She called attention to the kidnapping of her husband by Cook and his sailors. A group of men from among those attracted to the beach to answer her calls for help, grabbed Cook and stabbed him to death.
Born sometime in the 18th century, Kānekapōlei was a daughter of the High Chief Kauakahiakua of Maui and High Chiefess ʻUmiaemoku of Kaʻū. According to Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau, her father Kauakahiakua owned the sea cucumber (loli) ovens of the district of Kaupo on the island of Maui. Her paternal grandparents were High Chief Lonomakahonua, the second son of King Lonohonuakini and brother of Kaʻulahea II, and Kahāpoʻohiwi. Her mother ʻUmiaemoku, who was also married for a period of time to her nephew King Alapaʻinui, was an offshoot of the powerful ʻI family of Hilo district on her mother Kānekūkaʻailani's side, and a scion of the Mahi family of Kohala on her father Mahiolole's side; both families were formidable rivals to the main royal line on the island of Hawaii, the descendants of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku.
Around 1762 Kānekapōlei became one of the wives of King Kalaniʻōpuʻu of Hawaii. She was not his highest ranking wife, that position was held by Kalola Pupuka-o-Honokawailani, the mother of his heir Kīwalaʻō, but was considered his favorite. With Kalaniʻōpuʻu, she had two known sons, Keōua Kūʻahuʻula and Keōua Peʻeʻale. Their first son would contend with Kamehameha I over the supremacy of the island of Hawaii until his death in 1790 at Kawaihae. Nothing is known about the fate of Keōua Peʻeʻale, although historian John F. G. Stokes argued Keōua Peʻeʻale was merely another name for Pauli Kaʻōleiokū, her son with Kamehameha I.
According to; "The Voyage of George Vancouver, 1791–1795: Volumes I–IV" Vancouver records the following description of Kānekapōlei; "Her Majesty is a very handsome woman, and carries in her looks & Manners a very suitable degree of dignity. Vancouver writes of meeting her again in 1793. Guilt over memories of the ill fated Cook expedition had made Vancouver feel obligated to compensate with gifts as he writes; "I presented her with an assortment of valuables suitable to her former distinguished situation".
Kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu
During Captain Cook's visit to Hawaii on his third voyage of exploration in 1779, he mentioned King Kalaniʻōpuʻu's favorite wife and queen Kānekapōlei. He and his men spelled her name many different ways including "Kanee-Kabareea", "Kanee-cappo-rei", "Kanee Kaberaia", "Kainee Kabareea", and "Kahna-Kubbarah". Cook's second-in-command, Lieutenant James King, recounted her role in preventing the kidnapping of her husband and their two sons:
Things were in this prosperous train, the two boys being already in the pinnace, and the rest of the party having advanced near the water-side, when an elderly woman called Kanee-kabareea, the mother of the boys, and one of the king's favourite wives, came after him, and with many tears, and entreaties, besought him not to go on board.
Hearing her lament, the Hawaiians gathered around the shore of Kealakekua Bay and tried to prevent their king from being taken. Cook's men had to retreat to the beach. As Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head by the villagers and then stabbed to death as he fell on his face in the surf.
According to Abraham Fornander, Keōua Kūʻahuʻula was to blame for the initial breakout of civil war in Hawaii after the death of his father Kalaniʻōpuʻu. He had received no lands due to his uncle Keawemauhili's claim as next in line to Kīwalaʻō. Upset from the lack of any inheritance, he gathered his warriors, retainers and kahu and prepared for full battle, including their mahiole and ʻahu ʻula. They headed towards Ke‘ei where a fight broke out among the warriors and bathers of at the beach. Keōua ends up killing a number of Kamehameha's men.
Kānekapōlei had a son named Pauli Kaʻōleiokū. The figure's paternity has been sourced to both Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Kamehameha I. Historians Abraham Fornander, Sheldon Dibble, and Samuel Kamakau all state Kamehameha I was Pauli's father however, sources earlier than Dibble deny this allegation and claims paternity to Kalaniʻōpuʻu. Further research has brought his paternity into question. Both Konia, his grandmother and Kānekapōlei herself, have flatly denied that Kaʻōleiokū was a son of Kamehameha I. Kaʻōleiokū was raised by his mother. He joined his brother Keōua Kūʻahuʻula's forces in opposition to Kamehameha in 1782 after the Battle of Mokuʻōhai split the island into three warring chiefdoms.
In his book; "Pauahi: the Kamehameha legacy ", George H. Kanahele states that Bernice Pauahi Bishop's mele hānau does not actually mention Kamehameha I. He attributes the suggestion of Kaʻōleiokū being a son of Kamehameha to Joseph Mokuʻōhai Poepoe who calles Pauli; "ke keiki kamahaʻo" ("the love child"). Kanahele also states that Mary Kawena Pūkuʻi described this as part of the training of each warrior, and supposedly Kānekapōlei was chosen for this training. The author points out that the incident that created the doubt was when Keōua Kūʻahuʻula was killed at the consecration of the Puʻukoholā Heiau and Kamehameha announced that Kaʻōleiokū was the child of his beardless youth thus sparing his life. However in his note on that claim, Kanahele refers to Stokes as a counter; "For those who claim that Kamehameha did not father Kaʻōleiokū, the case is advanced by John F. B. Stokes in "Kaoleioku, Paternity and Biographical Sketch,". Her descendants by this son include Ruth Keʻelikōlani and Bernice Pauahi Bishop, founder of the Kamehameha School. Elizabeth Kekaaniauokalani Kalaninuiohilaukapu Pratt claims that Kamehameha I stopped the death by calling Kaʻōleiokū his "keiki", meaning anything from his son to a nephew or even the son of a friend. Pratt states that Kamehameha's authority saved the boy and also brought him into the House of Kamehameha.
Another figure often associated with Kānekapōlei is Kahiwa or Regina Kānekapōlei who was the mother of Kipikane, the wife of John Palmer Parker. Her father was Kamehameha I however, according to Edith McKinzie, her mother was Kauhilanimaka (w).
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