“About half-past eleven we reached Hilea, a pleasant village belonging to the governor. As we approached it, we observed a number of artificial fish-ponds, formed by excavating the earth to the depth of two or three feet, and banking up the sides. The sea is let into them occasionally, and they are generally well stocked with excellent fish of the mullet kind.”
“We went into the house of the head man, and asked him to collect the people together, as we wished to speak to them about the true God. He sent out, and most of the people of the village, then at home, about two hundred in number, soon collected in his house, which was large, where Mr. Thurston preached to them.”
“They appeared gratified with what they had heard, and pressed us very much to spend the day with them. We could not consent to this, as we had travelled but a short distance since leaving Honuʻapo.”
“As we left Hilea, our guide pointed out a small hill, called Makanau, where Keoua, the last rival of Kamehameha, surrendered himself up to the warriors under Kaʻiana, by whom he had been conquered in two successive engagements.” (Ellis)
(In the late-1700s, this area served as the summer home of Keoua, the last chief of Kaʻu and as the district’s capital in an insurgent war with Kamehameha.)
(Many of Keoua’s forces had been killed by Keonehelelei (“the falling sands” – the explosive eruption of Kilauea in 1790. (Moniz-Nakamura) Keoua formally surrendered to Kamehameha at Puʻukohola Heiau; there, Keoua was attacked and killed by Keʻeaumoku, one of Kamehameha’s chiefs.)
Hīlea, in Kaʻu was the birthplace of Kohaikalani. He was the most important chief on the island and reigned in royal state at Hīlea.
He ordered the construction of a heiau situated on the great plain of Makanau (‘surly eyes,’) a high promontory, about three miles from the shore.
All men in the district were conscripted to transport stones from Koloa beach at Ninole. They formed a human chain and passed the stones up to the site in baskets. The kapu (taboo) for building such a structure was strict. Not a word could be spoken. If a stone dropped, it could not be picked up. This work took several weeks. (Orr)
Thrum suggests that the pebbles for the pavement of the heiau came from the shore of Kawa. When much stone had been collected, two kahuna (priests) arrived to supervise the erection of the structure. (Rechtman)
As it was the custom in the olden days to worship fishes, birds, stones or wood, Kohaikalani wished to have a wooden god to worship. Kohāikalani was living in the upland of Hīlea.
The kahuna told the people, “It is clear that your chief intends when this temple is completed to offer your bodies as sacrifice. Hence, when he commands you to bring an ʻōhiʻa tree to be used in the building, you must tell him to select one for himself and that you will then help him pull it up here. In this way you may save your lives.” (Keala Pono)
After building the heiau the men were ordered to fell an ʻohiʻa tree for an image. There was a very steep pali to climb. They had to carry up the god on the side towards Ninole, which was best adapted to the execution of their plan.
“The god will never reach the summit of the pali,” said the kahuna, “if the Chief continues to walk before him. The god ought to go first, by right of power, and the Chief below and after him, to push at the lower end, otherwise we will never succeed in overcoming his resistance.”
Kohaikalani complied with the advice of the kahuna, placed himself under the god, and pushed him from below. Instantly the Priests and people dropped the rope, and the huge idol, rolling upon the Chief, crushed him in an instant. They attribute the death of Kohāikalani especially to the Priests. (The Friend, May 1, 1865)
Kohaikalani Heiau consisted of a rectangular structure with walls 4.5 to 5.5-feet high on the inside and 6.5-feet on the outside. The interior pavement of the heiau was covered with ʻiliʻili (sea-worn pebbles.) (Walker)
The heiau was visible to Stokes during his evaluation of Hawaiʻi heiau (1901-1919;) however, later destroyed when sugarcane was planted there.
As you drive this area of Kaʻū, you can look up the side of Mauna Loa and see Makanau, the tabletop hill.
Better yet, April 24- May 3, 2015, Kaʻū Coffee Festival will be celebrated at various venues in Kaʻū; events include star gazing from Makanau summit. The image shows Makanau.