Aliʻi is a word in some Polynesian languages denoting chiefly status in the Hawaiian Islands and the Samoa Islands. A similar word with the same concept is found in other Polynesian societies. In the Cook Islands, an ariki is a high chief and the House of Ariki is a parliamentary house (with very limited power). In New Zealand a Māori ariki held a rank of nobility and the Maori monarch held the title Te Arikinui (Great Chief) similar to Ke Aliʻi Nui in Hawaiian. In Tokelau, the term aliki denotes a chief, on Easter Island a noble was ariki, in Tonga eiki, in the Marquesas Islands aiki and hakaiki, in the Gambier Islands akariki, and in Tahiti the term is ari'i.
In ancient Hawaiian society, aliʻi was a hereditary chiefly or noble rank (social class or caste). The aliʻi class consisted of the high and lesser chiefs of the various realms in the islands. They governed with divine power called mana. The aliʻi were the highest class, ranking above both kahuna (priests) and makaʻāinana (commoners).
Most common translations are "Chief" and "High Chief."
All the aliʻi Hawaiian dynasties of the several islands were interrelated, and apparently forbidden to intermarry with other classes.
Aliʻi were full of mana and could place and remove kapu (curse or taboo) on objects. Aliʻi continued to rule the Hawaiian islands until 1893 when Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by coup and the Constitutional Monarchy, Government, and supporting Aliʻi were deposed from power.
Alii is also a term that means hello in Palauan Language.
- Aliʻi nui were supreme high chiefs of an island and no others were above them (during the Kingdom period this title would come to mean "Governor"). The four largest Hawaiian islands (Hawaiʻi proper, Maui, Kauaʻi, and Oʻahu) were usually ruled each by their own aliʻi nui. Molokaʻi also had a line of island kings, but was later subjected to the superior power of nearby Maui and Oʻahu during the 17th and 18th centuries. Mōʻī was a special title for the highest chief of the island of Maui. Later, the title was used for all kings of the Hawaiian Islands and the Hawaiian monarchs.
- Aliʻi ʻAimoku were subordinate district aliʻi, but controlled their petty fiefs. But these petty fiefs could sometimes encompass one-sixth of an island, since the islands were usually divided into six districts. These feudal lords were aliʻi nui of their district and were styled as "Aliʻi-o-Name of District".
Vaious caste rank of aliʻi
- Aliʻi Piʻo were a rank of chiefs who were products of full blood sibling unions. Famous Piʻo chiefs were the royal twins, Kameeiamoku and Kamanawa.
- Aliʻi Naha were a rank of chiefs who were product of half blood sibling unions, famous Naha chiefs include Keopuolani.
- Aliʻi Wohi were a rank of chiefs who were product of marriage of close relatives other than siblings; one famous Wohi chief being Kamehameha I. These chiefs possessed the kapu wohi, exempting them from kapu moe (prostration taboo).
- Kaukau Aliʻi is a relative term and not a fixed level of aliʻi nobility. The expression is elastic in terms of how it is used. In general, it means a relative who is born from a lesser ranking parent. A kaukau aliʻi son's own children, with a lesser ranking aliʻi mother would descend to a lower rank. Eventually the line descends, leading to makaʻāinana (commoner). Kaukaualiʻi gain rank through marriage with higher-ranking aliʻi. One kaukau aliʻi line descended from Moana Kāne, son of Keakealanikane, became secondary Aliʻi to the Kamhehameha rulers of the kingdom and were responsible for various hana lawelawe (service tasks). Members of this line married into the Kamehamehas including Charles Kanaʻina and Kekūanāoʻa. Some bore Kāhili, royal standards made of feathers, and were attendants of the higher-ranking aliʻi. During the monarchy some of these chiefs were elevated to positions within the primary political bodies of the Hawaiian legislature and the king's Privy Council. Every Hawaiian monarchs after Kamehameha III were the children of Kaukaualiʻi fathers, who married higher ranking wives.:112
Internecine warfare between heirs of rulers was common in ancient Hawaiʻi. Warfare between chiefs was also common.
Commoner or lesser Aliʻi served the higher-ranking Aliʻi, not for pay, but instead, due to their duty to allegiance to the nation.
Higher aliʻi gave lesser aliʻi parcels of land, which those lesser aliʻi would in turn govern. The lesser aliʻi divided the land into plots to be farmed and cultivated by makaʻāinana families. Harvests were returned to the lesser aliʻi, each taking a portion before being sent to the supreme aliʻi.
Both the reigning dynasties of the united Kingdom of Hawaiʻi (1810–1893) were of aliʻi class. As each relative of those dynasties was entitled to the title aliʻi, they have later, posthumously, been popularly labeled (mostly erroneously) princesses and princes, although only a limited number of royal relatives ever received the princely title from the monarch.
- Ruling chiefs of Hawaii
- Ancient Hawaiʻi
- Kingdom of Hawaiʻi
- Alii Nui of Hawaii
- List of Alii Aimoku of Kauai
- List of Alii Aimoku of Oahu
- List of Alii Aimoku of Maui
- List of Alii Aimoku of Molokai
- List of monarchs of Tonga
- List of monarchs of Tahiti
- List of monarchs of Huahine
- List of monarchs of Mangareva
- Māori King Movement
- Kings of Easter Island
- Monarchies in Oceania
- Politics of Samoa
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