'Aumakua of Kona, O'ahu
In 1979, I moved into a 6th-floor apartment at the foot of 'Ualaka'a ("Rolling Sweet Potato"), a hill in Makiki at the border of Manoa, in the Kona district of O'ahu, which encompasses the city of Honolulu. Makiki is in a climatic transition zone between the cool, rainy Ko'olau mountains and valleys, and the hot, arid coastal plains. On most days, clouds form along the summit ridge of the Ko'olaus. When rain drifts down the valleys, and sunshine prevails along the coast, rainbows often appear, marking the boundary between wet and dry.
Makiki, named for a type of stone found here, is one of the most densely populated areas of Honolulu, with high-rise condominiums alternating with low apartment buildings along its narrow streets. Urban apartment living is about as far as you can get from the life of farming and fishing of ancient Hawai'i; one could live a lifetime in a concrete cubicle in Honolulu, commuting over asphalt roads and freeways to and from work at another cubicle; frequenting supermarkets, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and sports arenas; or staring into the virtual reality of television and computer screens, linked electronically to America, Europe, and Asia without any connection to the storied landscape outside.
To the east of Makiki lies Manoa ("Wide"), a U-shaped valley with six streams (Aihualama, Waihi, Lua'alaea, Naniu'apo, Wa'aloa, and Waiakeakua) flowing down from the Ko'olaus into Manoa Stream and out to sea at Waikiki (since the 1920's, into the Ala Wai Canal). Today Manoa is a middle-class residential district of mainly single family homes; in former times it was filled with lo'i (taro ponds): "In upper Manoa, the whole of the level land in the valley bottom was developed in broad taro flats. The terraces extended along Manoa Stream as far as there is a suitable land for irrigating" (Sterling and Summers 282).
Manoa down to Mo'ili'ili was known for its mo'owater spirits, usually female, in the form of large lizards. Mo'o are 'aumakua, or ancestral gods, who protect their descendants from danger or sorcery, heal sickness or wounds, and forgive transgressions; they can restore a person to life or guide the spirit of the dead to join the spirits of its ancestors in the afterworld: "O ke ola ia a ka 'aumakua" ("Life from the 'aumakua") is the saying (Kamakau People 28). The 'aumakua can also be an avenger against one's enemies or against worshipers who break vows sworn in the name of the 'aumakua "or who stupidly eat things consecrated to them, or which are the forms [of their 'aumakua], or who eat defiled things; who break laws, commit adultery, and disregard the laws of God, of the land, of parents, husbands, wives, children, and relatives" (People 29). These spiritual beings take the visible bodies of natural elements (thunder, lightning, lava or volcanic fire), or animals, such as the pueo (owl), mano (shark), honu (turtle), puhi (eel), or mo'o.
The mo'o is black, between twelve and thirty feet long (Kamakau People 83). As no such large water lizards ever existed in Hawai'i, it may be an ancestral memory of the crocodiles or Komodo dragons of the Indonesian archipelago. Small skinks and geckos are considered by some to be kinolau, or bodies, of the mo'o (Handy and Pukui 125). Kamakau denies this, though he says "one can imagine the shape [of a mo'o] from these little creatures" (People 83). The 'o'opu, a lizard-looking fish that lives in streams and tide pools, is also considered by some to be a kinolau of the mo'o.
According to Beckwith, mo'o worship was brought to Hawai'i from Tahiti, where the mo'o was worshiped by the royal Oropa'a family (Hawaiian Mythology 128). The mo'o migration came under the ali'i Mo'o-i-nanea ("lizard-that-enjoys-itself") and landed first at Waialua, O'ahu (Handy and Pukui 125). The ancestral mo'o goddesses were named Walinu'u, Walimanoanoa, Kalamainu'u, and Kihawahine (Kamakau People 85).
The rainy cliffs and mountain peaks, waterfalls, springs, streams, and pools of Manoa were dwelling places for mo'o. A mo'o lived on Konahuanui, the highest peak in the Ko'olaus, above the back of the valley (Summers and Sterling 312); the area around her home is the second rainiest on O'ahu, averaging 150 inches per year. At Pu'ahu'ula ("Spring of the Red Feather Cape"), in upper Manoa, the mo'o goddess Kihanuilulumoku lived; her water nourishes the plants of Wa'aloa ("Long Canoe"), the second stream from the east. Pali Luahine ("Luahine's Cliff"), on the east side above Woodlawn, was the home of Luahine, a mo'o who came from Maunalua Fishpond (Summers and Sterling 290). Mo'ili'ili ("Lizard-pebbles," or "Lizard Piled-up"), on the coastal plain below the valley, is named for a giant mo'o slain by Pele's sister Hi'iaka and turned into a long rocky hill. (Pukui et al, Place Names; Sterling and Summers 277-78; the hill, cut through by the H-1 Freeway, is across from Kuhio School).
Mo'o were also guardians and caretakers of fishponds. On O'ahu, Kanekua'ana was the guardian of 'Ewa and the fishponds of Pu'uloa ("Long Hill," Pearl Harbor); she brought an abundance of pipi (oysters), 'opae (shrimp), and nehu (anchovy). Laniwahine was the guardian of 'Uko'a fishpond in Waialua; Hauwahine guarded the ponds at Kawainui and Ka'elepulu in Kailua, Ko'oluapoko; and Laukupu the pond at Maunalua, on the east end of Honolulu. "They were the guardians who brought the blessing of abundance of fish, and of health to the body, and who warded off illness and preserved the welfare of the family and their friends" (Kamakau People 84). When the chiefs or their agents abused the poor and the fatherless, the mo'o guardians took the fish awayuntil the wrongdoers showed penitence and made restitution to their victims (Kamakau People 85).
"Punahou," by Emma M. Nakuina, tells a tradition of the creation of Punahou Spring by a mo'o god named Kakea. (The story was published in Thrum's Hawaiian Annual in 1893 and reprinted in Ancient O'ahu 45-50. The author was born in Manoa in 1847, the daughter of Theophilus Metcalf, a sugar planter and government surveyor, and Kaili Kapuolono, an ali'i; the well-known writer Moses K. Nakuina was her second husband.)
The main characters in "Punahou" are twin rain spirits: a boy named Kauawa'ahila (a rain of Nu'uanu and Manoa) and his sister Kauaki'owao (a rain and fog carried on a cool mountain breeze). The twins were abused and neglected by an evil stepmother named Hawea while their father Kaha'akea was away on Hawai'i Island. The siblings fled from their home near Mount Ka'ala, the highest peak on O'ahu (4,020 ft.) to Konahuanui above Manoa. The affinity of the twins for mountain peaks suggests their rain cloud forms and also their mo'o ancestry; their flight from Ka'ala to Konahuanui depicts the movement of rain clouds associated with cold fronts which sweep over the islands from west to east during the rainy season of Ho'oilo (October to April).
Pursued by their mean-spirited stepmother, the twins fled from Konahuanui to the head of Manoa Valley. Like a cold north wind behind a passing front, Hawea followed her stepchildren to the head of the valley, so the twins went down the valley to Kukaoo Hill (where a heiau is located, at 2859 Manoa Road); then to the rocky hill behind Punahou School. The movement of the twins down the valley represents the path of the rains called Kauawa'ahila and Kauaki'owao sweeping from the wet uplands toward the dry plains. Each stop is drier than the last, with less food. At Kukaoo hill, the twins planted and ate sweet potatoes, a dry-land crop, not as prized as the wetland taro of the upper valley. At the rocky hill near the mouth of the valley, they lived on leaves, flowers, and fruits and on "grasshoppers and sometimes wild fowl." The rocky hill marks a rain boundary: it may be pouring rain in the upper valley, while it is sunny and dry below the hill.
At their home near the hill, the sister Kauaki'owao asked her brother Kauawa'ahila for a pool to bathe in. The brother went to a pond called Kanawai (perhaps Kanewai, near the mouth of Manoa, said to be connected by an underground stream to the sea; see Sterling and Summers 281); there he called on the mo'o Kakea, a maternal ancestor, who "controlled all the water sources of Manoa and Makiki Valleys." (Kakea is also the name of a bluff on the west side of Manoa Valley, and the name of a stormy wind of Manoa.) Kakea helped his grandson Kauawa'ahila by digging an underground tunnel from Kanawai to the rocky hill in Makiki to supply the pool of water his sister Kauaki'owao desired; the god also promised to ensure the supply by diverting some water from Wailele Spring (near Mid-Pacific Institute; the water is said to come from the heights of Kakea). Thus a new spring, called Punahou, was created below the rocky hill, and Kauawa'ahila invited his sister in for a swim. (The first artesian well in Honolulu was drilled near Punahou, on Wilder Avenue near Metcalf Street, in 1880; water was struck at a depth of 273 feet; Fujimura and Chang 18.)
Later, Kauawa'ahila planted kalo around the spring, and "people attracted by the water and consequent fertility of the place came and settled about, voluntarily offering themselves as vassals to the twins. More and more kalo patches were excavated, and the place became a thriving settlement. The new spring, Punahou, gave its name to the surrounding area." In the meantime, the father of the twins, Kaha'akea, returned from Hawai'i Island and killed his wife Hawea for persecuting his children, then took his own life. The rocky hill is named after him. (It is also called Rocky Hill and Pu'u o Manoa). The two rain deities returned home to Mt. Ka'ala, only "occasionally visiting Konahuanui and upper Manoa Valley, where in their rain and mist form, they may be met with today."
"Punahou" can be read in a Euromerican context as a fairy tale, with an archetypal evil stepmother, like the stepmother in Cinderella. The theme of cruelty and revenge is commonplace in such tales, and Hawea, Nakuina notes, has become "a synonym in the Hawaiian mind for a cruel stepmother."
In the context of Hawaiian culture, however, the story also describes rainfall patterns in Makiki and Manoa and an innovation in agriculture (digging an irrigation tunnel to make relatively dry lands productive); it also establishes water rights at the new spring. Traditionally, water rights in 'auwai, or irrigation works, were divided proportionately among those who built it. The more work or workers a kalo farmer was able to provide for building and maintaining an 'auwai, the more of its water he could claim. The water at Punahou was kapu to Kauawa'ahila and Kauaki'owao and their descendants because their 'aumakua Kakea dug the tunnel that brought the water to the area. In "Ancient Hawaiian Water Rights and Some of the Customs Pertaining to Them," Nakuina, who served as Commissioner of Private Ways and Water Rights in the district of Kona, O'ahu, describes how the konohiki of an ahupua'a also served as its luna wai, in charge of distributing water: "The konohiki of the land controlling the most water rights in a given 'auwai was invariably its luna. He controlled and gave the proportions of water to mo'o'aina, or single holdings, of the common people cultivating on that land" (80). The mo'o gods who had created the numerous underground channels connecting springs and ponds in Manoa and Makiki, were the luna wai of the waters.
The story of the twin rain spirits does not end happily ever after, as a European fairy-tale might, with the death of the cruel stepmother. Once the land around Punahou fell into "the hands of foreigners, who did not pay homage to the twins, and who allowed the spring to be defiled by the washing of unclean articles and by the bathing of unclean persons, the twins indignantly left the place and retired to the head of Manoa Valley." Thereafter, "the rainwater pond of Kanawai dried up." The rains Kauaki'owao and Kauawa'ahila still fall in Manoa valley, but not as frequently over Kaha'akea as they did in previous time: "Old natives say that there is now no inducement for the gentle rain of Uaki'owao and Uawa'ahila to visit those bare hills and plains, as they would find no food there."
As in other Hawaiian narratives, there is a reciprocal relationship between the story and its setting: the story explains the relative aridity of the Punahou area today, while the aridity of the area confirms the reality of the story.
2. Pueo / Owl
"Kahalaopuna," another story by Emma M. Nakuina, tells a tradition of the pueo clan of Manoa. (The story was published in Thrum's Hawaiian Annual in 1907 and is reprinted in Nakuina, Nanaue 33-45.) The pueo, or the native Hawaiian owl, inhabits all the islands; its favorite haunt is open grasslands, where it can be seen, both day and night, flying low over the terrain hunting for rodents. Munro wrote in 1944: "It nests in grass tufts in a hollow in the earth. The eggs are white and almost round.It was a common bird in the eighteen-nineties, but so many of its hunting grounds have been taken up for agriculture that its numbers have decreased" (67); in 1987 Pratt noted that the pueo was "uncommon" (216), with many more acres of their open hunting grounds now replaced by urban and suburban development.
The pueo was the 'aumakua of Kahalaopuna. Her grandfather was 'Aka'aka ("Laughter," or, according to Pukui's Place Names, "Akaka""Clearness"), a ridge on the east side of Manoa; her grandmother was Nalehua'aka'aka, "The lehua bushes of 'Aka'aka," an 'ohi'a lehua bush growing on the ridge. Her parents were the twin deities Kahaukani ("The Hau Tree Wind"), a wind of Manoa, and Kauakuahine ("The Sister Rain"). The marriage of brother and sister among the ali'i served to concentrate the mana of their blood in their offspring. Kahalaopuna gave off a rosy light that was a sign of her divine ancestry and mana: "Her checks were so red and her face so bright that a glow emanated from them and shone through the thatch of her house when she was inside; a rosy light seemed to envelop the house, and bright rays constantly played over the house. When she went to bathe in the spring below her house, the rays of light surrounded her like a halo. The natives maintain that this bright light is still occasionally seen at Kahaiamano indicating that the spirit of Kahalaopuna is revisiting her old home."
Kahaiamano, a land section in upper Manoa, adjoining Lua'alaea ("Pit of Red Earth"), may be translated "The Shark Sacrifice": "mano" means "shark"; hai" is possibly "ha'i," a variant of "hae," which means "to tear in pieces," "to break a covenant" (Pukui-Elbert, Andrews); the place name foreshadows the tragic ending of the story.
In her youth, Kahalaopuna was betrothed to Kauhi, a young man of the mano clan from Kailua, on the other side of the Ko'olau Mountains. She became dependent on Kauhi for her poi and fish. Two men from Manoa disfigured by makahelei ("drawn eyes") fell in love with her after hearing about her great beauty and claimed they had received love-gifts from her, even though they had never met her. Makahelei, "drawn eyes" was thought to be a punishment for breaking the kapu of one's 'aumakua: such a wrongdoer "would become humpbacked, or his eyelids would be drawn down, or he would fall lame, or suffer with chronic stomach ache or consumptionor he might be killed outright." (Kamakau, People 90). When Kauhi heard the rumor of Kahalaopuna's infidelity, he headed up to Manoa from Waikiki, filled with jealous rage and intending to kill his bride-to-be.
In the first half of the story, Kauhi takes Kahalaopuna on a westward journey toward Wai'anae, away from the protection of her grandparents and 'aumakua in Manoa and toward the realm of the dead. (The west and the setting sun are associated in Hawaiian and Polynesian traditions with the land of the dead. One of the places on O'ahu where the spirits of the dead were said to leap into the afterworld is near the westernmost tip of the islandKa'ena Point.) On this journey west, Kauhi killed Kahalaopuna five times: at 'Aihualama in Manoa; at the summit of the ridge between Manoa and Nu'uanu; at Waolani ("Heavenly Mountain Forest"), a valley on the west side of Nu'uanu; at Kilohana ("Lookout Point"), a peak near the head of Kalihi Valley; and at Pohakea ("White Stone"), the southern pass through the Wai'anae Mountains to Lualualei, on the far west side of O'ahu. After each of her first four deaths, her 'aumakua, the pueo, restored her to life by rubbing its face against her head-bruise to heal it and breathing into her nostrils. After each resurrection, Kahalaopuna returned to Kauhi to plead her case: "'If you think I have been false to you, why not seek proof before believing it?'" Kauhi was deaf to her appeals. Finally, at Pohakea, Kauhi buried her under the roots of a koa tree, so that her body could not be dug up by the pueo and resurrected a fifth time. Far from the valley of her grandparents and parents, Kahalaopuna's corpse was left to decay.
The pueo clan once ruled the district of Kona, O'ahu. In "Kalelealuaka and Ke'inoho'omanawanui" (Fornander, Vol. IV, 464-471), Pueonui ("Great Owl") of Kona, and Kakuhihewa, who ruled 'Ewa and adjoining districts, fought for control of O'ahu; the two eponymous heroes, after their desires for choice food and the chief's daughters were granted, helped Kakuhihewa to defeat Pueonui.
"Kapo'i" (Thrum Hawaiian Folktales 200-202; Kamakau Tales 23) records another battle in which the pueo clan defeats Kakuhihewa. The story begins by describing the origin of the clan: a man named Kapo'i lived in Kahehuna, Honolulu (upper Fort Street, near Puowaina). He found some owl eggs one day at Kewalo ("The Calling," a land section on the east side of Puowaina) and took them home to cook. A pueo came to beg for the life of her offspring. Kapo'i relented and the pueo became his god. The pueo told Kapo'i to build a heiau in Manoa, and Kapo'i did so. Kakuhihewa, who was then living in Waikiki, heard about the heiau and was offended, having declared earlier that no one could build a heiau until his own had been dedicated to the gods. Kapo'i was captured and taken to the heiau of Kupalaha in Waikiki, where he was sentenced to death as a rebel. A luakini heiau such as Kupalaha required the sacrifice of a rebel for its completion (Kamakau Works 144). Kapo'i's god, however, summoned all the pueo of the Hawaiian Islands to rescue Kapo'i: all the pueo from Lana'i, Maui, Moloka'i, and Hawai'i gathered in Waimanalo, at Kalapueo (the area around the Oceanic Institute at Makapu'u; the name is translated "Owl proclamation" in Pukui's Place Names; and "Rallying of the Owls" in Sterling and Summers); all the pueo from the Ko'olau districts of O'ahu congregated at Kanoniakapueo ("The Noni Tree of the Owl"; Pukui et al Place Names;) in Nu'uanu (or Kanoneakapueo, "The Dismal Cry of the Owl," around 3402 Nu'uanu Avenue; Sterling and Summers); and all the pueo from Kaua'i and Ni'ihau arrived at Pueohulunui ("Well-Feathered Owl"; Pukui et al Place Names;), near Moanalua Valley (a map in Ii, 96, places Pueohulunui on Waipi'o Peninsula in 'Ewa).
The distribution of these place names from one end of the Kona district of O'ahu to the other, from Makapu'u to Moanalua, suggests the great numbers of the pueo warriors. On the day of Kane (the 27th lunar day), the pueo converged above Honolulu, darkening the sky, and a battle was fought at a place in Waikiki that came to be called Kukae-unahi-o-pueo ("Scaly excrement of owls") because the pueo not only scratch at the eyes and noses of Kakuhihewa's warriors, but also defecated on them. Kakuhihewa lost the battle. His warriors humbled, he acknowledged the strength of the pueo clan and allowed Kapo'i to worship his god, called Ku-kauakahi, at its heiau in Manoa (Kamakau Tales 23).
In Manoa Valley is a bluff called Pu'u Pueo, "Owl Hill," just past the fork of Manoa Road and East Manoa Road heading into the valley. Was this the site of Kapo'i's heiau? At Pu'u Pueo, "an avenging spirit in the form of a pueo sought to execute judgment upon a culprit for some alleged transgression, but upon the pleading of the accused for a hearing before executing punishment, it thereafter became the established custom that none should be condemned till tried and proven guilty" (Sterling and Summers 285). Just as the pueo pleaded for the lives of her offspring and Kapo'i relented, so too did the accused at Pu'u Pueo plead for a hearing and was granted one by the pueo. The pueo relented perhaps in remembrance of Kapo'i, who had listened to her pleas. This tradition of pleading for compassion and justice is connected to the story of Kahalaopuna as well: unjustly accused by Kauhi of being unfaithful, Kahalaopuna pleaded for a hearing from her accuser each time she was restored to life. Kauhi remained unrelenting in his cruelty, but in the end, a trial was held to determine the truth, and justice, if not compassion, prevailed.
A relative of Kahalaopuna, 'Elepaio (a forest bird), witnessed Kauhi's fifth murder of the princess of Manoa at Pohakea and reported it to her parents. Meanwhile, Kahalaopuna's spirit called to a group of passers-by for help; a young man, unnamed, but perhaps belonging to the mo'o clan, carried her body back to his home in Mo'ili'ili, where his older brother and their two spirit sisters restored Kahalaopuna to life at Mau'oki, an underground pool in Mo'ili'ili. The healing process is called "kakelekele" (cf., kakele, "to rub with oil or ointment"). The waters which restored Kahalaopuna to life were henceforth known as "The Waters of Kahalaopuna." ("Mau'oki" is also the name of a luakini heiau that was located in Mo'ili'ili at the foot of the slope separating the valleys of Manoa and Palolo; Sterling and Summers 279.)
The young man who saved Kahalaopuna then worked to bring her justice. He provoked Kauhi into a dispute by proclaiming that Kahalaopuna was still alive: "Kauhi then dared his rival to produce Kahalaopuna; and if the woman was not the genuine one, then his rival should be killed; on the other hand, if the woman proved to be Kahalaopuna, then Kauhi should be declared the liar and pay for his insults with his life." A trial took place at Waikiki, presided over by the mo'i of O'ahu, and attended by Kahalaopuna's grandfather 'Aka'aka, who, upon Kahalaopuna's reappearance, confirmed that she was indeed his granddaughter. Kahalaopuna then told her story, and established the truth. As punishment for their wrongs against her, Kauhi, along with those of his followers who chose to die with their chief, and Kumauna and Keawaa, the two disfigured men who provoked Kauhi's jealousy, were baked in an imu at Ulukou ("Grove of Kou Trees") on the side of the Stream of 'Apuakehau (an area in Waikiki, close to where Manoa stream used to empty into the sea; lit., "basket of dew," the name of a rain).
Kumauna and Keawaa were transformed, through the power of their family god, into two mountain peaks in Manoa Valley. In another version of the Kahalaopuna story, Nakuina writes: "In the eastern corner of Manoa Valley can be seen the peak of Kumauna, with a hump on the back of the ridge leading up to the peak, and alongside of it the ravine of Keawawa-Kiihelei. ["Awawa" is a gulch or ravine; "Ki'ihelei" means "to straddle."] These places belonged to and are called after the two wicked men who were the cause of the sad death of Kahalaopuna" (Hawaii: Its People, Their Legends 45).
3. Mano / Shark
Nakuina's "Kahalaopuna," like "Punahou," does not have a happy ending. Kauhi's 'aumakua, the mano, sent a great wave over the site of the imu where Kauhi's body was burned and swept the bones of Kauhi and his followers into the sea, where they were all transformed into mano.
Like the mo'o and pueo, the mano was a helper to his descendants, often families of fishermen. The mano assisted in driving fish into nets or rescuing a fisherman whose canoe was capsized. Mano could also guide lost canoes back to land. A man named Kaiwi provided the following information about the shark 'auamkua of a fishing family named Puhi on the Big Island:
When the Puhi go fishing, the shark appears. The 'aumakua obeys the voice of man; name the kind of fish you want and it will bring it. The men give it some of the first catch, then it disappears, and they always come back with full nets. Only when the shark appears do they have luck (hence they recognize the god's intervention). Sometimes the 'aumakua tells them beforehand in a dream that it has gathered the fish together. Besides this, the Puhi family can never be drowned. If there is a storm and the boat capsizes, the shark appears and the man rides in on its back. (Beckwith "Hawaiian Shark 'Aumakua" 504)
To rivals or enemies of the shark clan, however, the mano could be dangerous. A family of shark worshipers could send its 'aumakua as an avenger. After a recent fatal shark attack on Maui, I heard a rumor that the woman who had been killed had tried to prevent a family of Hawaiian fishermen from crossing her property to get to their ancestral fishing ground. In the story "Napuaopa'ula" (Pukui, Folktales of Hawai'i 42-3), a shark family, jealous of their neighbor's beautiful daughter (their own daughter was ugly) sent its 'aumakua to devour her. In this story, as in "Kahalaopuna," the mano is associated with jealousy. In a second version of "Kahalaopuna" (Fornander, Vol. V, 189-194), the mano and jealousy are figuratively linked in Kahalaopuna's chant to Kauhi:
After Kauhi's death, the pueo clan had to be on guard against the mano clan and its ocean god. 'Aka'aka warned his granddaughter never to go into the sea again. But one day, when the waves were breaking at Waikiki, Kahalaopuna ignored her grandfather's warning and entered the sea to surf. In his shark form, Kauhi seized her and dragged her out to Wai'anae, away from her family's protection once again, where he devoured her body whole, so she could not be restored to life again. Her disobedience to her kupuna led to her final demise.
The shorter version of "Kahalaopuna" in Fornander ends happily, with Kahalaopuna's restoration to life. When Kauhi came to see her again, Kahalaopuna rejected him, and thus the story ended. The fatalistic ending of Nakuina's version, with the destruction of Kahalaopuna by Kauhi, suggests a parallel to the loss of Hawaiian traditions and the overthrow of Hawaiian sovereignty by American colonizers at the end of the 19th century. In "Ka'opulupulu and a Prophecy," Nakuina reports the prophecy of Ka'opulupulu, a high priest who lived in Waimea Valley on O'ahu's North Shore (Hawaii Its Legends, Their Legends 52-54). Ka'opulupulu heard of a plot by Kahahana, the king of O'ahu, to kill him, because he had protested Kahahana's ill treatment of the people. Ka'opulupulu fled to Wai'anae with his family. They were chased down and he and his eldest son were wounded by Kahahana's warriors. As Ka'opulupulu laid dying, he called out to his son, "E nui ke aho a moe i ke kai, no ke kai ka ho'i ua 'aina""Take a deep breath and lay yourself down, for then the land will belong to the sea" (Pukui 'Olelo No. 363). His son then fled into the sea and died of his wounds. (Other versions say that the son was drowned at Wai'anae, and the father was killed at Pu'uloa or at Waikiki, where their bodies were eventually hung from coconut trees at a place of sacrifice called Helumoa, named for "the scratching of the chickens"a place, where the maggots that fell from the bodies of the two men were eaten by chickens; or they were hung at Kukaeunahi, a heiau, where for several weeks, their bodies did not decompose (Thrum, Hawaiian Folktales, 203-214; Pukui,The Legend of Kawelo).
Whatever the exact circumstances of the deaths of the prophet and his son, Nakuina notes: "Ka'opulupulu's call and advice to his son have been regarded and accepted by all Hawaiians in the nature of a prophecy, presaging the utter extinction of O'ahu's autonomy." First the island was conquered by Kahekili, king of Maui; then by Kamehameha, king of Hawai'i Island; then by haole settlers, who overthrew the monarchy in 1893 and set up a Provisional Government; finally by the United States, which annexed the islands in 1898. All of O'ahu's conquerors came by sea. Nakuina concludes: "And was this all? Or were there more scenes, as yet unenacted, when mayhap the exigencies of circumstances may cause the United States to give or abandon us to the Northern Bear, or to some great Asiatic power that may yet arise?"
This grim fatalism underlies Nakuina's three tales: "Ka'opulupulu and a Prophecy," "Punahou," and "Kahalaopuna." This last story can be read as a political-historical allegory. Kahalaopuna might represent the beauty of Hawaiian culture; the jealous Kauhi, who came from Kailua, outside her Kahalaopuna's home district of Manoa and outside of her clan (her parents were siblings), can be identified with the foreigners who came in ships to take over the islands. Kahalaopuna became dependent on (and indebted to) Kauhi for food, just as Hawai'i became dependent on the American economy. Kauhi, for no just reason, jealous of the beauty of Kahalaopuna, continually beat her to death, just as the American missionaries, businessmen, and educators kept up their abusive attacks on Hawaiian culture and language after the overthrow of the monarchy and annexation. Kahalaopuna might have been saved by remaining obedient to her kupuna, just as Hawaiian culture and language might have been more strongly preserved and perpetuated by holding onto the ancestral traditions. Instead, Kahalaopuna entered the ocean against the warning of her kupuna, and was devoured by Kauhi's shark form; and Hawaiian culture was overwhelmed by Christianity and capitalism
Despite her political fatalism, Nakuina suggests at the end of her tale that Kahalaopuna and her family remain alive in their various natural-spiritual forms in Manoa today:
Kahaukani, the father, is known as the Manoa wind, but his usual and visible form is the grove of hau trees, below Kahaiamano. Kauakuahine, the mother, assumed her rain form, and is very often to be met with about the former home of her beloved child.
The grandparents also gave up their human forms and returned to Manoa, the one to his mountain form, and the other into the lehua bushes still to be found on the very brow of the hill from which they keep watch over the old home of their petted and adored grandchild.
Kahalaopuna's story continues to speak to us through the landscape which gave it birth: a warning about the dangers of jealousy, of dependency on outsiders, and of disobedience to one's kupuna; and a reminder of the tradition of truth and justice established by the pueo clan of Manoa.