Not far from Peʻahi Stream valley is a storied site that played a pivotal role in recent Hawaiian history. Halehaku, which translates to “master’s house” or “overseer’s house,” is the name of the ahupuaʻa to the east of Peʻahi. It is also significant because in the late 1700s, Kamehameha I (also known as “Kamehameha the Great”) and his army landed ashore in a drive to take Maui into Kamehamehaʻs kingdom. This moment was documented in oral histories and in Hawaiian language newspapers, both of which are cited in the ethnohistorical study that Kepā and Onaona Maly of Kumupono Associates completed for The Merwin Conservancy.
In Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii (1961), Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau described events of a battle that took place in 1790 at Hāmākualoa – the first place where Maui was invaded by Kamehameha I during his campaign to unite the Hawaiian islands under his rule:
…Hearing of Kamehameha’s approach Ka-lani-ku-pule sent an army to Hamakualoa under the warrior Kapa-kahili. The battle met at a small hill called “Bosun-bird Hill” (Pu‘ukoa‘e) situated on the makai side of Pu‘umaile at Hanawana in Hoalua, and Kapa-kahili was defeated. In the evening Kamehameha beached at Halehaku, went ashore, and built temporary shelters just where he stepped foot. The feather god Ku-ka‘ili-moku encouraged him to fight, for its feathers bristled and stood upright in the direction of Hina-wai-koli‘i; Kamehameha therefore lost his fear of a fight with slingshot. The next morning he saw through the koa and hala trees the red gleam of feather capes. It is said that he narrowly escaped defeat by Kapa-kahili’s company. But reinforcement came up, Kamehameha put the enemy to flight, and pursued them along the main road or they would have rejoined their fellow-warriors at Kokomo. At the ascent of ‘Opaepilau, Kapa-kahili was exhausted and was overtaken. “Slain by Pipili,” Kamehameha boasted over him… (Kamakau 1961:148)
The battle then moved to Wailuku and ‘Īao, where the battles were called Ka‘uawa‘upali and Kepaniwai, and Kamehameha was victorious (ibid.:148-149)
In 1922, the events leading up to the first battle at Pu‘ukoa‘e were further described in Ka Hoku o Hawaii, a Hawaiian language newspaper:
Iulai 13, 1922 (aoao 1)
Ka Hoku o Hawaii
He Moolelo Kaao no Kekuhaupio ke Koa Kaulana o ke Au o Kamehameha Ka Nui
…Ma keia manawa i hoʻea aku ai o Kamehameha me kona puali koa nui i Maui Hikina, e noho hoomalu ana o Kalanikupule me kona kaikaina Koalaukani ia Maui, a o Kamohomoho kona kuhina kaua a kuhikuhipuuone nui, o ia hoi ke poo nui o ka oihana kaua ma Maui ia mau la. Ua hoopiha pu ia no hoi kona aloalii i na alii kiekie ma lalo mai ona, a o ia no ka mana nui o ke aupuni ma Maui ia mau la, oiai kona makua kane Kahekili ma Oahu ia manawa e hoʻolala kaua ana iā Kahahana, ko Oahu alii ai moku. E noho pu ana i ke alo o ke Alii Ai Moku Kalanikupule na alii kapu kiekie, o ia hoi o Kalola me kana mau kaikamahine alii kiekie, o ia hoi o Kekuiapoiwa me kona kaikaina ʻo Kalanikauiikikilo Kalaniakua, a me ka laua kaikamahine opio Kalanikauikaalaneo Keopuolani.
A lohe o Kalanikupule i ka hoea ana o ka poe kaua o Hawaii me Hana, a laila, wae ae la o ia i kekahi puali koa nui, a hoouna akula ia lakou i Hamakualoa, a ma lalo hoi o Kapakahili, ka mamakakaua. Aia ma kela wahi o Hamakualoa kekahi puukaua, a nona ka inoa o Puukoae, a he wahi keia ma kai ae o Puumaile, a e kokoke ana paha i Hanawana, a hoopuipui ihola o ia i ka ikaika o ko Maui poe.
Haalele akula o Kamehameha me kona mau auwaa kaua ia Hana, a hoonee maila i kona nee ana no kela wahi i kapa ia o Halehaku, a ma ia wahi i hoolele ai o ia i kona mau koa, a pii akula o ia no uka o ka aina, a ma kahi hoi i kapa ia Na kapuai o Kamehameha, a ma ia wahi kukulu ihola lakou i mau papai hale no lakou. I ka paa ana o keia mau papai hale o lakou, ua hoomaka koke ihola no o Kamehameha e hapai i kana aha kuka o kona mau alii me kona mau koa alakai, a i komo pu aku na hoi o Kekuhaupio, kona koa kaulana. Ua kaa no nae ma lalo o ke alakai ana a kona Kahuna alakai Holoae ka lawelawe ana i na hana ninau i kona akua Ku-kaili-moku, oiai, o ka mea maamau no ia i keia Alii Kamehameha, aole loa o ia e lawelawe i kekahi hana hoonee kaua ke ole o ia e ninau mua i kona akua kaua.
Ua olelo ia ma keia papa hana a ke Kahuna Holoae, ua ike ia ke kuku ana o na hulu o Kukailimoku i luna, a o ka hoailona maa mau o ia ano, o ia no ke ku o ka hulu o ke akua, e hoala mai ana i ka manao e nee i mua no ka hooili kaua, a e loaa ana no ka lanakila ma ka aoao o Kamehameha. O ke kuku ana o keia mau hulu o ke Akua Kunuiakea, o ia paha ka inoa kiekie loa o keia akua kaua o Kamehameha, a e kuku ai na hulu o ua akua nei a kau i luna o “Hina-wai-kolii,” a ma muli o ia hoailona i ike ia e ke kahuna alakai o Kamehameha a me ka ike pu no hoi o na alii kiekie ma lalo o Kamehameha, e hoolale mai ana keia mau hulu kuku o Kunuiakea, e nee ke kaua no mua a he mea maopopo loa e hio ana ka lanakila ma ka aoao o Kamehameha….
[Translation by Frances Frazier, 2000:246-247]
…When Kamehameha and his warriors arrived at East Maui, Kalanikūpule and his younger brother, Koalaukani, reigned over Maui. Kalanikūpule’s war minister and kuhikuhipu‘uone was Kamohomoho who was the head of the warrior profession in those days. Kalanikūpule’s court was filled with high-born ali‘i under him. He had the power of government because his father, Kahekili, was on O‘ahu making war on Kahahana, O‘ahu’s ali‘i ‘ai moku. Also at Kalanikūpule’s court were the sacred ali‘i ki‘eki‘e Kalola and her daughters, Keku‘iapoiwa and her younger sister Kalanikauiōkikilo Kalaniakua, and their young daughter [and niece], Kalanikauika‘alaneokeōpūolani.
When Kalanikūpule heard of the arrival of the Hawai‘i people at Hāna, he chose his great army and sent them to Hāmākualoa under Kapakahili, the general. At Hāmākualoa was a certain fortification called Pu‘ukoa‘e that was makai of Pu‘umaile and close to Hanawana and which was reinforced by the Maui folk.
Kamehameha and his war fleet left Hāna and moved to that place called Halehaku. Here his warriors sprang ashore, and at a place called The Footsteps of Kamehameha (Nā Kapua‘i o Kamehameha), they built themselves some temporary shelters. On the completion of these shelters, Kamehameha immediately took up his conference of chiefs and war leaders including Kekūhaupi‘o, his famous warrior. However, the questioning of his god, Kūkā‘ilimoku, was performed under the leadership of Holo‘ae, his kahuna, as it was customary for Kamehameha never to take up his warlike actions without first questioning his war god.
It was said of this work by the kahuna Holo‘ae that, if the feathers on Kūkā‘ilimoku were seen to stand up, this was always the omen which led to movement to battle and to the achieving of victory for Kamehameha’s side. If the feathers of the god Kūnuiākea, which was perhaps the highest name of this war god of Kamehameha, stood up and perched upon Hinawaikōli‘i, this was a sign recognized by Kamehameha’s kahuna and the high chiefs under him, that they should hasten to battle and that the victory would slant in their favor…
These battles are noted as some of the most violent and significant, as they represent the last time a ruling chief, Kalanikūpule, physically fought Kamehameha I over the Hawaiian islands. These conflicts led to Kamehameha’s successful unification of the islands, a feat for which he is most known and recognized as the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
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