THE story of the ivory of Oahu is a tale of treachery and triumph on the part of Kahekili, King of Maui, and of defeat and death for Kahahana, the last independent king of Oahu.
Kahahana was the son of Elani, chief of Ewa, one of the most powerful among the high chiefs of Oahu. While still a child, he was sent to Maui to pass the years of his young manhood in close contact with one of the most noted courts among the different island kings--the court of his relative, Kahekili.
After many years had gone by the Oahu chiefs deposed their king and drove him away to the island of Kauai. Then they met in a great council to select a new king from the high chief families. After careful consideration, it was decided that Kahahana was the most available of all who could be accepted for their future ruler, and an embassy was sent to Maui to recall him and inform him
of the exalted position for which he had been chosen by his fellow-chiefs of Oahu.
The Maui king was wise in his own generation and determined to make all the use possible of this selection. Therefore, he objected to the young chief's acceptance of the place of ruler of the neighbouring island. When this objection had been overruled by the high chiefess, who had been sent from Oahu to bring back the young king, Kahekili again delayed proceedings by refusing to permit the young wife to go with him. Then there came another season of councils and consultations. It was easy for the King of Maui to control the line of thought as advanced by his chiefs. It seems that they argued that it was best for the wife to go if a suitable return should be made in some way by the new King of Oahu. Then again it was conceded on all sides that Kahahana was very deeply in debt to his relative for the protection afforded him and the careful and royal attention bestowed upon him in the court of Maui.
Kahekili and his chiefs were pronounced worshippers of the various Hawaiian gods, therefore they argued that they should receive a place on the northeastern shores of Oahu where a noted heiau or temple was located. The cession of the Kua-loa lands, with this temple, would be a very satisfactory partial recompense. The young king thought that this was a small part of his kingdom and would scarcely be missed, hence he readily
promised to grant the Kua-loa district to his friend.
There were certain gifts of the sea which were very highly prized by all the chiefs of the Hawaiian Islands. Among these, whalebone and the very scarce whale's teeth were most prominent. These were "the ivory" of the Islands. The whalebone and the teeth were called palaoa. The "ivory" was usually made into a "hooked ornament" with a large hole almost in the middle, through which was passed a large number of strings of human hairs, thus forming a necklace unique and costly. Small portions of the ivory were pierced and fashioned into beads. These were strung together and also used as necklaces. It was a burial custom to place the palaoa in the burial cave in which the bones of any dead chief might be secreted.
Kahekili and his ready followers argued that as a slight return for the royal favour which had been shown to Kahahana in caring for him at court and in permitting his wife to go with him, he could very readily covenant to bestow upon Kahekili all the ivory which might be found on the shores of Oahu. Probably this matter was not presented as the payment of tribute, but as a recognition of benefits received, and Kahahana again readily promised the ivory--the gift of the seas.
This was as far as Kahekili dared to go in his demands. Apparently the two kings then discussed the continuance of the friendly relations which had bound them together so many years, and
entered into some kind of an alliance by which Kahekili might receive assistance in his wars with the chiefs of the large island of Hawaii. Two, or perhaps three, years after this consultation, Kahahana sent heavy reinforcements from Oahu to Maui, which aided Kahekili in the complete annihilation of the Alapa Regiment, about eight hundred chiefs, from Hawaii, in the noted "Battle of the Sand-Hills," near Wailuku.
Soon the morning came for sailing to Oahu. Kahahana, his wife, and the high chiefess who had come from Oahu to bring the news of his election, and a large retinue of retainers left Maui in regal state, while the good-bye "aloha" rang out over the waters from crowds of friends.
When the Oahu priests in the heiaus on the slopes of Leahi or Diamond Head saw the fleet of canoes coming from Maui, swift runners were despatched to all the high chiefs of the island that they might assemble at Waikiki and give welcome to their new king. It is not difficult to imagine the barbaric splendour of the royal canoes and their occupants as they crossed the outer coral reefs and drew near to the white sands of the most famous beach in Hawaiian history. The canoes were fitted with triangular sails made from the leaves of the hala tree, while brilliant pennants floated from every mast head. The king and high chiefs wore the feather cloaks and helmets betokening their rank. From these the sunlight flashed in gold
and crimson fire. The retainers wrapped their garments of richly coloured tapa around them, while the boatmen, whose bronzed bodies glistened with freshly applied oil, formed a pleasing back-ground to the gaudy display of those highest in rank. Thus Kahahana came to his own.
The Oahu chiefs made a display no less gorgeous along the sands of Waikiki, as they received their king. Nights were spent in revelry and days in feasting until the ceremonies of installation were completed.
At last Kahahana called the high chiefs and those belonging to the highest priesthood together for consultation concerning the affairs of the kingdom.
At this time he broached the agreement he had entered into with Kahekili concerning the ivory of Oahu and the temple lands of Kualoa.
Kahahana was an elected, rather than a hereditary, king of Oahu. Therefore, when, in 1773, he came from Maui to take the reins of government in his hands, it was very important for him to keep the friendship of the high chiefs who had given him the position. He could not assume any self-sufficient aspect and not care whether the other chiefs were well pleased or not. His power to fulfil his agreement depended upon the willingness of the council of high chiefs to ratify what he had promised.
Kahahana gave in full his reasons for agreeing
to the demands. He spoke of the experience gained in the wars between the kings of Maui and Hawaii, and stated that the bestowal of the ivory and the temple lands upon Kahekili might readily be granted as an honourable return from the chiefs of Oahu for the training given to their young king.
A number of chiefs at once yielded to this argument. It was a strong appeal to their honour. They were willing to pay for what they received. But other chiefs were doubtful of the expediency of this action. They desired to please their king and do all that honour required. Yet the wisdom of doing what was asked was not clear. Moreover, Kahahana was not trained to become a king. He had been kept at the court of Maui because he was a relative of the king. Perhaps the king of Maui was asking more than he ought.
Then arose Ka-o-pulu-pulu, the high priest of Oahu, one of the most far-seeing and statesman-like men in all the islands. He understood the Maui king and his ambitious designs for the conquest of the islands Molokai and Oahu.
Ka-o-pulu-pulu carefully pointed out the fact that there was a great deal to the demands of Kahekili which did not appear on the surface. The surrender of the temple and the ivory was practically accepting Kahekili as sovereign. It was the same as yielding the independence of Oahu. Kualoa with the temple and the lands surrounding it was, in reality, one of the most sacred places in
the islands. Here were kept the two war drums sacred from ancient times. The high priest argued that the chiefs could not afford to give these war drums to Kahekili because the favour and protection of the war gods belonged to the king who could call them by the beating of the drums. Moreover, their anger would be against those who had lightly given away the drum-voices.
Then again the chiefs must remember that the consecrated hill of Ka-ua-kahi would go as a part of the temple lands. This would give to Kahekili a basis for invasion, a powerful influence over the gods of Oahu, and would make it still more difficult for the Oahuans to maintain this independence.
The high priest reminded the chiefs also concerning the ivory of Oahu, that this, too, was a proof of the favour of the gods. This time it meant the gods of the sea. To surrender the ivory would turn away the favour of the gods whose assistance was prayed for in all things connected with the great waters. They must not give to Kahekili the gods of both land and sea.
Again Ka-o-pulu-pulu, the high priest, argued that if Kahahana, this new king, had come with warriors and subdued Oahu, the chiefs of Oahu could have nothing to say concerning the disposition of anything belonging to the island. The conqueror could do as he wished with the people or the land. Inasmuch as the chiefs had called Kahahana to the throne, however, "it would be wrong
for him to cede to another the national emblems of sovereignty and independence."
This rather full argument from the lips of the high priest shows the exceedingly strong hold which the tabus and worship of the gods had upon the most enlightened and upright men of the days immediately preceding the discovery of the islands by Captain Cook. The chiefs had deeply rooted principles of loyalty and honour toward each other, and yet the reign of the gods was supreme even while accompanied by a host of burdens such as continual human sacrifices and tabus extremely hard to bear.
Kahahana and the chiefs of Oahu readily accepted the views of the high priest and decided that they could not accede to the demands of Kahekili. One thing, however, remained which they could do for the Maui king, which would abundantly repay him for all the aid he had ever given to this young king. They would offer fleets of canoes filled with warriors to aid him in his battles with the king of Hawaii. In this way friendly relations and a state of peace would be maintained between the islands of Oahu and Maui.
Kahekili was greatly disappointed by his failure to secure the ivory, the gift of the gods, and the sacred lands with the all-powerful war drums, but he covered his chagrin as best he could by accepting the offer of warriors, for his spies assured him that his powerful brother-in-law, the king of Hawaii,
was preparing an immense army with which to conquer the whole of Maui. He heard of the organisation of the two powerful bodies of young chiefs known in Hawaiian history as "the regiments called Alapa and Pii-pii." The Alapa regiment alone numbered about eight hundred of the finest and bravest chiefs of the island of Hawaii.
He felt his inability to meet his Hawaiian enemies alone, therefore he called for aid from Oahu. Then came the "Battle of the Sand-Hills" below Wailuku and the defeat of the forces of the king of Hawaii. It was a dearly purchased victory which he never could have won without the aid of the Oahu warriors, and yet he was not profuse in thanks for the assistance given. The failure to win the desired grant rankled in his heart and he still nourished the purpose of securing a foothold on the island of Oahu. The year after the Battle of the Sand-Hills, Kahekili found an opportunity for making his next move.
Kahahana went from Oahu to Molokai to consecrate a temple. Oahu had maintained sovereignty over Molokai for some time, therefore the dedication of a heiau of any importance was in the hands of the king as the person of highest and most sacred rank. On Molokai there was also a large taro patch. This needed attention, and some time was to be devoted to the oversight of the re-pairs called for.
Kahekili and his advisers thought this was an
excellent opportunity to renew influence over Kahahana. The two kings met on Molokai and spent days in royal entertainments.
At the advice of his high priest, the Maui king craftily set to work to undermine Kahahana's faith in the Oahu priesthood. While the kings visited and feasted together, Kahekili, from time to time, introduced remarks concerning the way he was treated in the matter of the ivory of Oahu. At one time, apparently as an offset to the sacred lands which he did not get, he asked for the large and fertile tract of land on Molokai known as the lands of Halawa. This Kahahana readily gave to him as land that had been conquered and won from its inhabitants, concerning which there would be small dispute.
Then Kahekili insinuated that the high priest of Oahu, in refusing the grant of the ivory and the sacred lands, had been very insincere. He told Kahahana that the prophet, while pretending to be friendly to Oahu, had at the same time offered the entire government of Oahu to himself. Thus he began the distrust which was to lead Kahahana to ultimately destroy this wise and loyal high priest. In the various conversations he tried to impress the Oahu king with the belief that the prophet was really a traitor instead of a friend. The king's utter lack of principle and his knowledge of the character of the young king are shown in the way in which he made Kahahana believe in
his personal friendship. He took pains, in his wily and apparently open-hearted way, to let it be known that the only reason why he had not become the king of Oahu as well as of Maui was because of his great personal love for his young friend. He would not stand in the way of one in whom he felt so much interest. But this personal kindness must not blind the eyes of the young king to the fact that his high priest was practically a traitor.
The young king returned to Oahu with great faith in his enemy and a likewise great unbelief in his friends. He began a course of action inspired by his Maui advisers which was thoroughly overbearing and capricious and finally created dissension throughout his kingdom.