Maui’s King Kekaulike descended from Pi‘ilani (‘ascent to heaven’). The kings of Maui consolidated their strength, built up their armies and created a nation strong enough to threaten at times even the might of the powerful kings of Hawai‘i.
King Kekaulike and his children built an empire that enjoyed levels of power and prestige greater than any other royal family up until that point.
“Tradition speaks of Kekaulike’s return to Maui after a raid in Kohala, Hawaii, and while in Mokulau, Kaupo, Maui, Kekaulike was preparing for another raid on Waipio and Hāmākua.”
“He was suddenly stricken with fits or huki. Thus was derived the name of the High Chiefess Kamakahukilani. Kahunas or doctors were summoned to attend the sick King. In consultation they decided he could not be cured.”
“On the King learning his case was hopeless he summoned the High Chiefs, Ministers of State, and Counsellors to his presence, and declared his son Kamehamehanui (uncle to Kamehameha I) to be his successor.”
“The latter, a Prince of the royal house of Maui through his father Kekaulike, and also of the royal house of Hawaii through his mother Kekuiapoiwanui, the daughter of Keaweikekahialiiokamoku, King of Hawaii, and the tabued Queen Kalanikauleleiaiwi.”
“After this declaration, word was brought to the King that Alapainui was in Kohala, Hawaii, preparing to come to war with Maui.
When Kekaulike heard this, he immediately ordered his fleet of war canoes ‘Keakamilo’ and set sail for Wailuku. His wives, his children, high chiefs, ministers of state and counsellors accompanied him.”
“Others of his retinue traveled overland to a place called Kapaahu, where the King’s canoes landed at the cave of Aihakoko in Kula.”
“The chiefs then prepared a manele or palanquin to carry the sick King overland and at a place called Kalekii the King expired, which happened in 1736.”
“The High Chiefs being in fear of Alapainui coming to do battle with them, immediately performed the sacred ceremonies of Waimaihoehoe due their sovereign and decided to take the royal remains to ‘lao.”
“They again embarked, landing at Kapoli in Ma‘alaea, thence to Pu‘uhele, along the route relays of high chiefs bearing the remains of their beloved sovereign to Kihahale …”
“… at Ahuwahine they rested, thence to Loiloa, where the royal remains were placed in Kapela Kapu o Kakae, the sacred sepulchre of the sovereigns and the blue blood of Maui’s nobility. (Lucy Kalanikiekie Henriques)
“‘lao is the famous secret cave of (the island of) Maui. It is at Olopio close to the side of the burial place of Kaka’e and Kalahiki (‘Kalakahi’ in original).”
“The main entrance is said to be under water, the second opening on a steep precipice on the left [hema] side. This was the famous cave in the old days.”
“There were (laid) all the ruling chiefs who had mana and strength, and the kupua, and all those attached to the ruling chiefs who were famous for their marvelous achievements.”
“There were several hundred in all who were buried there. The first of all the well-known chiefs to enter the famous cave of ‘lao was Kapawa, a famous chief of Waialua, O‘ahu, and the last was Kalanikuikahonoikamoku (The-chief-standing-on-the-peak-of-the-island).”
“In the year 1736 the last of them died and no one now alive knows (the entrance to) the secret cave of lao.” (Kamakau; Tengan)
In the late-1780s, into 1790, Kamehameha I conquered the Island of Hawai‘i and was pursuing conquest of Maui and eventually sought conquer the rest of the archipelago.
In the early-1790s, Maui’s King Kahekili (son of Kekaulike) and his eldest son and heir-apparent, Kalanikūpule, were carrying on war and conquered Kahahana, ruler of O‘ahu.
By the time Kamehameha the Great set about unifying the Hawaiian Islands, members of the Kekaulike Dynasty were already ruling Maui, Molokai, Lāna‘i , O‘ahu, Kauai and Ni‘ihau.
In 1790, Kamehameha travelled to Maui. Hearing this, Kahekili sent Kalanikūpule back to Maui with a number of chiefs (Kahekili remained on O‘ahu to maintain order of his newly conquered kingdom.)
Kekaulike’s son, Kamehamehanui lost Hana, which was isolated from the rest of Maui.
Kamehameha then landed at Kahului and marched on to Wailuku, where Kalanikūpule waited for him. This led to the famous battle ‘Kepaniwai’ (the damming of the waters) in ‘Iao Valley (which Kamehameha decisively won.)
Maui Island was conquered by Kamehameha and Maui’s fighting force was destroyed – Kalanikūpule and some other chiefs escaped and made their way to O‘ahu (to later face Kamehameha, again; this time in the Battle of Nu‘uanu in 1795.)
There the war apparently ends with some of Kalanikūpule’s warriors pushed/jumping off the Pali. When the Pali Highway was being built, excavators counted approximately 800-skulls, believed to be the remains of the warriors who were defeated by Kamehameha.
The Kekaulike Dynasty was a powerful line that ruled multiple islands. Although they lost to Kamehameha, it should also be remembered that Kamehameha’s own mother, the Chiefess Keku‘iapoiwa II, was a Maui chiefess, and the Kekaulike lineage continued through the leadership of the future leaders of Hawai‘i.
Kamehameha’s wives of rank were chiefesses of Maui. These were Keōpūolani, Ka‘ahumanu, Kalākua-Kaneiheimālie and Peleuli. Keōpūolani, granddaughter of Kekaulike, was the mother of the Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III.
Others from this Maui lineage include King Kaumuali‘i (of Kauai,) Abner Pākī (father of Bernice Pauahi Bishop,) Kuakini, Keʻeaumoku II and Kalanimōkū. (Art by Brook Parker.)