Paka`a Flees Big Island

Second in an ongoing series

By Catherine Aki


This view of central Molokai is what Paka`a saw after fleeing from his enemies on the Big Island.

What led up to Paka`a leaving the Big Island and living on Molokai?  In a word, jealousy.

As a powerful man in the court of Keawenuiaumi, ali`i of the Big Island, Paka`a was unaware that two jealous men had begun to plot against him.  As a court favorite, he managed numerous resources including farming and fishing. He could live in the uplands.  He was an accomplished waterman who knew all about astronomy, navigation, sailing the seas and steering a canoe. His attention to detail enhanced his abilities care for the personal needs of his ali`i. Paka`a treated those with high and low status equally well so that many affectionately attached themselves to him. It was a happy time before the betrayals of Paka`a were set in motion.

In one version of this story the two jealous men are called “enemi” or enemy even though they had names.

Pretending to “talk story” with Keawenuiaumi, his enemies would instead tattletale on Paka`a making up stories and lies in order to deceive the ali`i. They boasted of their abilities while criticizing Paka`a. Unfortunately, Keawenuiaumi was blind to the truth.  Believing their slander, the ali`i began to strip away power, responsibilities and land from Paka`a. 

This allowed the two enemies to take what was not theirs, from Keawenuiaumi.  When the ali`i received gifts from the district ali`i and commoners, Paka`a’s enemies would take the best things for themselves, blaming Paka`a for the shortages.  It was through their cunning fault-finding in Paka`a that they became Keawenuiaumi’s favorites. In the meantime, Paka`a began being mistreated by all.

Before realizing how conniving his enemies were, Paka`a tried to maintain the needs and services to his ali`i despite the greed of his enemies. But after a while, he realized how much he had lost in both status and wealth.

Kamakau’s summary of Paka`a’s story states that Paka`a deserted his ali`i`, but in another account, dramatic details tell of Paka`a fleeing for his life.

As Paka`a prepares to leave from the Big Island, he hides a canoe for his escape; but his enemies have been staking him out.  When Paka`a enters the ocean, they follow him trying to swamp his canoe in an attempt to drown him.  But Paka`a has mat coverings which prevent the water from entering his canoe.

Between Waipio and Hilo, his enemies pursue him for 18 hours, from the middle of the night until dusk the next day. Eventually his enemies lose him in the dark and hope he is gone for good.

Paka`a visits his half brother in Hilo briefly before leaving the Big Island.

Stay tuned for the next installment where Paka`a makes his way to Molokai finding safety and shelter, for a while.

To be continued.



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