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Battle of Nuʻuanu Annual Commemoration with Sam Gon


Battle of Nuʻuanu Annual Commemoration with Sam Gon

Sam ʻOhukaniʻōhiʻa Gon III is a kamaʻāina of Nuʻuanu Valley, District of Kona, moku of Oʻahu, who is a conservation biologist, serving as Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi. He is also a kumu oli, a teacher of Hawaiian chant, for Hālau Mele, the hālau-in-residence at The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Kaiwiʻula, Oʻahu. Oʻahu at the time was under the rule of Maui. Kalanikūpule was the Maui chief who ruled Oʻahu. Previously, Kahekili had defeated Kahana, who was the last chief of Oʻahu as an independent kingdom. An uprising by the Oʻahu chiefs was brutally put down, the chiefs killed, and their bones made into a fence around one of the structures at the luakini heiau of Kalanikūpule. This insurrection occurred at Waipiʻo in central Oʻahu and was named Waipiʻo-Kīmopō, the insurrection at Waipiʻo. Thus, it was not Oʻahu that Kamehameha battled at Nuʻuanu, but Maui. Kalanikūpue’s father, Kahekili, was the aliʻi nui o Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Oʻahu, but had asked Kamehameha not to attack until he was dead. This was likely because it is thought that Kahekili was Kamehameha’s biological father, so when Kahekili dies in 1794, the way was opened for Kamehameha’s attack in 1795. Perhaps Kamehameha would not have attacked so soon, but for two things: Kalanikūpule and his brother Kaʻeokūlani soon found themselves battling each other over Kahekili’s inheritance, that’s the Kingdom of Maui. And although Kalanikūpule eventually won, his forced forces were greatly weakened. Furthermore, Kalanikūpule commandeered two foreign vessels, killing their captains, and intended to use the armaments to attack Hawaiʻi Island, however, the haole crew of the vessels staged mutiny off Waikīkī and succeeded, and although they did not kill Kalanikūpule, they put him in a small boat off of Waikīkī and then sailed to Hawaiʻi Island, where they informed Isaac Davis and John Young, Kamehameha’s haole advisors and trainers in the use of cannons and guns, of Kalanikūpule’s plan. This likely triggered Kamehameha’s mobilization of his great war fleet so that by the end of the Hoʻoilo (the cool wet season), he was ready to launch with the largest army the Hawaiian islands had ever seen, with about 12,000 men and women warriors and 1,200 war canoes. When did his attack start on Oʻahu? Kamehameha’s fleet landed at Waikīkī and after a few days to gather supplies and set strategy, the battle began. Kamehameha’s army advanced westward, encountering Kalanikupule’s first line of defense near Pūowaina (Punchbowl Crater). Splitting his army into two, Kamehameha sent one half in a flanking maneuver around the crater and the other straight at Kalanikupule. Pressed from both sides, the Oʻahu forces retreated to Kalanikupule’s next line of defense near Laʻimi (near the site of Queen Emma’s summer Palace today). While Kamehameha pursued, he secretly detached a portion of his army to clear the surrounding heights of the Nuʻuanu Valley of Kalanikupule’s cannons. Kamehameha also brought up his own cannons and guns to fire upon Kalanikūpule’s army at Laʻimi. During this part of the battle, both Kalanikupule and Kaʻiana were wounded, Kaʻiana fatally. With its leadership in chaos, the Oʻahu army slowly fell back north through Nuʻuanu Valley to the pinch point where the narrow dangerous cliff trail into Kailua began. That is why hundreds of warriors were bunched at the precipice and were either crowded over the edge or chose to jump rather than be captured. This is why the battle is called Kalelekaʻanae (the leaping mullets). In 1898 men working on improving the Pali road discovered 800 skulls which were the remains of some of the warriors that fell to their deaths from the cliff above. Kalanikūpule and some of his men escaped by climbing Lanihuli, one of the two peaks flanking the head of Nuʻuanu, and following the Koʻolau summit crest to Waimalu Valley near Puʻuloa, where Pearl Harbor is today, where they hid for some days until they were betrayed by the people of Waimalu and captured. Kalanikūpule was taken to Papaʻenaʻena heiau at the base of Lēʻahi (Diamond Head) and sacrificed.

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