Within the seconds, the minutes, and the hours,
Within your loneliness and sorrow,
Within the flowers, the leaves and everything,
Within you and without, I am with you.
He stood before the officer of the government and said, “I first ask whether my wife will be allowed to go with me, the one I swore before Almighty God to care for, to become one blood with me, from whom only death could part me?”
Denied, he replied, “the cord of my love for her is to be cut, and I am commanded to break my sacred promise before God and live alone in a strange land”.
“The consecrated law of marriage has come to us, and we swore by the holy book to live together in the time of food and of famine, in sickness and in health … until death should part us, and now, the power of the government wants to break the law of man and of God and make the oath before Almighty God as nothing.” (Koʻolau)
He was born in 1862; his name, Kaluaikoʻolau, may be translated as ‘the grave at Koʻolau,’ a commemorative name and, as fate would have it, prophetic. (Frazier) He was a cowboy from Kekaha, Kauai.
He was reared with care and vigilance, and his growth was unrestricted. And when he reached the age he was entered by his parents, in 1868, in the school of Father George Rowell at Waimea, Kauai.
In a very little while at the school he displayed understanding and enthusiasm for his lessons, and his energy and alertness was unfailing. He also was willing and active in the tasks given him by the parents, showing his love and attention to their voices.
In these days of his growth there was planted in his heart the reverence for the word of God, and the beauty of the sacred lessons was wound in his conscience. Therefore, with the growth of Koʻolau’s body, these spiritual qualities grew also.
Thus he sought the learning of the school until he was grown and he was physically ready for work, between sixteen and seventeen years of age, and he spoke to his parents of setting aside school and going to work, and his request was granted by his parents with serenity.
He became the foreman of the cowboys, under Mr. Francis Gay (Palani Ke.) He was also placed in this position over the length and the breadth of Mr. Valdemar Knudsen’s (Kanuka) lands at Kekaha. He divided his duties as Head of the Cowboys between his two employers.
In 1881, at the age of 19, he married Piʻilani (age 17.) A year later, they had a son, Kaleimanu.
In 1889, Koʻolau noticed a little rash on his cheeks – he thought it was because of his work out in the sun. It would later disappear and reappear.
“In a couple of years the disease developed quite noticeably, and in 1891 and 1892 when the gathering of the lepers started, he was in a bad state, and Mr Stolz, the deputy sheriff, told him to go to Doctor Campbell and be examined.” (The Garden Island, December 19, 1916)
Koʻolau and his young son Kaleimanu contracted leprosy; the Hawaiian government’s way of coping with the problem was to attempt to strictly segregate leprosy patients from the rest of the world at Kalawao (Kalaupapa,) on the Island of Molokai.
In the early years of the settlement, those who contracted leprosy were allowed to be accompanied by helpers, or kokua, usually a family member, but this practice caused problems. In 1893, Koʻolau, agreed at first to go to Molokai if Piʻilani, his wife, could accompany him.
The authorities denied this. Koʻolau refused to be parted from his wife. Vowing he would never be taken alive, the husband with wife and young son took refuge in the isolated Kalalau Valley, descending into it by an ancient and most difficult trail.
Government forces pursued them. Koʻolau shot a policeman who had been pursuing them (Louis Stolz (known familiarly by the name of Lui), the Deputy High Sheriff of Waimea.)
“On June 30th the districts of Waimea and Hanalei, which included the village of Kalalau, were placed under martial law and an armed force of police and military, under the command of Deputy Marshal Larsen, was sent to Kalalau to effect the capture of the desperado.”
“It was the intention to secure the murderer alive, if possible, and establish the majesty of the law without further bloodshed. … but Koʻolau sent defiance and a statement that he would never be taken alive.” (Polynesian, July 13, 1893)
The Provisional Government determined to send an army of 35-men, under Capt W Larsen to Kalalau to carry out the orders of the Government; ultimately, 15-soldiers landed and set up ‘Camp Dole.’ All lepers were directed to be taken prisoner within 24-hours. If the lepers failed to obey after the time given them they were to be taken dead or alive. (Frazier)
Hidden in the valley, “We listened quietly to the noise and understood that the soldiers were climbing up to our place where we sat. It was not far, but we could not be seen or see because of the vegetation. Then we were again startled by the firing of guns and the bullets began to strike … but no one harmed us.” (Piʻilani)
Koʻolau shot back, killing three soldiers, P Johnson, JMB McCabe and Hirschberg (Hursberg.)
The firing continued without rest for four full days.
On Friday morning, July 13, the steamship Iwalani arrived from the battle site at Kalalau. The leper Koolau and his wife and son had not been found. Perhaps another search will be made for his hiding place, or perhaps he fell from the cliff. His hiding place had been blanketed by gunfire. There was no sign of refuge, only a very small flat place at the edge of the cliff, protected in front by steep drops and ʻōhia trees. (Frazier)
They fled. “After this we began to wander, never staying anywhere more than one, two, or three days in one place, when we would leave and move on. … During this time of living in loneliness and inaction, for a long time afterwards, my husband would not allow us to show ourselves.”
“It was three years and five or more months of wandering life in the wild valleys and rows of steep cliffs, in the midst of an awesome loneliness. We set aside love of parents and family, cast away our fears and sighs, and I sacrificed my life for my husband and child, so beloved to me.” (Piʻilani)
“During this time of living as a threesome, we were well and we had sufficient to eat and drink.” Then, tragedy struck; “our beloved child began to show the spread of the disease upon his body, and he became very weak in his limbs.”
“(O)ne day, he gestured to me and when I went to his side, he put his arms around my neck and rubbed his cheek against mine, and I saw that his lashes were wet with tears, and he whispered; ‘Where is Papa? I am going to sleep.’”
“We attempted to speak with him, calling him, but his ears were done hearing, his eyes gently closed, his last breath flew away, and he was asleep in the Lord, his Saviour in the beyond.” (Piʻilani)
Then it was Koʻolau’s time. “My cheeks were often wet with tears, seeing the body and the features of my husband quietly ebbing away, without being able to help and save him although I tried, with every means available to me.”
“When the sun began to spread its warming rays over the land that morning, and the palis and ridges of that beloved valley were spread out, Koʻolau slept quietly in death.” (Piʻilani)
“I wandered alone in the cloaking darkness, with the rustling murmurs of the little stones of the stream and the sweet murmuring land shells of the ti-plants, and when the dawn came and the clouds of night crept softly behind the high peaks and the light of the sun flashed forth, I had arrived at a place close to the kamaʻāinas’ homes.” She hid for nearly a month before revealing herself.
In 1906 in Honolulu, Kahikina Kelekona (John GM Sheldon) published a book in the Hawaiian language (later translated by Frances N Frazier) to be preserved in ink and disseminated to the many people of the true story of Kaluaikoʻolau, the one boasted of as “The Fierce Brave One of the Kalalau Cliffs who Glides along the Peak of Kamaile whence the Fire was Flung.” It was the basis of this summary.
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I am heartbroken as I read this…a story of such love and devotion.
John Stoddatd says
I have been to Kalalau and of course I am familiar with this story, but some of those pictures are new to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this.