COURTESY KAMEHAMEHA FESTIVAL
The Kamehameha Festival on the Big Island honors the memory of the king who united the Hawaiian Islands.
Betrayed bloodline looks past transgression
"Kamehameha was a man of tremendous physical and intellectual strength. In any land and in any age he would have been a leader ... He was so strong of limb that ordinary men were but children in his grasp, and in council the wisest yielded to his judgment ... He was barbarous, unforgiving and merciless to his enemies, but just, sagacious and considerate in dealing with his subjects ... His strength of arm and force of character well fitted him for the supreme chieftaincy of the group, and he accomplished what no one else could have done in his day."
That is how King Kalakaua described Kamehameha I, the great warrior king who united the Hawaiian islands under one rule.
» Place: Moku Ola, Hilo, Big Island
» Date and time: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. June 11
» Admission: Free
» Call: 989-4844
» E-mail: Pua@MamalaHoa.org
» Web site: KamehamehaFestival.org
» 10 a.m.: Opening ceremony
» 10:15 a.m.: Hoike Haa Koa ("dance of the warrior" exhibition/competition)
» 11 a.m. to noon: Hula performance by the senior citizens group Ke Ola Pono No Na Kupuna
» Noon to 1 p.m.: Halau Hula Unukupukupu performance
» 1 to 2 p.m.: Hoike Oli (chant exhibition/competition)
» 2 to 3 p.m.: Performance by slack-key guitar and ukulele master Ledward Kaapana
» 3 to 4 p.m.: Diana Aki performance
» 4 to 5 p.m.: Performance by falsetto singer Darren Benitez
» 5 to 5:30 p.m.: Halau Haa Kea o Akala performance
» 5:30 p.m.: Closing ceremony
Before Kamehameha embarked on that ambitious campaign, each island was governed by various chiefs who constantly battled each other to maintain jurisdiction over their lands and to gain control of more.
Realizing he needed to employ wit as well as might to emerge as the ultimate victor, Kamehameha sought the advice of a kahuna (priest). That wise man told him that to win the Big Island, he must construct a heiau (temple) in Kawaihae and dedicate it to the war god Kukailimoku with a sacrificial offering of a chief. Kamehameha built Puukohola Heiau between 1790 and 1791.
When it was finished, he invited his cousin Keoua, a high chief from the Kau district, to meet him there under the pretense of discussing a peace treaty. When Keoua stepped ashore, he was killed by one of Kamehameha's warriors. Kamehameha presented Keoua's body at Puukohola as an offering to Kukailimoku, paving the way for his conquest of the Big Island and, subsequently, the rest of the islands.
"Unlike other chiefs who lost to Kamehameha in battle -- an honorable process and transfer of power -- those in Keoua's bloodline and many sons of Kau believe Kamehameha took Keoua and Kau by deception at Puukohola," said Pua Ishibashi, a direct descendant of Keoua. "As such, they still harbor bad feelings toward Kamehameha to this day."
A respected elderly aunt urged Ishibashi not to join Mamala Hoa, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, a fraternity of Hawaiian men that was established in Hilo in 1907 by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole to honor Kamehameha's memory; protect, preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture; and uplift the kanaka maoli (native people of Hawaii). Mamala Hoa (literally, "striking war club") is named after the elite unit of warriors that guarded the king.
Fifteen years ago, after much thought and prayer, Ishibashi decided to become a member of the group against his aunt's wishes. "I am the first and only member of my family to do so," he said. "I have long recognized the order's potential to not only help and support the Hawaiian community, but to take a leadership role in it. For me it is a tool to move the people forward."
An attorney, Ishibashi serves as the spokesman for Mamala Hoa and is the co-chairman of this year's Kamehameha Festival in Hilo on June 11. "I believe Kamehameha was a great man," he said.
"My family has always acknowledged his positive attributes and observed Kamehameha Day. However, we also remember and recognize that his interactions with our ancestor (Keoua) was something less then honorable."
Mamala Hoa has spearheaded Kamehameha Day festivities on Moku Ola (Coconut Island) since 1985. This year it has planned an expanded celebration, including the world's first Haa Koa Hoike ("dance of the warrior" exhibition/competition) and the Big Island's first Oli Hoike (chant exhibition/competition).
Ishibashi is especially excited about the Haa Koa event, which he, his brother Sky and his brother-in-law Kimo Alameda, director of the state Department of Health's Office of Multicultural Services, conceptualized and initiated.
COURTESY KAMEHAMEHA FESTIVAL
Hula, chants, falsetto singing and slack-key guitar performances help to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture.
"The Haa Koa reflects traditional practices found in lua (a Hawaiian martial art) and hula (dance)," said Ishibashi. "It may include the use of musical instruments such as the ipu (gourd rattle) and pahu (drum) as well as mea kaua (weapons of war). The Haa Koa celebrates the spirit of the koa (warrior) and the virtues of strength, courage, loyalty and dignity. It may be used to unify and empower a group, to honor an esteemed guest or to challenge an opponent in an athletic venue." Ishibashi emphasized Haa Koa is not just a physical demonstration of masculinity.
"The hope is that the Haa Koa will help men understand what it means to be a true Hawaiian warrior of the 21st century," he said.
"They should act as patriarchs, honor women, protect and provide for their family, and respect themselves by living healthy and fit lives free of addiction to drugs and alcohol. The vision is that pono (balanced) kane will result in pono families, pono communities and, ultimately, a pono Hawaiian nation."
Other draws will be the oli competition (featuring male and female contestants 14 and older) and presentations on pahu carving, mea kaua and Polynesian voyaging. Chad Kalepa Baybayan, who captained the Hokule'a, will be one of the speakers on voyaging. Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners Ledward Kaapana, Diana Aki and Darren Benitez will headline the stellar slate of entertainment.
"The Kamehameha Festival is organized by Hawaiians for Hawaiians, but open to the world," said Ishibashi. "All are invited, all are welcome."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.