Poetically the island is reportedly called, “Manōkalanipō”, or “Kauai a Manō” after the ancient chief who was largely responsible for elevating Kauai’s ancient society to sophisticated heights of advancement and productivity. (NativeKauai)
Geologically, Kauai is the oldest of the main inhabited islands in the chain. It is also the northwestern-most island, with Oʻahu separated by the Kaʻieʻie Channel, which is about 70-miles long. In centuries past, Kauai’s isolation from the other islands kept it safe from outside invasion and unwarranted conflict.
Kauai was traditionally divided into 5 moku (districts) including: Koʻolau, Haleleʻa, Nā Pali, Kona and Puna. (Common district names that are universally used across of the Hawaiian archipelago include “Koʻolau” marking the windward sides of the islands; “Kona” – the leeward sides of the islands; and “Puna” – indicating regions where springs and fresh water abound.)
The whole of the northwest coast (Napali) show the remains of extensive agricultural work and a fairly extensive population; the Mana region had clusters of house sites in the dry valleys that cut through the cliffs. Nearly all the great river valleys are thoroughly terraced and show evidence of population.
The principal location of the house sites is on the shore line, especially near the mouths of the river valleys where the taro was growing; in the mountains are some house sites and small villages.
The principal cultivated products on Kauai were taro, sweet potatoes, yams and gourds among the vegetables, and banana, breadfruit, coconut palm and paper mulberry among the trees. (Bennett)
Malo notes that the “cultivation of kula lands is quite different from that of irrigable lands. The farmer merely cleared of weeds as much land as he thought would suffice. If he was to plant taro (upland taro), he dug holes and enriched them with a mulch of kukui leaves, ashes or dirt, after which he planted the taro.”
“In some places they simply planted without mulch or fertilizer … If a field of potatoes was desired, the soil was raised into hills, in which the stems were planted; or the stems might merely be thrust into the ground anyhow, and the hilling done after the plants were grown.”
The boundaries of the five moku on Kauai were changed in the late-1800s to reflect the present day judicial land districts, Kawaihau, Hanalei, Waimea, Kōloa and Līhuʻe.
In 1877, Hanalei and Līhuʻe shared a common boundary. Kawaihau was set apart by King Kalākaua, who gave that name to the property lying between the Wailua River and Moloaʻa Valley. A bill was introduced into the legislature and the eastern end of Hanalei District was cut out and Kawaihau became the fifth district on the island of Kauai.
Though comprising only 547-square miles, Kauai is large enough to have figured at all times as a major influence on Hawaiian culture. Together with Niʻihau it forms a group which is considerably isolated from the other Hawaiian islands. (Bennett)
Fornander notes, “the ruling families of Kauai were the highest tapu chiefs in the group is evident from the avidity with which chiefs and chiefesses of the other islands sought alliance with them. They were always considered as the purest of the “blue blood” of the Hawaiian aristocracy; … But of the exploits and transactions of most of the chiefs who ruled over Kauai during this period, there is little preserved to tell.”
He further notes that during the “nine generations from Laamaikahiki (about the 14th century – he reportedly came from Tahiti,) the island of Niihau bore about the same political relation to the mōʻi (king) of Kauai as the island of Lanai did to the mōʻi of Maui – independent at times, acknowledging his suzerainty at others. … Springing from and intimately connected with the Kauai chiefs, there was a community of interests and a political adhesion which, however strained at times by internal troubles, never made default as against external foe.”
Then things changed for Kauai and the rest of the Islands. In the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, on his third expedition, British explorer Captain James Cook on the HMS Resolution and Captain Charles Clerke of the HMS Discovery first sighted what Cook named the Sandwich Islands (that were later named the Hawaiian Islands.) He first landed at Waimea, Kauai.
“The height of the land within, the quantity of clouds which we saw, during the whole time we staid, hanging over it, and frequently on the other parts, seems to put it beyond all doubt, that there is a sufficient supply of water; and that there are some running streams which we did not see, especially in the deep valleys, at the entrance of which the villages commonly stand.” (James Cook Journal)
“From the wooded part to the sea, the ground is covered with an excellent sort of grass, about two feet high, which grows sometimes in tufts, and though not very thick at the place where we were, seemed capable of being converted into plentiful crops of fine hay. But not even a shrub grows naturally on this extensive space.” (James Cook Journal)
Throughout their stay the ships were plentifully supplied with fresh provisions which were paid for mainly with iron, much of it in the form of long iron daggers made by the ships’ blacksmiths on the pattern of the wooden pāhoa used by the Hawaiians. The natives were permitted to watch the ships’ blacksmiths at work and from their observations gained information of practical value about the working of iron. (Kuykendall)
After a month’s stay, Cook got under sail again to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaiʻi Island, the foremast of the Resolution broke and the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. On February 14, 1779, at Kealakekua Bay, Cook and some of his men were killed.
At the time of Cook’s arrival, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokai, Lanai and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and at (4) Kauai and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
Kamakahelei was the “queen of Kauai and Niʻihau, and her husband (Kāʻeokūlani (Kāʻeo)) was a younger brother to Kahekili, while she was related to the royal family of Hawaiʻi. Thus, it will be seen, the reigning families of the several islands of the group were all related to each other, as well by marriage as by blood. So had it been for many generations. But their wars with each other were none the less vindictive because of their kinship, or attended with less of barbarity in their hours of triumph.” (Kalākaua)
Kaumuali‘i was the only son of Kamakahelei and Kāʻeo; he was born in 1778 at Holoholokū, a royal birthing heiau specifically designated for the birth of high ranking children. Kaumuali‘i became ruling chief of Kauai upon the death of his parents.
In 1784, Kamehameha I began a war of conquest, and, by 1795, with his superior use of modern weapons and western advisors, he subdued all other chiefdoms, with the exception of Kauai. King Kamehameha I launched his first invasion attempt on Kauai in April of 1796, having already conquered the other Hawaiian Islands, and having fought his last major battle at Nuʻuanu on O‘ahu in 1795.
Kauai’s opposing factions (Kaumuali‘i versus Keawe) were extremely vulnerable as they had been weakened by fighting each other (Keawe died and Kaumuali‘i was, ultimately, ruler of Kauai and Ni‘ihau.) Kamehameha’s two attempts at invading Kauai were foiled (by storm and sickness.)
The island was never conquered; in the face of the threat of a further invasion, in 1810, at Pākākā on Oʻahu, negotiations between King Kaumuali‘i and Kamehameha I took place and Kaumualiʻi yielded to Kamehameha. The agreement marked the end of war and thoughts of war across the islands.
After King Kamehameha I died in 1819, Kaumuali‘i pledged his allegiance to Liholiho, Kamehameha’s son and successor. Kaumuali‘i settled in Honolulu and became a husband of Kaʻahumanu, widow of Kamehameha I.
Hiram Bingham was on a preaching tour of the island of Kauai in 1824, shortly before King Kaumuali‘i died. Kaumuali‘i had been living on Oahu for three years. Bingham spoke to him just before coming to Kauai.
“We found Kaumuali‘i seated at his desk, writing a letter of business. We were forcible and pleasantly struck with the dignity and gravity, courteousness, freedom and affection with which he rose and gave us his hand, his hearty aloha, and friendly parting smile, so much like a cultivated Christian brother.”
When the king died, Bingham said a gloom fell over Kauai.
Kaumuali‘i was buried at Waine‘e Church (Wai‘ola Church,) on Maui (he wanted to be buried near Keōpūolani, another of Kamehameha’s wives – mother of Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III.)) (King Kaumuali‘i’s granddaughter Kapiʻolani (1834–1899) married King Kalākaua.)
The image shows a map of the island of Kauai, noting moku (districts) and ahupuaʻa. I added a couple of other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.