Kakuhihewa was the 15th Alii Aimoku of Oahu. He ruled as titular King or chief of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. He was not only one of the great kings of Oahu, but also celebrated throughout the eight islands for all the princely qualities that formed the beau ideal of a highborn chief in those days. The legends relate to him are somewhat fuller, or have been retained better, than those of many of his contemporaries of successors. His very name is remembered in the poetic name of Oahu. He birth date estimates are circa. 1540-1634 by the popular 30-year and 20-year count which separate the death of the alii aimoku by 20 years and the deaths by 30 years.


Kakuhihewa was born at Kukaniloko, in the sleeping-place consecrated by the kapu of Liloe. He was the son of Kaihikapu-a-Manuia, 14th Alii Aimoku of Oahu, and of his wife Kaunui-a-Kanehoalani, the daughter of Kanehoalani, who was the grandson of Lo-Lale. Kaunui's mother was Kualoakalailai, whose parentages are lost to ages, but was of the Kalehenui branch of the Maweke line. From thence he was taken to Hoolonopahu by his maternal grandfather, Kanehoalani. Forty-eight chiefs of highest rank, conspicuous among were Makokau, Ihukolo, Kaaumakua, Pakapakauana, were present at the ceremony of cutting the navel-string of the new-born chief. The two sacred drums, named "Opuku" and "Hawea," announced he august event to the multitude. Several kahu (attendants) were duly appointed to watch over and bring up the heir-apparent, whose childhood was principally passed between Waipio, Waiawa and Manana in the Ewa district.

During his youth Kakuhihewa was instructed in all the sciences and accomplishments known among his people, and such as became a chieftain of his rank and expectations. Spear exercise of various kinds, single-stick, stone-throwing, the use of the sling and the javelin, and the knowledge of martial tactics, were taught by a number of masters whose names the legend has preserved, and whose skill is said to have been son great that they could hit the smallest bird or insect at long distances. The use of the bow and arrow was taught to him by the famous Mailele. The bow was never used in war, but was a fashionable weapon to shoot rats and mice with. There was never any beasts of prey or wild animals on the islands, the rats were the only fera natura that offered the sports of the chase to the chiefs and their followers, with whom it seems to have been a fascinating amusement and heavy bets were frequently put upon this or that archer's skill. The arrows were generally tipped with the sharpened bones of birds or of human beings, preferably those of high chiefs whose mana would assist them in the hunt.


Unification of Oahu

When Kakuhihewa succeeded his father in the dignity of Moi of Oahu, his first care was to reunite the divide empire of Oahu. Many of the separate district chiefs had become so independent that they paid no heed to their lord and sovereign the Moi of Oahu. Instead of continuing the war with his cousin Napulanahumahiki, he made peace with him, and married his daughter Kaea-a-Kalona; generally know in the genealogies by the name of Kahaiaonuiakauailana. With this marriage, the three districts of Waianae, Waialua and Koolauloa again fell under the sway of the legitimate Moi of Oahu, and during the balance of his long reign, no war or rebellion distracted the kingdom or diminished his power.

Peace and Prosperity

Legends speak in the glowing terms of the prosperity, the splendors, and the glory of Kakuhihewa's long reign. Conditions in the Kingdom of Oahu in the mid-1500s were excellent. Mild yet efficient in his government, peace prevailed all over the island, agriculture and fishing furnished abundant food for the inhabitants; industry thrived and was remunerated, population and wealth increased amazingly, and the cheerful, liberal, and pleasure-loving temper of Kakuhihewa attracted to his royal court the bravest and wisest, as well as the most brilliant and frivolous among the aristocracy of the other islands. Brave, jovial, luxurious, versed in all the lore of the ancients of his land, a practical statesman, yet passionately fond of the pleasures of the day, wealthy, honoured, and obeyed, Kakuhihewa made his court, on Oahu, the Paris of the group. "There was nothing to complain of anywhere on Oahu," according to Samuel Kamakau. "It was fertile in the uplands, fertile in the lowlands. Heaven was above and the earth below--"he lani iluna, he honua ilalo" (it was secured). The Oahu chiefs loved their island' there was no "foreign rubbish" around, aole hua i Kahiki opala wale." The noblest epitaph to his memory is the sobriquet bestowed on his island by the common and spontaneous consensus of posterity-- "Oahu-a-Kakuhihewa."

The Battle of the Pueo

One legends states an incident between a man name Kapoi and Kakuhihewa. It contradict the peaceful reign and great character of Kakuhihewa but is quite interesting although most likely a myth. Kapoi lived at Kahehuna on Oahu. One day, he went to Kewalao, near the beach. He was looking for pili grass to repair his house. The roof and sides of his house wre falling apart. While gathering the pili grass, he found a nest of pueo(owls) eggs. He put the eggs into his eke (bag or basket). He thought to himself, "These eggs will make a good meal this evening." When he go home, he began to prepare the eggs. He was a going to roast them in the small imu (underground oven). He wrapped them in ti leaves and was about to place them on the hot stones when a pueo flew down and sat on a branch of the kukui tree growing in his yard. "Oh, Kapoi," said the owl, "please let me have those eggs. They belong to me." "How many eggs did you have?" Kapoi asked. "I had seven eggs," replied the owl. "But I am cooking these eggs for my dinner because I have no fish," said Kapoi. The owl pleaded again, "Please, Kapoi, let me have my eggs." "But," said Kapoi, "I already have them wrapped and ready to cook." Then the owls said, "Kapoi, you are very heartless. You have no sorrow for me and you care only about yourself." Kapoi was embarrassed. Feeling sorry for the owl, he said, "Come and get your eggs."

The owl, akcknowleding Kapoi's kindness, became Kapoi's personal god (aumakua). There was a long tradition of family and personal gods in Hawaii, and the owl, revered as a powerful protector in battle and danger, is one of the most ancient of them. The owl commanded Kapoi to build a heiau (a temple) where he could make offerings to his owl god in the Manoa Valley of Oahu, where the king of the owls resided. Kapoi could not refues. He immediately set out building the temple, observing all the proper ritual and kapu, dedicating it, and making offerings to the owl as he had promised. Kakuhihewa, at the time, was living at Waikiki, where he was building a great heiau to his own god. He had laid a kapu on all the people of Oahu: While his heiau was being build no one else might build and dedicate a heiau. To have done so would have offended Kakuhihewa's god and would have been an act of treason, punishable by death. When he heard of Kapoi's heiau, Kakuhihewa sent men to seize him. He had the man imprisoned near the Waikiki heiau, intending to use him as a sacrifice at the new heiau. Usually there was a small four square, stone walled enclosure in which sacrifices were kept until the time came when they should be killed and place on the altar and in such a place he was placed and guarded. Kapoi's aumakua went to the king of the owls, who live in the Manoa Valley on Owl's Hill, for help. The king of the owls eat his drums to summon all the owls from all the islands to make war on the high chief of Oahu. Legend states that within a day, all the owls of the Big Island of Hawaii, Lanai, Maui and Molokai had gathered at Kalapueo near Diamond Head. All the owls from Kauai and Niihau gather at Pueohulunui near Moanalua. All the owls of Oahu and Kahoolawe flocked toward Kanoniakapueo in Nuuanu Valley.

Kakuhihewa had set apart the day of Kāne, the day didicated to the god Kāne and given his name, as the dau when Kapoi should be sacrificed. This day was the twenty-seventh of the lunar month. In the morning of that day the priests were to slay Kapoi and place him on the altar of the temple in the presence of the king and his warriors. At daybreak on the day Kakuhihewa had set for Kapoi's death, the owls rallied around Kakuhihewa's temple. So great were their numbers that they obscured the sun as it rose. The owls were covering the heavens. As Kapoi was about to be slay, the owls attacked. The owls flew down and tore the eyes and faces of the men of Kākuhihewa. The chief, his warriors, and his priests battle in vain to drive the owls away, but the owls flew at them again and again, scratching their eyes and faces and covering them with dirt and dropping. Kakuhihewa and his force fled, and Kapoi was set free. The army of the king of the owls had defeated the army of the king of Oahu and saved the poor man's life. When Kakuhihewa saw what happened to his men, he said to Kapoi: "Your god has mana, greater than my god. Your god is a true god." From that day on, the owl was worshipped as a god. This also was Ku-kana-kohi. The legends do not clearly state whether this was the name of the owl-god or the name of the battle. The place of that ancient battle was called "Kukaeunahio ka pueo," or "The confused noise of owls rising masses."

Kakuhihewa's principal royal residences were at Ewa, Waikiki and Kailua. On the latter land, at a place called Alele, he built a magnificent palace, according to the ideas of those times. It was name Pamoa, sometimes given as Kamooa in other legends, and is said to have been 240 feet long and 90 feet broad. To those missionaries, who remember the large houses of even the inferior chiefs in the latter years of the old regime, ere the feudal power was completely broken, the above dimensions, as given in legends, will not appear extravagant, and were probably correct. The main purpose of this house was for debating land divisions, claiming ancestors, genealogy registration, practice with war club spear thrusting, astrology, designing, astronomy, knona, instruction in the royal ancestral songs, royal songs, foot racing, cliff leaping, bowling, sliding and boxing.


Kakuhihewa had three wives, some legends say four. His first was Kaea-a-Kalona or Kahaiaonuiakauailana, the daughter of Napulanahumahiki, mentioned above. With her he had two sons and one daughter; they were Kanekapu-a-Kakuhihewa, Kaihikapu-a-Kakuhihewa, and Makakaialiilani. His second wife was Kaakaualani, the daughter of Laninui-a-Kaihupee, a descendant of the Kalehenui-a-Maweke branch, and his wife Kauhiiliula-a-Piilani, a daughter of Piilani, the King of Maui. The product of his second marriage was a son name Kauakahinui-a-Kakuhihewa. His third wife was Koaekea, whose pedigree is unknown, and with whom he had a son named Kalehunapaikua. The fourth wife mentioned by some legends, though not by all, was Kahamaluihi, a daughter of Kaioe, a descendant of the Kumuhonua-a-Mulielealii branch of the Maweke line and Kawelo-Ehu, of the Kauai branch descending from Ahukini-a-Laa, 4th Alii Aimoku of Kauai. She is said to have become afterwards the wife of her step son, Kakuhihewa’s son, Kanekapu-a-Kakuhihewa.

When Kakuhihewa died, the office of Moi of Oahu descended to his eldest son Kanekapu, in whose family it remained for five generations. Kanekapu only inherited the titles but not all the territories; the kingdom was divided into three district between his three eldest sons.


  • Abraham Fornander, An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origin and Migrations, Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1969. Page 272-276

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