The coastline of the ahupuaʻa of Keʻei Nui and Keʻei Iki is a beautiful area with a long white sandy beach with a magnificent view of crystal clear waters. For centuries, it has been home to generations of Hawaiian families who have lived off the land and the ocean. Many of the area’s kupuna (elders) have said that all that they needed to grow and raise a family in Ke’ei was provided by the sea and the land. From the ocean they fished using various styles from spear fishing, pole fishing, and net fishing to gathering opihi (limpets native to Hawaii). The land has provided them with coconuts, ulu (breadfruit), and animals such as chickens and pigs.
Not only has Ke’ei been a paradise for those who live there, and for visitors as well, it also holds great historical significance as the staging ground for the unification of the surrounding islands that would later become known as the islands of Hawaii. Ke’ei was the site of the first significant battle for the warrior chief Kamehameha, the man who would go on to conquer or subdue the nine major islands of the Hawaiian chain to form the first kingdom under his rule.
The battle of Mokuohai took place in 1782, more than two centuries ago. In this first battle, Kamehameha conquered other chiefs of Hawaiʻi island. Hawaiʻi Island’s high chief Kalaniopuʻu had died the previous summer. Upon his death, his family and other chiefs were gathered to discuss what was to happen to his kingdom. His son Kiwalao inherited the kingdom, and the ahupua‘a were divided between the rest of the family and chiefs to help Kiwalao take care of it all. Kamehameha, as the nephew of Kalaniopuʻu, was given a significant religious position and the ahupua’a of Waipiʻo.
Upon Kamehameha’s return home to Kohala, the chiefs who watched over the Kona district, including Kamehameha’s brothers and uncles, told him that they would prefer to support him as king instead of Kiwalao; and he agreed to the contest. Kiwalao’s half-brother Keōua Kuahu`ula was left with no territory and became enraged. He cut down all the sacred coconut trees and killed some of Kamehameha’s men. Their bodies were brought to Kiwalao as a sacrificial offering and were accepted by Kiwalao.
Seeing this as an insult to his honor, Kamehameha gathered his men and the battle was joined. In the aftermath of the battle of Mokuohai, Kiwalao had been killed, and Kamehameha began his journey to become Kamehameha the Great.