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Kumu Mālia & Ali’i of Peace

By Renée Tillotson

As someone who has made considerable study into her Hawaiian heritage, our kumu hula, Mālia Helelā, greatly admires Cheif Ma’ilikūkahi of O’ahu, who brought peace to the island for many – perhaps a dozen – generations. In teaching selected bits of Hawaiian history to her students and dancers, Kumu Mālia points out that we can all find ways to bring peace into our lives. Choosing role models whom we would wish to emulate is an important first step.

Anyone seeking to live a life of aloha (love, good will, kindness), would never want to emulate Cheif Ma’ilikūkahi’s predecessor, Chief Haka of O’ahu. As legend has it, Chief Haka was so “stingy, rapacious, and ill-natured,” and treated both the commoners and ali’i (nobility) with such disregard, his people rose up against him. One of his own officers surrendered Haka’s fort to rebel chiefs, who took his life. A council of chiefs of O’ahu then convened and “clamorously elected” Cheif Ma’ilikūkahi in Haka’s place. This happened in the 1400-1500’s. 

To begin with, Ma’ilikūka stopped human sacrifice. He adopted all first born children as his own children and educated them accordingly. He ruled both justly and firmly.

Mālia particularly appreciates boundaries as an important to keeping the peace. The firm system of boundaries that Ma’ilikūkahi created during his reign prevented fighting. Not only did he refrain from invading other islands, he also forbade the ali’i under him from plundering others’ land. Chief Ma’ilikūkahi deeply understood his duty as not the owner but the steward of the land under his rule. 

Ma’ilikūkahi surveyed and reorganized the palena (land division boundaries) on Oahu, establishing the ahupuaʻa system. These mountain-to-sea wedges of land not only clearly confirmed whose land was whose to govern, they also encouraged abundance in both agriculture and fishing. And bounty for all encourages peaceful relations.

Lest anyone think that Chief Ma’ilikūkahi ruled from a place of fear or weakness, let us note that when a chief from Waipi’o on the island of Hawai’i attempted to invade O’ahu, Ma’ilikūkahi and his troops thoroughly defeated the invaders. He did not hesitate to defend his firmly established boundaries.

Kumu Mālia encourages all of her dancers, all the members of her halau (school of hula) to live lives of grace and aloha. We admire Mālia herself as a peace-making soul who exemplifies that beneficent spirit of warmth, generosity and friendship amongst all.

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This post is also available in: English (英語)