The Defector: Kaʻiana

#166 in the Moʻolelo series. Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp’s post reminded me that Kaʻiana is one of the most fascinating figures in Hawaiian history, and I wondered if I could contribute anything to his article on the chief.

Kaʻiana was a Kauaʻi chief who, as Hawaiian historian Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp notes, was related to “every major chief in the Hawaiian islands,” was an early adventurer traveling to China and other ports. An article in the Hawaiian Journal of History describes Kaʻiana walking down the street in Canton, China, where he refused to remove his ʻahuʻula, his chiefly cloak. Described as over six feet tall, with his helmet he must have towered over the people there. Kaʻiana, who travelled with Captain Meares, was described thus:

Tyanna [Kaʻiana] is tall; being six feet two inches in height and so exceedingly well made, that a more perfect symmetry and just proportion of shape is rarely to be met with … (he) has a pleasing animated countenance (and) a fine piercing eye.


Manalo-Camp writes:

While in Alaska, a bay was named for him, Tianna, which today is Icy Bay. This was the first place outside of Hawaiʻi named after a Hawaiian.Kaʻiana eventually made it home and became an ally of Kamehameha I supplying him with weapons from China. He eventually had a falling out with Kamehameha (some accounts believed it to be over Kaʻahumanu) and was shot by John Young in battle during the Battle of the Pali. Some accounts claim he was shot near Queen Emma’s Summer Palace while others say on the slopes of Pūowaina further away.

Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp, post on Facebook

Before the Battle of Nuʻuanu Ka‘iana was excluded from a planning meeting at Kaunakakai, Molokaʻi. Taking this as an omen that he was to be killed, he defected with the 3,500 soldiers he commanded and joined Kalanikūpule. This lowered Kamehameha’s army from 16,000 to around 13,000, but they still outnumbered Kalanikūpule’s forces, even with the addition of Kaʻiana’s warriors.

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