Keawe-nui-a-'Umi 1505 - 1575 was the 16th Alii Aimoku of Hawaii 1545 - 1575. He was the sovereign king or chief of the island of Hawaii. His principal residence seems to have been at Hilo. He was also called Keawenui (Keawe the Great) and was Keawe I.


He born around 1505 was the second son of 'Umi-a-Liloa, 14th Alii Aimoku of Hawaii, by his third wife and half-sister, Alii Kapukini, daughter of Liloa, 12th Alii Aimoku of Hawaii. He succeeded on the death of his elder brother Keali'iokaloa in 1545.


After the death of Keliiokaloa there supervened a season of internal war, anarchy, and confusion, which has left its blurred image on the traditions of the country, it appear that at Kealiiokaloa's death the great district chiefs of the island of Hawaii refused to acknowledge the sovereignty or kingship of Keawenui-a-Umi, the younger brother of Kealiiokaloa. War followed, but the revolted chiefs seem to have been deficient in organisation or co-operation, for Keawenui-a-Umi defeated each and all of them, killed them, and kept their bones bundles as trophies. In the legend and chant of Lonoikamakahiki, the son of Keawenui, the names of the six district chiefs whom his father defeated are given: Palahalaha, son of Wahilani of Kohala; Pumaia, son of Wanua of Hamakua; Hilo-Hamakua, son of Kulukulua of Hilo; Lililehua, son of Huaa of Puna; Kahalemilo, son of Imaikalani of Kau; Moihala, son of Hoe-a-Pae of Kona.

After these revolted chiefs had been subdued and disposed of (it is said that the revolted chiefs were conquered and captured in a severe battle fought at Puumaneo, in Kohala district), Keawenui restored order and quiet in the island of Hawaii, on the pattern of his father, Umi. Keawenui is said to have been of a cheerful and liberal disposition,a nd not only frequently travelled around his own dominions of Hawaii, but also visited the courts of the sovereigns of the other islands. His visit to Maui, and his sumptuous entertainment by Kamalalawalu, the 18th Moi of Maui, is particularly described.

Incident with Pakaa

One of his most trusted friends and 'Pakaa' (royal treasurer) was a man named Pakaa, who for many years had served him faithfully and well. But at the court of Keawenui, as at many other courts, jealous and intriguing rivals conspired the downfall of Pakaa, and after a while they succeeded. Pakaa fled to Molokai to escapte the anger of Keawenui, and lived there in retirement and disguise. Some time after Pakaa's flight - how long is not stated, but several months may be inferred - Keawenui discovered that the accusations brought against Pakaa had been unjust and malicious, and, filled with sorrow and regret for the loss of his old friend and the injustice done him, he resolved to seek him in person and be reconciled to him. The account of this voyage of discovery by Keawenui-a-Umi was a favourite subject for listening ears in the olden time. After Keawenui's reconciliation with Pakaa, no further event of note during his reign has been recorded in the traditions.


Keawenui-a-Umi has been greatly blamed by some genealogists for his numerous relationship with women of low digree and with the daughters of the common people, thereby impairing the purity of the aristrocratic blood and giving rise to pretensions that in after ages it became difficult to disprove. This objection dates back to the turbulent times of the early part of the reign of Kamehameha I and has been repeated since, but may have been of older origin.

Of the many of his known wives, he married Ho'o-pili-ahae, Ha-o-kalani Kane-alae, and his half-sister Alii Kamolanui-a-Umi, youngest daughter of 'Umi-a-Liloa, 14th Alii Aimoku of Hawaii, by his sixth wife, Ohenahena. He married fourth Hakau-kalala-pukea, and fifth his niece Alii Koihalauwailaua (Koihalawai), daughter of Kahakumakalina, 14th Alii Aimoku of Kauai, by his first wife, Alii Akahiilikapu. He married a sixth time to an unknown chieftess.


There can be little doubt that Keawenui himself, as well as the public opinion of the chiefs and landholders of Hawaii, considered his occupancy of the dignity and position of Moi of Hawaii as an usurpation of the rights of his nephew, Kukailani, the son of Keliiokaloa; and this was probably the cause of the commotion and uprising of the great district chiefs in the early part of Keawenui's reign. Thus, when Keawenui was on his deathbed, he solemnly, and in the presence of his chiefs, conferred the sovereignty, the dignity, and prerogatives of Moi on Kaikilani, the daughter of Kukailani, and who was the joint-wife or successive wife of his two sons, Kanaloakuaana and Lonoikamakahiki.

In the allottment of lands among the chiefs and members of the deceased Moi's family - which, since the time of Keawe-nui-a-Umi, appears to have become a custom on the death of a Moi. It had been the custom since the days of Keawenui-a-Umi, on the death of a Moi and the accession of a new one, to distribute and redivide the lands of the island between the chiefs and favourites of the new monarch.

He died in 1575, having had issue, seven sons and six daughters.


*Abraham Fornander, An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origin and Migrations, Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1969.
*Samuel M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, Revised Edition, (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1992).


* [ Chiefs of Hawaii]

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