The Various Graves Of Kaulii

: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

When the Hawaiians were discovered by Captain Cook, in 1779, they had

not been visited by white men, so far as any native then living could

remember. At all events, they had acquired only a fair assortment

of vices and not many diseases. Human sacrifice and the worship

of phallic emblems and effigies of their gods and dead kings were

common. The king expected everybody to fall prostrate before him

when he appeared and
retend to go to sleep,--to be of as little

account as possible. And the people were pliant and willing under

their restraints. They allowed that the king was absolute master. Yet

they were contented usually and not ill looking; lithe and graceful,

too, and gay, fond of sports and swimming, lovers of music, dancing,

flowers, and color, friendly in disposition, and good-natured. Except

in shedding a few of their beliefs with the taking on of more clothes,

they have not changed greatly. As to cannibalism, white men have

become too numerous and too tough for eating, anyway, and they feel

safe in any native company of Pacific Islanders in these times.

Hawaiians claim that they never were cannibals, and that if they ate

such of Captain Cook as they did not return to his second in command it

was because they were absent-minded or mistook him for pork. They had

ceased to believe him a god, for he had displayed infirmities of temper

and consideration that led to his death. A tradition of theirs may

account for a once general belief in their man-eating propensities. It

dates back to the chieftaincy of Kaulii, in Oahu. The people were

careful in the sepulture of their chiefs, fearing that enemies might

find the remains and commit indignities on the senseless relics,

or that the bones might be used for spear-points and fish-hooks,

such implements having magic power when they were whittled from the

shins of kings. To prevent such a possibility, so soon as the spirit

tenant had gone the wise men took charge of the body and prepared it

for the grave. This they did by first cutting off the flesh, which,

being transitory and corruptible, they said was not worthy to be kept,

so was therefore burned; then cleaning the skeleton, soaking it in

oil, and painting it red with turmeric. This melancholy, if gaudy,

object was tied in a parcel and buried in some cave or cranny where

no foeman would be likely to find it. Sometimes the bodies were sunk

at sea, with rocks tied at the feet, and the hearts of Hawaiian kings

were often flung into the molten lava of Kilauea.

Kaulii was chief in Oahu in the seventeenth century. Most of his

ninety years he had faithfully devoted to killing other chiefs and

the people of other islands, wherefore he knew that many would try to

find his bones and break them. Just before his death he enjoined his

councillors to place his skeleton in some receptacle whence it could

not easily be taken. After his death his head councillor took it into

the mountains and was gone for several days. When he returned he sent

an invitation to every one whom his messengers could reach to share

in a feast in memory of the dead chief. Free lunch was just as great

an incentive in that century as it will be in the next. They came,

those faithful people, afoot and in boats, and camped in thousands

near the kitchen. After the games had been dutifully performed--for

funerals were seasons of cheer in those times--the dinner was served

to the assembly. There were boiled dogs, roots, fruits, fish, sour

beer, and poi.

When the last calabash had been emptied and the company had taken

a long breath, an elder in the party asked the councillor if he had

obeyed his master's command and buried the skeleton where it would

be safe from the vendetta that pursues an enemy to the grave. The

councillor made an embracing gesture above the multitude. "Here,"

he cried, "are the graves of Kaulii. His bones can never be disturbed


The people looked about the grass and under their dishes, and, seeing

nothing, asked to be enlightened. Then the councillor explained that

he had not only cleaned the bones of his dead lord, but had dried and

pounded them to a fine meal, had stirred them into the mass of poi

which these warriors and statesmen had enveloped, so that every man

who had shared in that feast was a grave. And they agreed that he was

a faithful and sagacious servant, and passed a resolution to keep his

memory a bright green for several years after he was dead. They say

that was the only time they ate a man, and they did not know it then.