p. 2)

Ka Olelo Makuahine.

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XLI, Number 19, Aoao 2. Pepeluali 11, 1948.