Close this search box.

ʻŪniki Hula at Halehaku, Hāmākua Loa, Maui, 1868

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on September 10, 1864.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

This week’s post was contributed by team member, Kilinoe Kimura. With the annual Merrie Monarch Hula competition being just days away, we’d like to honor this season with an article from Ka Nupepa Kuokoa that highlights the commitment to hula of those who came before. At Halehaku, Maui, on August 5, 1868, a hula ʻūniki (graduation) was held. The author of this article, who goes by the initials S. K. K., on the surface seems to be criticizing the hula school and its activities. But what if he is simply spreading the word that there is a hula group on Maui. Is S. K. K. getting free ad space? There are many more letters like this speaking out against hula, but thankfully hula and hula practitioners are resilient.

Image: “Makena Hula ma Halehaku” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, September 10, 1864, p. 3

Much Hula Happening at Halehaku

O Nupepa Kuokoa; Aloha ʻoe:–Mr. Editor of the Kuokoa, please insert these words above, “Much Hula Happening at Halehaku.” At that place mentioned above is where there is a lot of hula, at the house of a person named Kamaikaaloa, that is where hula happens everyday. This is what this person does, should there be new students who join his hula school; he then asks the student, “Do you swear to commit yourself to my hula troupe?” “Yes,” Then he prayed to God in this manner: “Make the sign of the keʻa, in the name of the makuʻu, and the keʻehi, and the kaula waha, and the apoʻōpū,1 ʻAmene.” That is how that mischief-maker went on.

On the 5th of August was the graduation day for this hula group. The way that this goes normally begins with obtaining the pig, baking it in the ground oven until cooked, and perfecting the house with the greenery from the forest. Along with constructing a kuahu (altar) inside the house, this kuahu is decorated with flowers of all kinds. You all may ask, “what is this kuahu for?” That one responds, “It is a place for Laka to dwell.” You are correct, just as my eyes have seen it, I didn’t just hear about it, but I have actually seen it, atop the altar is where Laka sits, because Laka is the goddess of the hula folk, according to them. At the entryway of that house, a number of long pieces of wood were stood up, maile was woven into lei along with other greenery of all sorts, and when the things mentioned above were ready, then all the students were made to sit all together. The house was quiet; there was no talking. At this time, the man [Kamaikaaloa] stood up and prayed to God with a strange prayer, and everyone in the house joined him in prayer.

When the praying was finished, the hula began. While watching the useless activity of these people, most of them were not a bit attractive. There were nine of them in total, and here are each of their names: Hu, Kekila, Kahikina, Kahea, Lino, Kapahi, Kaleiopu, Kaniho and Keakalani. The two of them were young girls perhaps younger than the age of eight. Alas! What a pity for these young girls that were taken by their parents to hula, and lead the two into this foolishness, therefore, these parents who acted foolishly should be arrested. In addition, the Constitution probably does not allow these people here at Halehaku to hula, and probably other places as well. Because this type of hula is the kind done with ʻulīʻulī and if the Constitution allows the dancing of hula with ʻulīʻulī, then it is right for them to imitate these useless deeds, and if the Constitution does not allow this foolishness, then, the police should be vigilant at that place mentioned above, because these people are at it all the time.

With thanks. S. K. K.
Makawao, Maui, Aug. 9, 1864.

1The writer seems to be introducing humour here. Keʻa can either be a cross or a stallion. Then he lists four horse-related items in place of the trinity: makuʻu (horn of a saddle) sounds like makua, keʻehi (stirrup) sounds like keiki, and kaula waha (reins), and apo ʻōpū (girth)

Image: “He Pule Kuahu,” Meles (Henriques-Peabody Collection), HI.M. 77, p. 60. Bishop Museum Archives, QM 222685

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact

Image: Members of Ioane Ukeke’s hula troupe circa 1885, Hawaiʻi. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 49934

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact

Image: Hula dancer circa 1890, Hawaiʻi. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 104347

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

He Pule Kuahu

ʻO Laka mai uka,
ʻO Laka mai kai,
ʻO Laka i ka hoʻoulu lei lāʻī pala
I ke kuahu nei lā, e hoʻi
Hoʻi mai kāua a noho i ke kahua o ka leʻaleʻa
E leʻaleʻa nō kāua ā.

Laka from the upland,
Laka from the lowland,
Laka who is offered a yellowed ti leaf lei
On this altar, return.
Return to this site of pleasure
And let us enjoy ourselves.

Note: Where flowers were unobtainable, or were not appropriate to be offered to the gods, green ti leaves or ti leaves that have just yellowed but not dry was a very appropriate gift.

–Mary Kawena Pukui, HEN Volume 3, p. 836

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Newsletter

Nūhou Mondays

Introducing Nūhou Mondays

Member Spotlight

Paula Pua


Patience Namaka Wiggin