Kānekapōlei Article

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Spouse Kalaniʻōpuʻu
Kamehameha I (unmarried)
Issue Keōua Kūʻahuʻula
Keōua Peʻeʻale
Pauli Kaʻōleiokū
House Keawe

Kānekapōlei was a Hawaiian High Chiefess, wife of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and the aunt of Kamehameha I. She was present at the time of Captain Cook's death, calling attention to the kidnapping of her husband by Cook and his sailors. A group of men from among those attracted to the beach to answer her calls for help grabbed Cook and stabbed him to death.


Born sometime in the 18th century, Kānekapōlei was a daughter of the High Chief Kauakahiakua of Maui and High Chiefess ʻUmiaemoku of Kaʻū. According to Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau, her father Kauakahiakua owned the sea cucumber (loli) ovens of the district of Kaupo on the island of Maui. [1] Her paternal grandparents were High Chief Lonomakahonua, the second son of King Lonohonuakini and brother of Kaʻulahea II, and Kahāpoʻohiwi. [2] Her mother ʻUmiaemoku, who was also married for a period of time to her nephew King Alapaʻinui, was an offshoot of the powerful ʻI family of Hilo district on her mother Kānekūkaʻailani's side, and a scion of the Mahi family of Kohala on her father Mahiolole's side; both families were formidable rivals to the main royal line on the island of Hawaii, the descendants of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku.

Around 1762 [3] Kānekapōlei became one of the wives of King Kalaniʻōpuʻu of Hawaii. She was not his highest ranking wife, that position was held by Kalola Pupuka-o-Honokawailani, the mother of his heir Kīwalaʻō, but was considered his favorite. With Kalaniʻōpuʻu, she had two known sons, Keōua Kūʻahuʻula and Keōua Peʻeʻale. Their first son would contend with Kamehameha I over the supremacy of the island of Hawaii until his death in 1790 at Kawaihae. [4] Nothing is known about the fate of Keōua Peʻeʻale, although historian John F. G. Stokes argued Keōua Peʻeʻale was merely another name for Pauli Kaʻōleiokū, her son with Kamehameha I. [5]

Kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu

During Captain Cook's visit to Hawaii on his third voyage of exploration in 1779, he mentioned King Kalaniʻōpuʻu's favorite wife and queen Kānekapōlei. He and his men spelled her name many different ways including "Kanee-Kabareea", "Kanee-cappo-rei", "Kanee Kaberaia", "Kainee Kabareea", and "Kahna-Kubbarah". [7] Cook's second-in-command, Lieutenant James King, recounted her role in preventing the kidnapping of her husband and their two sons:

Things were in this prosperous train, the two boys being already in the pinnace, and the rest of the party having advanced near the water-side, when an elderly woman called Kanee-kabareea, the mother of the boys, and one of the king's favourite wives, came after him, and with many tears, and entreaties, besought him not to go on board. [8]

Hearing her lament, the Hawaiians gathered around the shore of Kealakekua Bay and tried to prevent their king from being taken. Cook's men had to retreat to the beach. As Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head by the villagers and then stabbed to death as he fell on his face in the surf. [9] [10]

Son's paternity controversy

Kānekapōlei had a son named Pauli Kaʻōleiokū. The figure's lineage is highly disputed. Kamehameha I, is said to be the father with Kanekapolei while she was still married to Kalaniʻōpuʻu by historians Abraham Fornander, Sheldon Dibble, and Samuel Kamakau. However, sources earlier than Dibble deny this allegation and claims paternity to Kalaniʻōpuʻu and further study have brought his paternity into question. Both Konia, his grandmother and Kānekapōlei herself, have flatly denied that Kaʻōleiokū was a son of Kamehameha I. [11] [12] [13] [14] Kaʻōleiokū was raised by his mother. He joined his brother Keōua Kūʻahuʻula's forces in opposition to Kamehameha in 1782 after the Battle of Mokuʻōhai split the island into three warring chiefdoms. In 1790, when Kamehameha defeated and killed Keōua Kūʻahuʻula at the consecration of the Puʻukoholā Heiau, he announced that Kaʻōleiokū was the child of his beardless youth thus sparing his life. Her descendants by this son include Ruth Keʻelikōlani and Bernice Pauahi Bishop, founder of the Kamehameha School. [15] Kānekapōlei was also said to be the mother of Keliʻikahekili, one of the wives of Kameʻeiamoku and mother of Hoapili, although the father is not mentioned. [1]

Kanekapolei Street in Waikīkī was named after an early 1930s resident of the area named Marion Kānekapōlei Guerrero Diamond, who was named for the chiefess Kānekapōlei. [16]


  1. ^ a b Kamakau 1992, p. 352.
  2. ^ Thrum 1916, p. 50.
  3. ^ Stokes 1935, pp. 33-34.
  4. ^ Fornander 1880, p. 205.
  5. ^ Stokes 1935, pp. 35-36.
  6. ^ "The Death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779 – National Maritime Museum". National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  7. ^ Stokes 1935, pp. 33–34.
  8. ^ King et al. 1784, pp. 43–44.
  9. ^ Collingridge 2003, pp. 409–410.
  10. ^ Kuykendall 1965, pp. 18–20.
  11. ^ Stokes 1935, p. 18.
  12. ^ Fornander 1880, pp. 333-334.
  13. ^ Kamakau 1992, p. 127.
  14. ^ Thrum 1916, pp. 50-51.
  15. ^ Kanahele 2002, pp. 7-9.
  16. ^ Pukui and Elbert (2004). "lookup of Kāne-kapōlei". on Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii. Retrieved December 12, 2012.