About Na Kaleikaumaka Outrigger Camps
The Last Hawaiian Mariner
(condensed version)
by Kawika Sands 1999

Puna's Court

Chapter 6
While Mo`ikeha and the remaining voyagers left O`ahu on the last leg of their journey, on the isle of Kaua`i, there was a king named Puna. He was perhaps the most popular ruler in the Hawaiian Islands. Although he was strict, Puna was merciful in regard to the thoughtless or ignorant transgressions of the kapu laws. He once pardoned a humble laborer of the land who had inadvertently crossed his shadow, an offense punishable by death, but spared his life.

Puna never trespassed upon his privileges or withheld a courtesy due to his rank. If he made a tour about the island by sea, he always sailed from cape to cape to avoid fisherman who might be compelled to give to his entourage. If by land, he avoided approaching the farms or houses of the common people for the same reason. Although a religious chief, his disposition was understandably warlike. Under Puna's rule, Kaua`i was considered an island of peace seldom needing an army except to repel the occasional raids from other islands.

Puna kept the martial spirit alive with frequent sham fights, marine drills, athletic games and friendly contests of single stick fighting, rough-and-tumble wrestling, boxing, spear throwing or thrusting and pole vaulting. Puna himself sometimes participated in these games. Feasting and dancing usually followed, so Puna's court was known for both the chivalry of its' chiefs and the splendor of its' entertainment.

Puna had only one daughter. Ho`oipoikamalanai-Hinauu (Sweetheart in the Tradewind). Having been trained by poets since childhood, Ho`oipo was intelligent, talented, and graceful. She was the pride and glory of the court. As she grew to a marriageable age, her favor was sought by a number of the aspiring chiefs. But flattered by the contest for her smiles, and aware of her own beauty, she was in no hurry whatever to pick a husband.

This prolonged hesitation on her part irked Puna to no end. To say nothing of the rivalry for her hand in marriage between the ambitious chiefs of the island which was now fast becoming bitter and warlike. Something Puna needed to put an end, and quickly, to restore harmony among his chiefs. Puna deemed it prudent for her to make a choice at once but Ho`oipo simply didn't prefer any of them. Puna was not amused!

One day, it was suggested to Puna that a contest might be the answer. Puna eagerly agreed since it opened a way of selection without making an enemy of all his chiefs but the one chosen. "But what kind of contest?" Puna inquired. Each of the chiefs was noted for his skill in some particular area of accomplishment. Picking the wrong type of contest could prove as disastrous as waiting for Ho`oipo to make up her mind. Unable to decide the matter himself, Puna appealed to the high priest.

After the consultation, the form of the contest was decided. The next day, Puna announced his lei nihopalaoa would be carried to the island of Ka`ula (a very small island of barren rock about 50 miles away) by a servant. Four days thereafter, each of the chiefs would sail for Ka`ula from the same place at the same time. The servant would be ordered to give the palaoa to the first chief who claimed it on the rocks of that island. The one who returned with the palaoa would he the husband of Ho`oipo and heir to Puna's throne while the others were to remain friends. The size of the individual canoes were left up to the contestants, but with no more than four assistants on each canoe and the vessels could be powered by paddle or sail or both.

The contest was admitted to be fair and the rival chiefs declared themselves satisfied with it and began to prepare for the race by securing suitable canoes and skillful, stalwart assistants to crew them while the servant set sail for Ka`ula with Puna's palaoa. It promised to be an exciting contest and all of Kapa`a was on excited tiptoe to witness the start.

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Last Modified: Monday - 19991206.09:11 EST
Copyright 1999 Kawika Sands
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