Wahi Pana: Mauna ʻAla

#125 in the Moʻolelo series

According to Bill Maioho, its former kahu, Mauna ʻAla was declared by an act of Congress in 1900 as sovereign land of the Hawaiian Kingdom. But think about that: if thatʻs true, then is there still a Hawaiian Kingdom? If that is true (and mounting evidence says it is), and perhaps even if it isnʻt, then how does Congress have the authority to name territory as the sovereign territory of another nation? Or are they saying that they extinguished the sovereignty of all of Hawaiʻi except Mauna ʻAla? You can see that this is all very confusing.

Alexander Liholiho, Kamehameha IV

Mauna ʻAla was created as an area to consolidate the iwi of Hawaiian royals (probably not all aliʻi). At this time, the “stirps” of the Kingdom was only the Kamehameha family. Lot provided in his 1864 constitution the means to establish a new stirps, or royal family line, but he had little way of knowing that other families would be buried there. If there were a new stirps, however, he would have known that it would come from his classmates from the Chiefs’ Children’s School.

Lot Kapuaiwa, Kamehameha V

Prior to Mauna ʻAla, there were royal mausoleums at Lahaina (the cemetery at Waiola Church, where Kaumualiʻi, Nahienaena and Kaʻahumanu are still buried) and at Pohukaina, on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace, where Liholiho was buried. According to the site Pacific Worlds, which takes a special interest in Nuʻuanu Valley, where Mauna ʻAla lies:

The passing of Ka Haku o Hawai‘i–the young prince of Hawai‘i at the age of four–begins the story of Mauna ‘Ala itself: “King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma chose this site, called Mauna ‘Ala, to erect this larger mausoleum building. The mausoleum building on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace was full, and they built a temporary shelter alongside of that building for the Prince.

“This site was chosen for its sacredness. There are petroglyphs alongside of Nu‘uanu Stream, just below Mauna ‘Ala, that lend to the mystique or the mana of Mauna ‘Ala.This was one of the first successful battle sites on O‘ahu for Kamehameha, in chasing Kalanikupule and his warriors further up the valley. Before that, this was the battle encampment of Kalanikupule, the high chief of O‘ahu.

“Mauna ‘Ala means ‘fragrant mountain.’ And this lends itself to the Hawaiian cultural tradition that fragrances would bring back memories of your loved ones, of special events that happened in your life, special places. And that would all be included in the mana of the iwi of the Kamehamehas.”

Bill Maioho in Pacific Worlds, pacific worlds.org
The young Kalākaua (photo from Bishop Museum)

The Kalākaua crypt is fascinating to me: besides Kalākaua himself, chiefs from as early as Keaweaheulu (Kamehameha’s uncle and great-grandfather of Kalākaua and Liliʻu) to as recent as David Kalākaua Kawananakoa (son of David Laʻamea Kawananakoa – Kūhiō’s brother – buried in 1953) are interred there. More recently, the State of Hawaiʻi affirmed that Abigail Kawananakoa will also be buried in the Kalākaua crypt. So burials in the Kalākaua crypt will eventually range across four centuries from the 1700s to the 21st century.

The chapel at Mauna ʻAla was designed by the German architect Theodore Heuck

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