Battles on the Big Island
Where are the battlefields?
The precise location is not known for almost all of the battles that are mentioned in the old texts. Those that lived near the battles certainly passed that information down through their family lore, but those folks were not the ones to write it down in the few books that are available today. That is probably just as well. The last thing that anyone should be doing is picking through the ancient battlefields for remains.
This does not mean that one cannot come into close contact with the locations and actions and outcomes of those battles. On the contrary, there are ways to experience the dignity, intensity, and complexity of these places that helped to shape the history of this island.
There are many locations along the major roads that circle the island where one can stop and look out over vast landscapes where many battles took place. From these vantage points one can imagine clouds of dust being kicked up by the marching armies closing in on one another. From what you read you can construct your own most likely locations for where the battle took place based on the terrain and shoreline and trees and puʻu. And in some cases it is likely that you are driving right over battlefields without any of us even knowing it.
Many of the battles took place on lands that are currently private property. These should be viewed from afar, and not trespassed upon.
Hiking trails offer a great opportunity to gain a sense of the battle engagement. Most trails are available for all to trek. Armies used these trails, too, to move around the island. Many locals and visitors share their experiences about the famous night marchers, the spirits of warriors from the past that still pursue their duties along the trails. A few of the trails that night marchers are known to frequent can be found at this Hawai’i travel guide site.
City, county, state, and national parks are also very good spots to contemplate combat. The most famous and amazing of them all is the luakini compound of Kamehameha in Kawaihae at Puʻukoholā National Historical Park.
The concrete jungle
Cityscapes currently cover places of some battles. This is particularly true of Hilo, where several major encounters took place.
Everyone has access to the shoreline in Hawaiʻi. Many armies moved to battle in their canoes. Imagine the many warrior canoes lined up along a beach or rocky shoreline near the locations pointed out in the reading.
Luakini heiau are the temples that were designed specifically for warfare. Some of the major luakini heiau have been preserved, restored, and can be visited. These are powerful places were rulers, warriors and gods came together to enhance the authority of all involved. Solemn ceremonies were conducted here, and if you take the time to slow down and peel away the modern world, you, too, may sense the ancient energies in the landscape.
Depictions by Herb Kane provide an aid to the imagination of what transpired so long ago. Herb Kane was a master artist from Hawaiʻi who studied Hawaiian warfare and many other aspects of traditional Hawaiian life. His paintings are detailed, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and available for viewing in the many books that he published during his lifetime, and at the Herb Kane website.
Petroglyphs are scattered throughout the island, and some may depict armed engagement. A great place to start your research into petroglyphs on the island are the two books “Na Kiʻi Pohaku” by P.K. Kwiatkowski, and “Spirit of Place” by G. Lee and E. Stasack. Keep your eyes open everywhere you go, and you may discover some more.
Some of the books that are referenced in this website are available for viewing online at the amazing website called Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library. Those that are have “Ulukau” next to their citation.