In the story of Mākālei ka lāʻau piʻi ona a ka iʻa o Moaʻulanuiākea i Kaulana (the famous fish-attracting branch of Moaʻulanuiākea), Olomana, sometimes spelled Olopana, is the ruling chief of the Koʻolaupoko and Koʻolauloa districts of Oʻahu. His punahele and konohiki for Kailua and Waimānalo is Ahiki, a very good-hearted, handsome and beloved ruler. Ahiki establishes Pākuʻi as the kahu loko, keeper of Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu fishponds. It is Pākuʻi who supplies the chiefs with fish from these fishponds. Kailua was a very valued place of the chiefs because of the abundance of fish in Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu. It was said, these ponds were the place to “fill your bags [with fish].” At times, there were so many fish; they could be grabbed with just your hand.
One day Ahiki orders Pākuʻi to retrieve fish from Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu. Pākuʻi goes the very next day with his two helpers, Nuhi and Nihiʻole to fulfill the orders of his konohiki, Ahiki. The three fishermen are only able to retrieve 3 ʻanae and 3 awa despite there being huge numbers of fish in the fishponds. Pākuʻi reports to Ahiki that he thinks they were only able to retrieve a small number of fish because there is too much limu and it needs to be cleaned out.
Ahiki then announces a workday in Kawainui for all those of Kailua and Waimānalo who are willing to work. As a result of everyone’s collective efforts, the limu is removed and the fishpond is restored to full health. They are now able to access the abundance of fish in the pond.
One of those who came to work was a small, young boy named Kahinihiniʻula. He lived in Makawao, in the uplands of Maunawili. At the end of the workday, everyone who participated received a hoʻina, some fish to take home, everyone except Kahinihiniʻula. He was so small the kahu loko did not notice him. This happened for two workdays, and Nīʻula, Kahinihiniʻula’s grandmother became very upset. She is the guardian of ka lāʻau Mākālei, the fish-attracting branch, and she is also a descendant of Haumea. With the Mākālei branch, she summons Haumea to take revenge upon the chief Olomana, because it is ultimately his responsibility to make sure everyone has enough and is cared for. And it was the kahu loko of his favorite konohiki, who failed to give Kahinihiniʻula his fair share of fish at the end of the workdays. Therefore, even though Olomana and his retinue neglected the small boy unintentionally, they are still held responsible.
The grandmother, Nīʻula, then instructs Kahinihiniʻula to lead all the fish out of Kawainui fishpond, with the Mākālei branch, through the Maunawili stream, and into the spring at their house, Hālauwai.
With all the fish of Kawainui suddenly missing, Ahiki, Pākuʻi, Nuhi, and Nihiʻole appear before Olomana to appeal to him. They show him that there is no fish, so Olomana then summons his kahuna, Pōpolo. The kahuna, Pōpolo, looks into his kāhoaka, a container of water, and asks the pō why the fish have been taken away from Kawainui.In the kāhoaka the face of Kahinihiniʻula is revealed. The kahuna then interprets these signs.
“It is because of this boy that the fish have been taken away from the loko. It would be proper to have him killed,” suggested Pōpolo.
“No, I shall not have him killed,” said Olomana. “Instead I shall adopt him as my son, and you shall raise him with me, Ahiki. We shall be his parents.”
Ahiki spends the rest of the story looking for Kahinihiniʻula, only for the young boy to evade capture, as he was under the protection of his kumu honua, his ancient ancestor, Haumea. Haumea then sends Kahinihiniʻula to play friends to teach him how to swim, surf, and dive. With his play friends, Kahinihiniʻula travels through the ocean to Kānehūnāmoku, the land of the gods and appears before Kāne and Lono. Kahinihiniʻula eats with the gods and, with the help of Haumea, earns their favor by not falling for the tricks they try to play on him.
As Kahinihiniʻula returns from Kānehūnāmoku, his status is now elevated as he followed the directions of Haumea and won over the favor of Kāne and Lono. They instructed him to build a heiau at Hanauma. With the help of his kumu honua, he builds his heiau and later appears before Ahiki and Olomana as they are bathing at their kiʻowai, their inland pool. Kahinihiniʻula is formally accepted into the chiefly circle with his new adopted parents, Olomana and Ahiki.
This story teaches us very important values. The first and foremost value is that everyone needs to be taken care of. This is the impetus for the entire tale. Olomana was held responsible by the amazing goddess Haumea, for neglecting her descendant.
This is also a story about the wondrous acts of Haumea herself, and how if we follow the directions of our elders, we will be able to do many good deeds in the world. This story also reminds us that we can elevate our status by gaining knowledge, as Kahinihiniʻula did with his play friends. It is also interesting to note that Olomana defied Pōpolo’s suggestion to kill Kahinihiniʻula and instead decides to take him as his own in adoption, a very Hawaiian tradition.
- Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. p.414, 1976. The University of Hawaiʻi Press. Retrieved from: http://ulukau.org/elib/cgi-bin/library?e=q-0beckwit1-000Sec–11en-50-20-frameset-search-martha+beckwith-1-010escapewin&a=d&p2=book
- Kekoowai, Samuel K. Ka Nupepa Kuokoa. Makalei, ka laau pii ona a ka ia o Moaulanuiakea i Kaulana. 6 Ian 1922 – 10 Ian 1924, compiled by Johanna Pōmaikaʻi Stone and retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10125/32929
- This moʻolelo is also presented by Kahikina de Silva in:
de Silva, K. (2009). Ka Mākālei a Kawainui. In Kailua. (pp. 50-53, 133-137, 161-165, 261-265). Kailua Historical Society.
- In the moʻolelo of Mākālei, what was Kawainui? Did people gather food there? How does this compare with Kawainui today?
- What did the people of Waimānalo and Kailua do in order to mālama (care for) Kawainui fishpond? Why did they do this? What were they able to accomplish?
- In the moʻolelo of Mākālei, what happened to Kahinihiniʻula? How was he treated? What was the result of this?
- What was Olomana’s reaction once he realized what had happened to Kahinihiniʻula? Did he agree or disagree with his kahuna? What did Olomana do instead?
- In what ways do the characters in this moʻolelo express aloha for one another? In what ways do they fail to do so?
- What does this moʻolelo teach us about the importance of respect and valuing all members of the ʻohana and community?
- Based on the moʻolelo, would you consider Kailua to be momona (a place of abundance)? Why or why not?
- What can we learn from the moʻolelo about how to cultivate and steward abundance?
- What life lessons might we learn from this moʻolelo? How might it connect with our ʻōlelo noʻeau?
- Moʻolelo: History, story
- Punahele: favorite
- Konohiki: ruler of the ahupuaʻa, reports to the aliʻi
- Lāʻau: stick, branch, medicine
- Aliʻi: chief
- Iʻa: fish
- Loko: pond
- Kumuhonua: very ancient ancestor
- Keiki: child
- Moʻopuna: grandchild
- Tūtū Wahine/Kupunahine: grandmother
- Kiʻowai: inland pool
- Akua Wahine: goddess
- Kahuna: priest
- Kāula: priestess
- Limu: seaweed
- Kahu loko: keeper of the fishpond
- Hoʻina: food to take home
- Kāhoaka: in this story, a cup of water that is prayed over to reveal signs
- Pō: night, the spirit world
Inoa ʻĀina (Wind, Rain, & Place Names)
- Koʻolaupoko: From Waimānalo to Kualoa
- Koʻolauloa: From Kaʻaʻawa to Pūpūkea
- Kawainui: Name of a fishpond in Kailua, currently referred to as “Kawainui Marsh”
- Kaʻelepulu: Name of a fishpond in Kailua, currently referred to as “Enchanted Lake”
- Maunawili: Land division in Kailua, Oʻahu
- Makawao: Area in the uplands of Maunawili
- Hālauwai: Name of the spring at Kahinihiniʻula’s house in Makawao in the uplands of Maunawili
- Olomana: The largest peak closest to Kailua; Chief of Koʻolaupoko and Koʻolauloa
- Ahiki: The peak closest to Waimānalo; Konohiki of Kailua and Waimānalo
- Pākuʻi: The middle peak; Kahu loko of Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu
- Kānēhūnāmoku: Land of the gods where Kahinihiniʻula travels
Haʻawina (Life Lessons)
Nānā ʻia nā kānaka a pau (Everyone is cared for)
- The whole impetus for the story of Mākālei is that one person who worked on a workday did not get their fair share of fish. Because of this happening two times, the family of this boy is offended and calls for revenge. This is the standard by which to hold ourselves, our leaders, and our entire community. Everyone who works shall be fed.
Hoʻolohe i nā kūpuna (Obedience to elders)
- Kahinihiniʻula is led upon this amazing journey by his grandmother and ancient ancestor. He could not have thought this plan up himself. He must be humble, obey, and follow directions. This is how he meets success on his journey and finds himself respected in the circle of chiefs.
Hoʻonui ʻIke (Gaining knowledge)
- In order for Kahinihiniʻula to be able to travel to the land of the gods, the land not seen by humans, he must gain some skills. He is taught how to swim, surf, and dive. For it is over, through and within the ocean which Kahinihiniʻula and his two companions travel to “tread upon the chest of Kāne,” the beautiful, magical, and abundant land where Kāne and Lono live.
Ke Keiki Hoʻokama (Foster Child)
- When faced with the kahuna telling him to kill Kahinihiniʻula, Olomana instead decides to adopt him, take him as his own. In this example we see the choice of taking away life, or creating new life with new relationships. This example teaches us the value of choosing to embrace something or a situation rather than try to destroy it.
Content on this page was written and compiled by Johanna Kapōmaikaʻi Stone