The Puna district of Kauai is well known for two legendary chiefs, Kawelo and Mō‘īkeha. Kawelo is more closely associated with Wailua and Hanamā‘ulu and Mō‘īkeha is linked to Kapa‘a. Mō‘īkeha is understood to be the grandchild of Maweke, one of the principal genealogical lines from which Hawaiians today trace their ancestry.
Sometime between the eleventh and twelfth centuries marks the arrival of Maweke to the Hawaiian Islands. Mō‘īkeha succeeds his older brother Kumuhonua as ruling chief during the time of Mailikūkahi. Kapa‘a is mentioned in traditions concerning Kawelo (Kaweloleimākua), the mo‘o Kalamainu‘u and the origins of the hīna‘i hīnālea fish, and the story of Lonoikamakahiki.
Mō‘īkeha Kapa‘a was the final home of the legendary chief Mō‘īkeha. Born at Waipi‘o on the island of Hawai‘i, Moʻikeha sailed to Kahiki (Tahiti), the home of his grandfather Maweke, after a disastrous flood. (Cultural Surveys)
Moʻikeha was an aliʻi nui (high chief) from Moa‘ulanuiakea, Tahiti, where he lived with his wife Kapo. They had a child named Laʻamaikahiki. Moʻikeha became infatuated with Luʻukia, the wife of ‘Olopana, but she created some domestic difficulties.
Moʻikeha sailed back to Hawaiʻi with his sisters, Makapuʻu and Makaʻaoa, his two younger brothers, Kumukahi and Haʻehaʻe, his priest Moʻokini, and his prominent men (na kanaka koikoi) – navigators (ho‘okele), favorite priests (kahuna punahele) and his lookouts (kiu nana,) who would spy out land.
After sailing the Island chain, Moʻikeha sailed to Kauai, landing at Wailua. The canoe was brought ashore, and the travelers got off. Meanwhile the locals were gathering in a crowd to go surf-riding at Ka-makaiwa. Among them were the two daughters of the ali‘i nui of Kauai, Ho‘oipoikamalanai and Hinauʻu.
Orders were issued that Mo‘ikeha be brought to the house of the two ali‘i women. Mo‘ikeha and his company were sent for and brought in the presence of the king.
The love of these young people being mutual, Ho‘oipoikamalanai and Hinauu took Mo‘ikeha to be their husband. Mo‘ikeha became ali‘i nui of Kauai after the death of his father-in-law.
Mo‘ikeha had five children with Ho‘oipoikamalanai and Hinauu, all boys. Ho‘oipoikamalanai’s children were Umalehu, Kaialea, Kila; Hinauu’s children were Kekaihawewe and Laukapalala.
Mo‘ikeha worked to make his two wives and five children happy, giving his undivided attention to the bringing up of his boys. He thought no more of Lu‘ukia, but after a while, he began to feel a yearning desire to see his son La‘amaikahiki, his child by his first wife Kapo.
So he called his five sons together and said to them: “I‘m thinking of sending one of you boys to bring your elder brother to Hawai‘i.” His boys became greatly excited, each one shouting: “Let me go! Let me go!!”
When Mo‘ikeha saw there would be much contention among his sons, he devised a test to determine who should be chosen to go to Tahiti. (Kawaharada)
Kila, Moʻikeha’s favorite of three sons by the Kauai chiefess Ho‘oipoikamalanai, was born at Kapaʻa and was said to be the most handsome man on the island. It was Kila who was sent by his father back to Kahiki to slay his old enemies and retrieve a foster son, the high chief La‘amaikahiki. (Kawaharada)
In another legend, Mō‘īkeha sends his son to Tahiti to slay his enemies. Upon reaching Tahiti, Kila meets his father’s aunt, Kanepohihi, in the form of a blind, supernatural rat. He introduces himself, sending his father Mō‘īkeha’s greetings. Kanepohihi asks of Mō‘īkeha, and Kila responds:
I walea ia Kauai
I ka lā hiki ae a pō iho
I ke kee a ka nalu o Makaiwa
I ka hiki mai a ka la maluna
O ke kalukalu o Kewa
O ka wai halau o Wailua
O ka lealea o ka mai o kuu makuahine
O kahi noho no o Kauai a make
He is indulging in ease in Kauai
Where the sun rises and sets again,
Where the surf of Makaiwa curves and bends,
Where the sun comes up over
The kalukalu of Kewa;
The stretched out waters of Wailua,
And the entrancing favors of my mother
He will live and die in Kauai
Kamakau’s Version of Mo‘ikeha’s Marriage: Mo‘ikeha married one woman whose name was both Ho‘oipoikamalanai and Hina-‘au-lua. Mo‘ikeha’s three children were Ho‘omali‘i, named for the skin of ‘Olopana; Haulani-nui-ai-akea for the eyes of ‘Olopana; and Kila, for Lu‘ukia, the wife of ‘Olopana. (Kamakau; Kawaharada)
Kalakaua’s Version of Mo‘ikeha’s Marriage: Mo‘ikeha married Ho‘oipo after winning the right to do so in a canoe race devised by Puna, the ali‘i of Wailua and the father of Ho‘oipo.
Puna sent a servant with a palaoa (a carved and consecrated whale-tooth) to the island of Ka‘ula (SW of Kauai). Nine suitors raced to the island to be the first to bring the whale-tooth back.
Mo‘ikeha won the race by sailing to Ka‘ula with the help of La‘amaomao, his director of winds, who had a calabash that contained all the winds of Hawai‘i, which he could call forth by chanting their names.
Moʻikeha settled at Kapaʻa Kauai as ruling chief of the island. Mō‘īkeha’s love for Kapa‘a is recalled in the ‘ōlelo no‘eau: Ka lulu o Mō‘īkeha i ka laulā o Kapa‘a “The calm of Mō‘īkeha in the breadth of Kapa‘a ” (Pukui 1983: 157).
The place “Lulu-o-Mō‘īkeha” is described as being situated “near the landing and the school of Waimahanalua”. The landing in Kapa‘a was known as the Makee Landing and was probably constructed in the late 1870s, along with the Makee sugar mill.
Today, in place of the old Makee Landing is part of a breakwater located on the north side of Moikeha Canal, near the present day Coral Reef Hotel. (Cultural Surveys)
Upon his death, Kila, his son, became ruling chief of Kauai. (McGregor) After Moʻikeha’s death, his corpse was taken to the cliffs of Haʻena where it was deposited.