Hawaiian Warfare

Chronicling the Battles of Ancient Chiefs

The story of warfare in Hawaiʻi is about rebellion and conquest. Although there was one ruler that controlled an entire island at any particular time (known as the ʻai moku), the chiefs that were in charge of the districts that made up the island often had bloodlines that were as distinguished as the island-wide ruler. If the ʻai moku did not perform to expectations there were many ready to contest him or her through violent argumentation. Sometimes the ruler of one island turned their attention to other islands, and fleets of warriors would cross the ocean and try to bring those islands under their control using only the weapons and wits at hand. The climax, although not the ending, of the centuries of rule, rebellion, and conquest was the taking of the islands by the rebel Kamehameha.

This website catalogs the battles and battlefields from the past 1,000 years on the island of Hawaiʻi. Information on ancient island battles can be found in many written references, but those stories are scattered about in literature. I have pulled together many of the tales of ancient warfare from the island of Hawaiʻi and assembled them into a brief chronological narrative that focuses on the role warfare played in the development of the island chiefdom, and ultimately the island-wide kingdom. That condensed account takes up the back side of a poster that shows the location of each battle. The poster-narrative can be ordered from this website.

Explore these webpages for details on particular battles, photographs of some of the battlefields, discussion and information on related topics, and references in literature and on the internet to discover more about ancient Hawaiian warfare.

Date of last update: November 1, 2017