Category Archives: Education

Colonialism – Part 2: More thoughts

#225 in the Moʻolelo series, this is a little more academic set of musings than the usual fare of late

Nicholas Thomas (1994, 4) re-contextualizes the concepts of colonialism and governmentality in the field of cultural studies:

In cultural theory since Foucault, the idea of government is central to the critique of language, knowledge and narrative, because it presupposes their constitution in and through power relations … For Foucault, the ‘governmentality’ that these knowledges and programmes amount to is not a transhistorical feature of all polities, but a distinctively modern development that displaced other modes of political power and state dominance.

Michel Foucault in Brazil, 1974 (Source: wikimedia commons)

Thomas (1994, 2) notes that the term ‘colonialism’ 

is not best understood as primarily as an economic and political relationship that is legitimized or justified through ideologies of racism or progress. Rather, colonialism has always, equally importantly and deeply, been a cultural process; its discoveries and trespasses are imagined and energized through signs, metaphors and narratives; even what would seem its purest moments of profit and violence have been mediated and enframed by structures of meaning.

While Thomas argues that too narrow a definition has been used for colonialsm, and that this should be broadened, others posit the reverse – that the broad, cultural dimensions of the term ‘colonialism’ have obscured the political history in Hawai’i case (see Sai, 2008). Likewise, governmentality is intimately bound up with notions of law and property in Hawai’i, because of the contested governmental regimes after 1893. The authority, legality and legitimacy of those governments’ actions depends on the premises one accepts in evaluating them.

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The Māhele

#224 in the Moʻolelo series, this is not exactly the same as the post “A New View of the Māhele,” but is more along the lines of “answering commonly asked questions about the Māhele.” In fact, it was prompted by a question from Gary Kubota (author of the play Koʻolau about Kaluaikoʻolau) about the land gained by makaʻāinana in the related Kuleana Act.

Māhele means division or “share” – Kameʻeleihiwa suggests that this might mean “to share” as she argues for a communitarian interpretation (or critique more likely) of the Māhele process. In my work I suggest that this might mean “one’s share,” as in each makaʻāinana male over age 20 was to get their share of the lands of the Kingdom.

The basis of the division was in the Constitution of 1840, in which Kamehameha I was considered to have “management of the landed property of the Kingdom [though] it was not his own private property.” The Māhele would change this, creating fee simple title, also called allodial (or alodio in Hawaiian). In my dissertation, I show that this process, rather than stripping makaʻāinana of lands, legally embedded makaʻāinana rights in land.

The Māhele itself was a division only between the King (Kamehameha III) and 252 chiefs, who gained land in their capacity as konohiki, i.e., one got land because of use, not merely rank or status. Kauikeaoiuli argued that he was, in addition to being King, the highest konohiki, resulting in his receiving 60% of all the lands of the Kingdom. This might make him seem greedy, but the next day he “gave away” two-thirds of this land, creating the Government lands of the Kingdom, as distinct from his personal, private Crown Lands. (The State of Hawaiʻi has mainly failed to keep track of this private-public distinction in the combined lands that they now hold in trust “for the benefit of Native Hawaiians” (Section 5c of the Admissions Act).

This second split created a division of 23% in the hands of the King, 39-40% held by the Aliʻi/Konohiki and 37% as public Government lands. In my view, Kauikeaouli did this in order to create a pool of lands from which makaʻāinana could draw, rather than claiming lands against their own district chiefs (who might have an incentive to discourage their claims). Some chiefs persuaded their “tenants” (as makaʻāinana were called – incorrectly in my view, as they were the owners of the lands, not renters) to remain living “in the old way” to the long-term detriment of makaʻāinana.

In July, 1850 a law passed allowing foreigners to buy land – they bought land from the chiefs (hence the 39-40% figure above). In August, 1850, the Kuleana Act passed, allowing makaʻāinana to claim land, which claims they were asked to submit prior, in 1848. (There is some debate about this “deadline”). The outcome of the Kuleana Act division was that about 13,000 makaʻāinana filed claims, of which about 8400 received the lands claimed. There are anecdotal reasons why about 5000 claims were not awarded – duplicate claims, etc. The population of Native Hawaiians in 1850 was about 88,000. Of these, we can presume 44,000 were male and about 33,000 were adult males. So only about 39% of eligible claimants filed claims and about 25% received the claimed lands.

In total, 28,000 acres were distributed in this process, which is an average of 3 acres per award. These awards were called Royal Patent Grants[NOTE: Iʻm double-checking on this point – Kuykendall notes that there were two types of Grants and there were also the Land Commission Awards, or LCAs, which are still used to identify parcels today], and only granted a Life Estate (ownership for life, not inheritable). These could be converted to allodial or fee simple title and about 95% were converted. Many know the outlines of the above process, but what is little-known is that the process was continued, after the dissolution of the Land Commission, by the Minister of Interior. Also, Government lands were available for sale at the time for 50 cents per acre, which was cheaper than getting a survey for oneʻs “free” Kuleana Act claim.

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Aliʻi Pono

#223 in the Moʻolelo series. The post Was Kamehameha Pono? got a lot of attention and generated much discussion and debate. One commentor perceptively noted that there were chiefs who were “unquestionably pono” – this is something Iʻve had back of mind for a long time, and I thought Iʻd take this opportunity to flesh out this idea of Aliʻi pono.

The lyrics of “Kaulana Nā Pua” inform us directly of the chiefs who were considered pono in ka wā Kahiko, so much so that their islands were associated with their names. In this post, I briefly examine these four “classic” chiefs and how their actions align with pono behavior:

Pane mai Hawaiʻi moku o Keawe 

Kōkua nā Hono aʻo Piʻilani

Kākoʻo mai Kauaʻi o Mano[okalanipō]

Paʻapū me ke one Kākuhihewa

Hawaiʻi, land of Keawe answers

Piʻilani’s bays help

Mano’s Kauaʻi lends support

And so do the sands of Kākuhihewa

Keawe: Keawe was revered enough that many of his descendants carried his name in theirs: Keawemaʻuhili, Keaweaheulu, and many others. Kamakau summarizes the reign of Keawe:

 During Keawe’s reign the whole of Hawaii was not united under him, for his rule was only over Kohala, Kona, and Ka-ʻu. He ruled over the many chiefs that were under him, and they took charge of Keawe’s affairs. They were the ones who fought against the chiefs of Hilo. During Keawe’s reign, Ka-ʻu was set aside for his son, Ka-lani-nuiʻi-a-mamao, and chiefly tabus were given to him. The chiefly tabu then belonged to the chiefs of Ka-ʻu, and the wohi tabu to the chiefs of Kona. So also did the chiefly tabus of the chiefs of Kona pass on to the son of Keawe. Keawe was a chief who was fond of traveling and he traveled about Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai. (Hence the saying, “Red-eyed was Keawe on Kauai, bald-headed was Keawe on Hawaii.”) One noted thing that was said of Keawe was that he built a house to contain the remains of the chiefs at Honaunau, Hawaii, called Hale-o-Keawe.

    When Keawe died, his bones were enclosed in a wicker container. Those which were so enclosed were said to be in the kaʻai (ku i ke kaʻai). So the saying was, “Keawe returned and remained in the kaʻai

Samuel M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaiʻi, 1992, 65.

So from this we can gain that care for the iwi of the ancestors is a pono behavior, as Keawe today is mainly known, other than as a progenitor of ruling chiefs, for Hale o Keawe.

Piʻilani: Piʻilani is said to be the chief who united (or conquered) the islands of Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe into nā honoapiʻilani – the bays of Piʻilani, the first multi-island kingdom. This suggests the act of political conquest is pono in the sense that it brings a larger territory under competent administrative rule. He also is said to have married his daughter Piʻikea to the chief ʻUmi, recognizing the benefit of politically advantageous marriages – what Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa calls the “path of Lono.”

Manookalanipō: Manookalanipō is recognized in chants as among the very most capable rulers of Kauaʻi in the line stemming from Kūkona in the 15th century. He was responsible for establishing the ahpuaʻa system on Kauaʻi. (Similar to Maʻilikūkahi on Oʻahu, who I would include on a longer list like this one of aliʻi pono). And according to the site

This system led to long lasting peace and advances in economy, engineering, architecture and culture.

His life reinforces for us the well-established idea that pono is, in large part, proper management of lands in order to provide for the people and chiefs.

Kakuhihewa: Fornander tells us that Kakuhihewa made a wager with Lonoikamakahiki (who was the grandson of ʻUmi and the last name mentioned in Kumulipo), betting the lands from Leahi (Diamond Head) to Kaʻena Point in Waiʻanae in exchange for Lonoikamakahiki’s feather kahili, which was named “Eleeleualani.” In my interpretation, this is a form of brinksmanship seen among bold (and perhaps brash or reckless) leaders, and is a form of risk-taking. The substance of the wager was a chant, which each chief would recite. It is unlikely that Kakuhihewa could continue to control Oʻahu without the entire South and West shores, and he was betting, in fact, on his own skill.

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Wai and Waiwai: Water and Wealth

#222 in the Moʻolelo series

Kumu Hula Pua Kanahele points out in the documentary Stolen Waters that if you double the word “wai” it means wealth – waiwai. This shows that land, without water, is poor. So when lands were given in the Māhele, or in the Hawaiian Homelands program for that matter, water was not guaranteed. Riparian rights are those rights that attach to lands neighboring a stream and amount to the water above minimal stream flow. When the source of streams were tapped to feed sugar plantation irrigation systems, this minimal flow level no longer existed, and with it often went the riparian rights.

Dellapenna (1990, 52) notes that 

apart from Hawaii, aboriginal law, which might have proven better adapted to local conditions, was almost entirely ignored and quickly displaced when white settlement began. Even in Hawaii, when aboriginal law proved incapable of coping with a modern societyʻs needs, the aboriginal rights became merely vestigal. Hawaiiʻs modern was law emerged as an uneasy amalgam of aboriginal law, riparian rights, certain notions of appropriative rights under the guise of prescriptive rights and public management. Hawaiian water rights thus became utterly unique in the West..

Dellapenna, J. “Riparian Rights in the West.” Oklahoma Law Review 43 1990

Miike (2004, 95) shows the separation of water and land rights:

the state holds all waters of the state in trust for the benfit of its people … the reserved sovereign prerogatives over the waters of the state preclues the assertion of vested rights to water contrary to public trust purposes … the right to absolute ownership of water … never accompanied the ʻbundle of rightsʻ conferred in the Mahele.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on

Kloos, Aipa and Chang (1983, 7) note that

the present unique and confused status of Hawaiʻi water rights is the culmination of three distinct developments over the last century and a half: the survival of ancient Hawaiian customs; the selected engraftments of the common law; and the pending litigation arising from the Supreme court’s recent reinterepretation of the ancient principles.

Prior to the McBryde decision, there were three types of water rights; appurtenant water rights, konohiki or surplus rights, and riparian rights. Appurtenant rights are a right to “the quantity of water in use immediately prior to the time the land passed into private ownership” (Kloos, Aipa and Chang, 1983, 9). Konohiki rights pertain to stream water lying entirely within an ahupuaʻa. These rights may be connected to seigneury – the overlying right to management connected to konohiki status. Riparian rights refers to water flowing across an ahupuaʻa, and to “storm and freshe[s]t surplus waters” (Kloos, Aipa and Chang, 1983, 10).

Handy and Handy note in Native Planters that

the fundamental conception of property and law was … based upon water rights rather than land use and possession. Actually there was no conception of ownership of water and land, but only of the use of water and land.

 Miike (2004, 48) notes that “the word kanawai, or law … tied back to water. Ka-na-wai is literally “belonging to the waters” … the Hawaiians… word for law, kanawai, or the equal sharing of water.

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The two major Western mercantile activities that involved Hawai‘i were the fur trade and the sandalwood trade. Kamehameha had previously tempered the sandalwood (‘iliahi)trade, because he saw it as problematic. Kamehameha placed a monopoly on the ‘iliahi trade, which meant that only he could determine how much would be sold. This monopoly limited the effects of the ʻiliahi trade. After Kamehameha’s death the sandalwood monopoly was lifted. The Chiefs demanded of Liholiho that they be allowed to enjoy free trade in ‘iliahi.This was due to the items bought on credit from the now frequent visits of Western ships. Liholiho acquiesced to the chiefs’ demands, exacerbating the population decline through problems related to sandalwood trade. 

Maka‘āinana were forced by chiefs to gather ‘iliahi and were thus unable to fulfill normal kuleana.This resulted in famine and the altering of käneand wahine roles. It also led to the breakdown of ‘ohana and the loss of the reciprocal relationship between ali‘i and maka‘äinana. Abuses by chiefs involved in the sandalwood trade led to the loss of respect for ali‘i on the part of maka‘ainana. Ali‘iengaged in the sandalwood trade for a number of reasons. Greed may have been a primary motivator, but so was competition with other Ali‘i for status. Compulsion to sell by Westerners was due to credit extended to chiefs and the resulting debt traps.

Boki (I), seen here with Liliha, was a sandalwood trader and Governor of Oʻahu

            Kamakau (1992, 251 -252) describes the situation with debt and the sandalwood trade:

            The King …went into debt buying ships such as the Haʻaheo, Ka-ʻainoa-nui, Kuko-puka, and 

several other schooners and brigs like the Ka-umu-aliʻi,, Ka-mahole-lani, and Mikapako (Mister Parker). The chiefs also bought cloth, most of which was consumed by rot and worms, and the rest by fire. They purchased ships and turned their debts in to the king, and he to the government. The king’s favorites helped to increase the debt. They were outspoken in saying, “Let us run up the debt and make the commoners and the chiefs work; they are no friends of ours, so let us get what we can while the king is alive.” The debts were met by the sale of sandalwood. The chiefs, old and young, went into the mountains with their retainers, accompanied by the king and his officials, to take charge of the cutting, and some of the commoners cut while others carried the wood to the ships at the various landings; none was allowed to remain behind. Many of them suffered for food; because of the green herbs they were forced to eat they were called “Excreters-of-green-herbs” (Hilalele), and many died and were buried there. The land was denuded of sandalwood by this means.

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Moʻolelo Pōkole: A Summary of the Reign of Kauikeaouli

#221 in the Moʻolelo series, this will again be basic to those who know the history, but may be a useful primer for others, and also I havenʻt written much about Kamehameha III in this series.

Kauikeaouli’s reign saw shifts of historical proportions politically, socially and economically. Kauikeaouli was born in 1814 in Kona, the second son of Kamehameha I by Keōpūolani. He began his reign at only 11 years of age, with Kaʻahumanu and Kīnaʻu serving as regents during his time of minority. One of Kauikeaouli’s famous statements was “he aupuni palapala koʻu” – “mine is a nation of learning.” In 1831, the king directed the founding of Lahainaluna, which today is the oldest school in Hawaiʻi. In 1839 and 1840 the king oversaw the creation of the Declaration of Rights and the Kingdom’s first Constitution, codifying human rights for makaʻānana and limiting the power of the king and chiefs. 

Kauikeaouli – Kamehameha III

In 1842-1843, Hawaiian envoys Timoteo Haʻalilio, Willam Richards and Sir George Simpson negotiated the recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty by Britain, France and the US. This led beginning in 1844 to the holiday Lā Kūʻokoʻa. In February 1843, Hawaiʻi’s sovereignty was overthrow by British Captain George Paulet for five months. In July that year, Admiral Richard Thomas overturned Paulet’s actions and restored Hawaiian sovereignty. This led to the holiday Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea. In 1848, Kauikeaouli oversaw one of the most monumental undertakings in Hawaiian history – the Māhele and accompanying Kuleana Act, which granted land rights and fee-simple ownership to lands for the three classes of Hawaiian society: the king, aliʻi and makaʻāinana. To avoid French aggression, Kauikeaoli was considering a treaty of annexation to the US when he died in 1854 at the age of 41. His hānai son and heir was Alexander Liholiho, the son of Kinaʻu and Kekuanaoʻa, who becam Kamehameha IV.


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A Summary of the Reign of Liholiho

#220 in the Moʻolelo series. This is for my own purposes and will be basic to some readers, but perhaps helpful to others.

Born in 1783, Liholiho was raised traditionally by a kahuna and became Kamehameha II (sometimes written Tamehameha II) upon the death of Kamehameha I in May 1819. He was made to share power with Kaʻahumanu, who was Kūhina Nui (and also Kekuaokalani, who was Kahu, or guardian, of Kūkaʻilimoku). He capitulated in late 1819 to Kaʻahumanu’s desire to end the practice of ʻaikapu, sitting with her as she ate pork. This led to the battle of Kuamoʻo, a final stand for the Hawaiian religion, in December, 1819, where Kekuaokalani and his army perished.

This image is entitled “Tamehameha II”

In 1820, Protestant missionaries arrived in Hawaiʻi with Liholiho’s tentative permission, causing lasting change in the islands. They brought reading and writing, music and printing, along with their religion, and opened schools. Worried for the fate of his Kingdom globally in an era of imperialism, Liholiho departed for London, England in 1824 and died there, along with his wife Kamāmalu, of measles.

Liholiho ruled briefly during a period of tremendous change and attempted to navigate this tumultuous period. he attempted to use traditional Hawaiian knowledge to do so. This is seen in a famous quote of his. Once, when being praised for good decision making, Liholiho responded “Na wai ho’i ka ‘ole o ke akamai, he alahele i ma’a i ka hele ‘ia e o’u mau makua?” [Who would not be wise on a path walked upon by my parents and ancestors?].

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The “3 Ms” of Colonization

#219 in the Moʻolelo series

Colonization follows a rough pattern wherever it is imposed. I explain this process using 3 “actors” or groups, each of which begins with the letter M:

MISSIONARIES (1820): In the case of Hawaiʻi, the Congregationalist missionaries sent by ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) were specifically not allowed to become involved in government.

The mission itself read:  

Your views are not to be limited to a low or a narrow scale… You are to aim at nothing short of covering those islands with fruitful fields and pleasant dwellings, and schools and churches; of raising up the whole people to an elevated state of Christian civilization; of bringing, or preparing the means of bringing, thousands and millions of the present and succeeding generations to the mansions of eternal blessedness.


But this mission was naive in that it tacitly required some government involvement. But still, the first wave of missionaries did not directly attempt to colonize Hawaiʻi – that came with next two waves.

Rev. William Richards (l) was a missionary turned diplomat who helped Timoteo Haʻalilio (r) attain recognition of Hawaiʻi’s sovereignty

MERCHANTS (1835): The sons of missionaries, having often grown up in poverty and at times outright squalor and having good educations, saw it as perhaps a right to build wealth for themselves. Very few carried on their fathers’ missionary work (Hiram Bingham II was an exception). Along with newer foreign arrivals, they built the industry that came to known as “King Sugar,” so dominant was it in Hawaiʻi’s economy. Their ostensible mission was not to overthrow the monarchy, but merely to build wealth, but when the government did not conform to their wishes, they instigated the “overthrow before the overthrow” – the Bayonet Constitution, stripping Kalākaua of power. This was a decisive blow to the monarchy and some could argue that overthrow itself was merely the culmination of the course set in 1887.

MILITARY (1893): When Liliʻuokalani attempted to discard the Bayonet Constitution for one – the draft constitution of 1893 – that would restore the balance between government branches, this was a cause for the landing of troops. The rest is history. But it is this sequence that exists both in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere that constitutes a pattern – the 3 Ms – that puts the process of colonization into perspective.

Of course, Hawaiʻi it seems was not literally colonized in the end, but the cultural and political processes involved can be seen in our history.

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A New View of the Māhele

#218 in the Moʻolelo series. Those familiar with my work will know my view – shared by some other scholars of my generation – of the Māhele and Kuleana Act. This is an attempt to make that view brief and understandable to the non-specialist.

During the period of the privatization of land in Hawaiʻi (1840 – 1855), kuleana, usually translated as “native tenant rights,” constituted both a right to, and responsibility over, land for Hawaiians. As is pointed out in the Andrews dictionary:

Kuleana, s. [substantive (noun)] A part, portion or right in a thing.n  2.  A right of property which pertains to an individual.n  3. a friend; a portion belonging to a friend.  4. One’s appropriate business … NOTE.—In modern times, kuleanarefers to a small land claim inside another’s land, that is, a reserved right in favor of some claimant 

Andrews dictionary

So kuleana not only means “right,” in addition to “responsibility,” it specifically means title to a piece of land! The 1850 Kuleana Act provided a means for makaʻāinana to divide out these rights and gain a fee simple title to the lands under their cultivation. Using a hybrid genealogical method, I argue that these rights were elided by gathering rights in the period since the 1890s. By debating the extent of gathering rights, courts have been able to appear liberal, while obscuring the profound rights of Kānaka Maoli embedded in Hawaiʻi’s land tenure system. The 1850 Kuleana Act was a continuation of the process begun with the 1848 Māhele, which I contend was misconstrued by twentieth century scholars. All original land titles contained the rider “koe nae na kuleana o na Kanaka ma loko”– reserving the rights of native tenants. That meant that full ownership of land was not possible unless all claims “ma loko” – inside – a property we’re extinguished. (This is what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced on Kauaʻi, but unlike most buyers, he had the resources to buy or sue all Juliana right holders in his property).

The conflation of gathering rights with these more fundamental ownership rights contributes to the confusion over native tenant rights.

Kēhaulani Kauanui spends about a page (or two) in her book Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty on my view of the Māhele, which she seems to partly agree with, but at the same time undercut (along with that of my fellow travelers in this view such as Preza, Beamer and Sai). She appears to agree with me in that, within the framework of the modern Hawaiian nation-state, my view is probably correct. But her critique is that the entire category of private property is linked with the colonial processes of male dominance, the dominance of the modern European Nation-State over tribal, Indigenous peoples, and “heteronormativity” – the dominance of “conventional” sexual orientation. This critique is at another “level” – a “lower” level in the sense that it critiques the assumptions upon which the argument is built – that Hawaiʻi was a modern nation-state with “modern” laws, i.e., those same kinds of laws that marginalized nonconforming groups, and incidentally, non-Christians.

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The Reign of Kalaniōpuʻu

#217 in the Moʻolelo series

The genealogy site recounts Kalaniopuʻu’s background:

Kalaniʻōpuʻu-a-Kaiamamao was a Hawaiian monarch, the 6th Aliʻi (tribal chief) of Kohala, 4th Aliʻi of the Kona district and 2nd Aliʻi of the Kaʻū district on the island of Hawaiʻi. He was called Tereeboo, King of Owhyhee by James Cook and other Europeans. His name has also been written as Kaleiopuu. He was born about 1729.

Kalaniōpuʻu was the son of the famous chief Kalaninuiʻiamamao and chiefess Kamakaʻimoku, and brother of Kamehameha’s father Keouakalanikupuakapāikalaninui.

The Ahuʻula of Kalaniōpuʻu (Source: wikimedia commons)

Major events during Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s reign included multiple wars with Maui while it was under Kahekili ( who was the younger brother of former Maui King Kamehameha Nui, and a father of Kamehameha). It was during these wars that Kamehameha “cut his teeth” as a warrior, gained  notoriety and the name Pai‘ea (hard-shelled crab). Kalaniōpuʻu launched campaigns to conquer – or reconquer – the Hana district of Maui. Kamehameha was in his teenaged years during these battles, but was already drawing attention for his fierceness, though Hawaiʻi Island lost many of these battles.

Kamakau portrays Kalaniōpuʻu as very warlike and as actually savoring the violence of warfare. He was old when Captain Cook arrived, and Cook tried to kidnap him and take him as a hostage as a bargaining chip to regain a lost long boat.

Kalaniōpuʻu died at Waioahukini, Kaʻū, in April 1782. The ceremonies around his funeral were the site of political machinations between his son and heir Kīwalaʻō, Kamehameha and other chiefs, which mainly centered around the kālaiʻāina, or ensuing land division.

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