Dying Words of a Fearless Chiefess

By Kamuela Meheula Dec. 2016


Kō aloha lā ea, kō aloha lā ea

Keep your love, keep your love

         It was Manono herself who uttered the words “Mālama kō Aloha”, with her last breath as she fell on the rugged lava terrain in Kuamoʻo almost two hundred years ago.  Her words have lived on in moʻolelo or stories and oli or chant throughout the years.  “Mālama kō Aloha”, is translated as “hold on to your love no matter what obsticles come to Hawaiʻi.”

         Manono was a high ranking chiefess, a warrior, honorable, young, loyal and couragous.  She was born in Maui in the 1780ʻs, her father was Kekuamanoha, and her mother Kalola-a-Kumukoʻa.  Kalola was a wife of Kamehameha before the decisive Battle of Mokuʻōhai.  On her motherʻs side Manono was the great-grandaughter of Keawe, Mōʻi or King of Hawaiʻi. On her fatherʻs side, she was a granddaughter of Kekaulike, Mōʻi of Maui.  Manono had two half-siblings from her fatherʻs first marriage, Kalanimōku and Boki, who played important roles in Hawaiʻiʻs history, and to Queen Kaʻahumanu and King Kalakaua and other important players in the Kingdom.  There is no doubt that Manono came from a long line of aliʻi with great mana from both Hawaiʻi and Maui island chiefs.

         While still in her youth, Manono was chosen along with her cousin Kekāuluohi by Kamehameha “to warm his old age,” and they became his last two wives (Kamakau).  These two young women were regarded as his wahine pūlama, a term that denotes their special status and rank which required them to live in a sacred enclosure of lama wood (Pukuʻi and Elbert).

         Most likely, sometime in her thirtyʻs, Manono fell in love and married a chief of Hawaiʻi Island, Kekuaokalani.  He was the son of Kamehamehaʻs brother Kealiʻimaikaʻi and some say the favorite nephew of Kamehameha.  Kekuaokalani was of the kahuna line and given guardianship of the Hawaiian war god Kūkāʻilimoku by Kamehameha before his death.  For a short time the couple lived a peaceful life with their four children, tending to their kalo in the mountains of Maui (Cupchoy).  Kekuaokalani and Manono probably knew their tranqul lives would not last forever, for eventually Kekuaokalani would be called back to the royal court on Hawaiʻi Island.

         In order to understand how Manono came to her death and uttered these words of “Mālama kō Aloha”, there are various subjects and events to explore.  The writer humbly brings forth an important portion of Hawaiʻiʻs history by exploring Kuamoʻo, pre-contact life in Hawaiʻi, the kapu system, contact with the outside world, important aliʻi of the time, and the kaua ʻai noa or battle of free eating.  As much as possible, information gathered has been of Hawaiian authors to capture a native lens that is acurate, and an intimate interpritation of the story.  This book is by no means a complete study of Manono and the events during this period in Hawaiʻi, rather, it is fragments of history gathered that have been woven together to present a possible way of understanding the decisive battle of 1819 that changed Hawaiʻiʻs history forever.



Pa ka makani o ke Kehau, halawai me na hau o Māʻihi, huhui aku me nā hoa i ke kula o Kuamoʻo

On the Kehau winds, which meet with the dews of Māʻihi, and mingle with the companions of the plain of Kuamoʻo (Ke Au Okoa July 24, 1865)


         Nestled between the magestic mountains of Hualālai and Maunaloa sits the small ahupuaʻa of Kuamoʻo.  At the south end of North Kona, between the ahupuaʻa of Māʻihi to the north and Kawanui to the south, is where you will find this wahi pana or sacred and storied place. Kuamoʻo literally translated means “backbone, spine; road, trail, path; custom, way” according to Pukuʻi and Elbert in the Hawaiian Dictionary, a possible interpritation could be the pathway of our kūpuna or ancestors. 

         I have sat in deep thought at Kuamoʻo many times over the past year, being open to the ʻāina and all of itsʻ elements, while imaginig times past and, piecing together history with my own unique perspective.

         For the purpose of this story, we focus on a historic portion overlooking the striking coast in Kuamoʻo.  Huge boulders line the coast as remnants of old tidle waves and possible ancient avalanches that add to the untouched and raw feeling of this place.  A portion of the National Historic Ala Kahakai trail (as it is known today) runs through Kuamoʻo.  Traditionaly, this trail was called the Ala Loa and encircled the entire island of Hawaiʻi.  As a significant historical feature, it shares the way people traveled from one place to another, the evolution of trails over time, the mana that remains on these trails and in the pōhaku from the first Hawaiians that set foot here and have traveled these spaces for generations.  I have imagined men, women, and children passing carrying their goods or people waiting to meet one another on portions of the trail or messangers traveling through, sharing information.  I can hear melodic voices of riddling, story telling or chanting to make their travels more enjoyable.  Somehow I can appreciate the simple life lived here among a thriving and productive people surrounded by a diverse native dry land forest, incorporating appropriate agricultural activities, and joining the coastal landscape.  All of the endemic, native, and Polynesian introduced vegetation had a variety of uses that provided food, shelter, medicine, materials for craft, and many other uses. 

         This ʻāina would have been very rich in resources, both from the land and ocean to sustain many people for generations. The archealogical studies we have today only begin to set the foundation of the rich cultural significance remaining at Kuamoʻo along with evidance of the many people that once lived here. Some of the features that remain include heiau, habitation sites, papamū a stone used for playing kōnane, and loko paʻakai or salt pans.

         Kuamoʻo, chosen or by chance, ended up being a battlefield in the later part of 1819 where over three hundred warriors parished.  This storied place experienced the pain and missory of battle. Many people remember Kuamoʻo as just that, a battlefield. Details of the historic battle will be discussed in the later part of this book.  I have experienced Kuamoʻo for more than a battlefield, an ʻāina patiently waiting for attention, a place wanting to be remembered and anticipating a generation that will once again tell itsʻ stories and speak the long forgotten names of places and people who have come before us.  It is now time to create our own part of history at Kuamoʻo healing this ʻāina while simultaneously healing ourselves.

         Shortly after the battle, for over one hundred years, Kuamoʻo was used for ranching.  As the first missionaries became established in Hawaiʻi, they began to own large tracts of land that were used for commodity agriculture and ranching.  The ranching lifestyle became popular in Kona and provided for many rural families. Cattle grazed throughout the site, trampeling archealogical features and helping to quickly spread invasive species that dominate the landscape today.  Paniolo built walls to keep cattle from damaging certain areas using pōhaku that may have been part of the original trail system or other archealogical features.  Today, heards of wild goats continue the damage done by cattle.

         The Schattauer ‘Ohana previously owned these lands of Kuamo‘o for many generations. Margaret Schattauer, a descendant of Keoua and Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia on her father’s side and Kamehameha I on her mother’s side, long desired to preserve Kuamo‘o for all of Hawai‘i’s people. She strongly believed this area to be a precious part of Hawaiian history and that Kuamo‘o must be protected from exploitation.

         The Trust for Public Land worked in partnership with the Schattauerʻs, the Beamer ʻohana and the community to permanently protect and preserve these historic and culturally significant lands.  All partners worked tirelessly to raise the needed funds to successfully purchase the property and in 2015, this dream became reality. We know now that these historicaly significant lands of Kuamoʻo will be preserved in prepituity.

         Aloha Kuamo‘o ‘Āina was founded as a Hawai‘i center for cultural and ecological peace, with a mission to promote Aloha ‘Āina as consistent with the mo‘olelo and values of Kuamo‘o to achieve justice and peace for Hawai‘i’s people, environment, and the world.  The preserved lands of Kuamo‘o consists of 47 acres of culturally significant history and sites. These lands are preserved to honor those who have come before us, the people of today, and generations to come.

         Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer was a famed kumu hula, composer, educator, and activist, who handed down the history of Kuamo‘o in chant and hula. Fondly known as, “Aunty Nona,” she was a direct descendant of Manono and instilled the value of “Mālama kō Aloha” in her ‘ohana. She told the story of Manono covering her slain husband Kekuaokalani, with his feather cape, picking up his spear to join the battle, and chanting “Mālama kō Aloha,” a plea to both sides that no matter what obstacles come to Hawai‘i keep your love for one another. To honor his mother, famed musician Keola Beamer and his ‘ohana founded the nonprofit Aloha Kuamo‘o ‘Āina.