Ke Kaikaina: Kamehameha’s Brother Keliʻimaikaʻi

#137 in the Moʻolelo series

His real name was Kalanimālokuloku-i-Kepoʻokalani, but because he was affable and kind to the people they called him Keliʻimaikaʻi, “the good chief.” Keliʻimaikaʻi was Kamehameha’s only full brother – if Keoua was Kamehameha’s father. If Kahekili was Kamehameha’s father, then he was a half brother, along with other chiefs like Kalanikupule, his opponent at the Battle of Nuʻuanu. (See the post Who was Kamehameha’s Father?).

On his rank, Fornander notes:

Keliimaikai was the wohi of his brother Kamehameha I.; but neither the children of Keliimaikai claimed, or were awarded the privileges of a wohi after the death of their parents. The precedence that a wohi obtained over other nobles was in virtue of his office alone, and as temporary as the incumbency of that office. The last Hawaiian wohi was Keliimaikai, the aforesaid brother of Kamehameha I., and his son Kekuaokalani might have remained wohi under Liholiho, Kamehameha II., had he not rebelled against him.

At the building of Puʻukoholā heiau, Kamehameha labored along with the makaʻāinana, so important was the construction of this temple of state. He preserved the kapu on work for his family by having Keliʻimaikaʻi abstain from labor. But Keliʻimaikaʻi wanted to work, knowing the importance of the task. And it was monumental – there was a lot of work to do – in human chains people passed stones a distance of 20 miles so the correct type of stone would be used. Keliʻimaikaʻi, who Kamehameha was very fond of, lifted a stone and put it on the heiau. Seeing this, Kamehameha took the stone and threw it in the sea.


As Stephen Desha tells the tale:

On a certain day, when Kamehameha saw him doing it, he ran and snatched the rock from the hand of his pōki‘i [younger brother] and said to him: “Kāhāhā! I have thought that you are to be the one to preserve the kapu of the god and also the kapu of this heiau, yet here you are doing this work of lifting a rock.” With these words, the ali‘i Pai‘ea immediately commanded some of his paddlers to take the rock which his younger brother had lifted and cast it into the deep sea. This command was obeyed, and that rock which his younger brother had lifted was truly cast into the deep sea.

Desha, 2000, 303.

An interesting genealogy appears in the newspapers in 1911 from Kamaka Stillman, which seems to center around a person named ʻUmimakahuluokalani (which incidentally was the name of my motherʻs brother):

This is the genealogy of my grandmother Kahaopulani, the one who raised Kamehameha I and Keliimaikai, his younger brother; it was not Naeole who raised him in Halawa like it is being told. This story is heard and known by heart by those of Kohala Nui and Kohala Iki.

Here I will conclude with aloha for the metal-type setting boys of the press and the Editor.



Kauluwela, Oahu.

Kamaka Stillman, “History and the kahu hanai of Kamehameha, 1911.” Kuokoa, May 19, 1911. Accessed at

As stated before, Keliʻimaikaʻi was the great-grandfather of Queen Emma and Albert Kūnuiakea. He lived from 1765 to 1809.

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 – 1901)

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