Hawaii's Origin

Hawaii's Origin


Hawaii’s name comes from its legendary discoverer.


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Hawai‘i Loa, or Ke Kowa i Hawai‘i, was one of the four children of Aniani Ka Lani. The other three were Ki, who settled in Tahiti, Kana Loa, who settled the Marquesas, and Laa-Kapu. The ocean was called Kai Holo-o-ka-I‘a (Ocean where the fish run). Only two islands existed and both were discovered and settled by Hawai‘i Loa. The first he named Hawai‘i after himself; the second Maui, after his eldest son. (The other islands were created by volcanoes during and after the time of Hawai‘i Loa.

Hawai‘i Loa and his brothers were born on the east coast of land called Ka ‘Aina kai melemele a Kane (the land of the yellow or handsome sea of Kane). Hawai‘i Loa was a distinguished man and noted for his fishing excursions which would occupy months, sometimes the whole year, during which time he would roam about the ocean in his big canoe (wa‘a), called also an “island” (moku), with his crew and his officers and navigators (poe ho‘okele and kilo-hoku).

One time when they had been at sea for a long time, Makali‘i, the principal navigator said to Hawai‘i Loa, “Let’s steer the canoe in the direction of Iao, the Eastern Star, the discoverer of land [Hoku hikina kiu o na ‘aina]. There is land to the eastward, and here is a red star, hoku ‘ula (Aldebaran), to guide us, and the land is there in the direction of those big stars which resemble a bird.” And the red star, situated in the lap of the goats [a constellation], was called Makali‘i after the navigator. Some other red stars in the circle of the Pleiades were called the Huhui-a-Makali‘i (“Cluster of Makali‘i”).

So they steered straight onward and arrived at the easternmost island of the Hawaiian chain.3 They went ashore and found the land fertile and pleasant, filled with ‘awa, coconut trees, and so on, and Hawai‘i Loa, the chief, gave that land his name. Here they dwelt a long time and when their canoe was filled with vegetable food and fish, they returned to their native country with the intention of returning to Hawai‘i-nei, which they preferred to their own country. They had left their wives and children at home; therefore, they returned to get them. When Hawai‘i Loa and his men arrived at their own country and among their relatives, they were detained a long time before they set out again for Hawai‘i.

At last Hawai‘i Loa sailed again, accompanied by his wife and his children. He settled in Hawai‘i and gave up all thought of ever returning to his native land. He was accompanied on this voyage by a great crowd of men, steersmen, navigators, shipbuilders, and others.


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