Moikeha was the 1st Alii Aimoku of Kauai. He ruled as the titular King, or chief, of Kauai. He was a chief of the Nanaulu line, being the son of Mulielealii and the grandson of Maweke. His voyage to, and back from, Kahiki—the ancestral homeland of the Hawaiians—is one of the most remembered trans-Pacific voyages in the 12th century.[not verified in body]


Early life

Moikeha was born the son of Mulielealii, king of western Oahu and the eldest male of the Maweke line. Moikeha’s siblings were his older brothers, Kumuhonua and Olopana; they also had one sister, Hainakolo.[1] He was the first cousin of Laakona, High Chief of Ewa; Nuakea, Queen Consort of Molokai; Moi, kaula (prophet) of Molokai; and Hinakaimauliawa, High Chiefess of Koolau. Following the Hawaiian tradition of hānai', Moikeha adopted the young chief Laamaikahiki (sometimes called La'a), the son of Ahukai.

He supported his brother Olopana, throughout most of his youth. Neither of them inherited land from their father; it all went to their elder brother Kumuhonua. According to Samuel Kamakau, Moikeha and Olopana, the two younger brothers, launched an attack by sea upon Kumuhonua—which predated the Battle of Kepuwahaulaula, the first true Hawaiian naval battle, by 700 years. Kumuhonua emerged victorious; defeated, Moikeha and Olopana were taken captive, along with La'a. [2]

Eventually they were released, and seeing no future for themselves on Oahu, they decided to travel abroad and establish themselves elsewhere. The brothers set up a home on Hawaii Island. Olopana controlled the Waipio Valley and nearby lands. Moikeha, if not equal to his brother, was at least his utmost subject and most trusted companion. The duration of their stay in Waipio is not stated in traditional legends, but the legend does mention how they came to depart from the place. The valley and surrounding regions were desolated by heavy storms, floods, and freshets, forcing many of its inhabitants to seek refuge elsewhere.[3]

Travel to Kahiki

Moikeha, taking his young adopted son with him, sailed with his brother’s family to Kahiki. In Kahiki, the ancestral homeland of the Hawaiian people, Olopana received the sovereignty of Moaulanuiakea, a district or section of the land. Olopana built an opulent residence and heiau (temple) for himself, called Lanikeha. Kahiki has been mostly associated with Tahiti, but more likely kahiki ("the distance") can be understood to encompass all of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, from Easter Island to the farthest west, even far into the present Malaysia. [4]

Three place names connected to Moikeha’s or his sons’ stays on the island were: Moaulanuiakea, the home and estate where Olopana resided; Lanikeha, the name of the temple and residence of Moikeha; and Kapaahu, the neighboring mountain, where Laamaikahiki stopped when Kila came to him to bring him back to Moikeha.[5]

The name of the district or section of country over which Olopana was said to have ruled in Kahiki was in Hawaiian Moa-ula-nui-akea. Analyzing this word, it is made up of one appellative, Moa, and three adjectives or epithets, ula, nui, akea "red, great, open, or wide-spreading." As the adjectives may or may not have been original at the place to which they were applied, and probably arose in the eulogistic tendency of those who cherished its memory, and in the magnifying disposition of the bards of subsequent ages, there remains the word Moa as an index for our research. In the island of Raiatea, Society group, one of the entrances leading to the bay on which Opoa was situated was anciently, and is possibly still, called Ava-Moa, "the sacred harbour" or entrance. This, then, may be the place which Hawaiian legends so highly extolled as the splendid domain of Olopana and of Laa. Moa, which in Tahitian means "sacred," and was originally a distinctive epithet of that particular harbour, became in Hawaiian and to Hawaiian emigrants a local name, adorned with other though analogous epithets. When, moreover, we consider that Opoa, to which this "sacred entrance," this Ava-Moa, conducted the voyager, was the seat, cradle, and principal sanctuary of the entire Society group, the Tahitian Mecca, in fact, there are reasonable grounds for assuming that the Moa-ula, &c., of the Hawaiian legends refers to the Ava-Moa of Raiatea, Society group. It is true that the Hawaiian legends referring to this period make no mention of Opoa, its Morae or temple, nor to its presiding deity, Oro. But according to Tatutian legends and traditions, the Morae of Opoa was built and dedicated to Oro by Hiro, whom their genealogies make the twentieth before the late Queen Pomare, and who, according to the same genealogies, was the great-grandson of Raa; whereas the Hawaiian Laa flourished twenty-three generations ago, and his foster-father, Moikeha, at least two generations earlier. Hence the legends of Moikeha and his contemporaries are silent on the Morae of Opoa and its famous god Oro.

On the mountain of Kapaahu I have been unable to obtain any information. It is to be hoped that some Tahitian archaeologist may take the trouble to ascertain if any of the mountains of Raiatea, especially in the neighborhood of Opoa, ever bore the name of Kapaahu.
—Fornander and Stokes, An Account of the Polynesian Race, Volume 1, pages 51-52


The legends differ somewhat as to the names of Moikeha's followers, but they all agree that a number of places in the Hawaiian island group were named after certain companions of Moikeha. These companions were permitted to land here and there as the fleet coasted along the island shores, and succeeded in establishing themselves where they landed. The places supposedly thus named are land of Moaula in Kau, Hawaii; the capes of Haehae and Kumukahi in Puna; the district of Honuaula on Maui; and capes Makapuu and Makaaoa on Oahu.[6]

One legend says that Moikeha's priest was called Mookini, and that he and another follower named Kaluawilinau landed at Kohala, Hawaii. It may have been so, but the inference drawn by the native Hawaiian mind, that the famous Heiau of Mookini in Kohala was called after this companion of Moikeha, is an evident anachronism, as Paao who built the Heiau preceded Moikeha in time of arrival at Hawaii; and it is not probable that the Paao and Pili joint interest in Kohala would then, or in aftertimes, permit their special and sacred Heiau to be named after a chance passenger in the fleet of Moikeha; the more so as the former sprang from the Samoan group, and the latter came from the Society group. There was, doubtless, a Heiau in Puuepa, Kohala, near the shore, called Mookini, the ruins of which still remain, but it was much older than the one which Paao built, and probably gave its name to the latter. Another of the companions of Moikeha was the famous Laamaomao, who by subsequent generations was worshipped as an Aumakua, and exalted as a demigod, a Hawaiian Æolus, from whose Ipu or calabash the imprisoned winds went forth at his bidding, in force and direction to suit the wishes of the devotee. He is said to have taken up his abode near a place called Hale-a-Lono, a well-known hill and landmark on Kaluakoi, island of Molokai. No incident is recorded during the voyage from Kahiki to Hawaii, and having passed through the Hawaiian group, making the different debarcations above mentioned, Moikeha arrived one evening off the island of Kauai, and anchored his canoes outside of Waialua and the surf of Makaiwa, or, as others say, off Waimahanalua in Kepaa, the neighbouring land, where the Puna family of chiefs held their court. Early next morning, with his double canoe dressed in royal style (Pulou-lou-Alii), Moikeha went ashore and was cordially received by the chiefs of the district. According to one tradition, Puna had two daughters, Hooipo i Kamalanae and Hinauu or Hinauulua, who fell in love with Moikeha, and whom he married; another tradition only mentions Hooipo i Kamalanae as his wife. On the death of Puna, Moikeha became the principal chief (Alii nui) of Kauai, and remained there the balance of his life. With these two wives Moikeha had the following children mentioned in the legends, viz.:—Hookamalii, Haulanuiaiakea, Kila, Umalehu, Kaialea, Kekaihawewe, and Laukapalala, all boys. Not much is said of Hookamalii in the legends. It would appear that he settled in the Kona district of Oahu, where his grandfather, Muliele-alii, had held possession, and is reported to have resided at Ewa. His son Kahai is said to have made a voyage to Kahiki, and from Upolu in the Samoan group brought a species of bread-fruit tree, which he planted at Puuloa. The great-granddaughter of Hookamalii, called Maelo, married Lauli-a-Laa, the son of Laa-mai-kahiki, whom Moikeha took with him to the Society group, and from this union descended the great Kalona families on Oahu, which spread their scions over the entire group.

The second son of Moikeha was Haulanuiaiakea. He followed his father in the supremacy of Kauai.
—Fornander and Stokes, An Account of the Polynesian Race, Volume 1, pages 53–54
The third son of Moikeha was Kila. He makes a more conspicuous figure in the ancient legends than his other brothers. I possess two legends relating to Kila. One is very copious and detailed, but shows evident marks of the embellishments of later narrators; the other is more succinct. They differ in several material points, and thus induce me to believe that the one is not a copy of the other, but that both sprang from independent sources. Comparing the two together, and with other legends referring to this period, the historical facts appear to be these:—After Moikeha had been many years residing at Waialua as chief ruler of Kauai, and when his sons were grown-up men, a strong desire took possession of him to see once more his foster-son Laa, whom, on his departure from Kahiki, he had left with his brother Olopana, and whom Olopana had adopted as his heir and successor. Either Moikeha was too old, or from other causes unable to undertake the voyage himself, and Kila was commissioned to go to Kahiki to Moa-ula-nui-akea and bring Laa with him to Kauai. The double canoes were fitted out and equipped for the long voyage; several, if not all, of Kila's brothers went with him; and, finally, Moikeha's own astrologer (Kilokilo) and friend, Kamahualele, who came with him from Kahiki, was ordered to accompany Kila as special counsellor and chief navigator. When all were ready the expedition started. After passing through the Hawaiian group, and taking its departure from the south point of Hawaii, it stood to the southward, and in due time arrived at Kahiki.
—Fornander and Stokes, An Account of the Polynesian Race, Volume 1, pages 54–55

Eventually Laa is comes to Kauai and the legend adds that after Moikeha's death Laa returned to Tahiti and lived and died there.

It then narrates the adventures of Kila and his troubles with his brothers in a rather prolix and marvellous manner; but the result seems to be, comparing the two legends together, that Kila abandoned the island of Kauai and established himself on Hawaii, where he obtained possession of the valley of Waipio, the former land of his uncle Olopana; and from him several Hawaii families claimed descent, notably Laakapu, the wife of Kahoukapu, Kapukamola, the wife of Makakaualii, and Piilaniwaliine, the wife of Kamalalawalu of Maui.
—Fornander and Stokes, An Account of the Polynesian Race, Volume 1, page 56


  1. ^ Fornander and Stokes, p. 49
  2. ^ Beckwith, Martha (1940). "XXV. The Moikeha-La'a Migration". Hawaiian Mythology: Part Three. The Chiefs. Internet Sacred Text Archive. 
  3. ^ Fornander and Stokes pp. 49–50
  4. ^ Fornander and Stokes p. 50
  5. ^ Fornander and Stokes pp. 50–51
  6. ^ Fornander and Stokes, p. 52


Preceded by
Ali'i Aimoku of Kaua'i Succeeded by

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