‘Aha Hïpu‘u – A hui of the Hawaiian Royal Societies

  • The Royal Order of Kamehameha I
  • The ‘Ahahui Ka‘ahumanu
  • The Hale O Nā Ali‘i O Hawai‘i &
  • The Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors – Māmakakaua

Brief Background on Aha Hipu’u

The story of the ‘aha:  “if you were to look through the jewels of Kalakaua and the monarchs of the late 1800’s, you might be surprised to find, among the rubies, emeralds and other precious jewels, a spool of ‘aha.  One might wonder why the King would have a spool of cordage?  Well that spool was just as precious as any precious gem.  At the birth of an ali’i, a cordage of olona was woven.  Into this cordage, or ‘aha, words were chanted as if the words themselves helped to bind the ‘aha.  As the alii child grew, so too did his ‘aha.  When the ali’i became the custodian of an area or even district, the ‘aha was strung to surround his compound.  Two other pieces of ‘aha were strung across the doorway of the ali’i’s house.  It is said that when an ali’i of higher rank entered the area of the ali’i compound, the ‘aha would mysteriously drop to the ground signifying that a higher ali’i was present.  At the death of the al’I’, the same aha was used to wrap the bleached bones of the sai alii, creating his ka’ai.”  From Jim Bartels.

The term “Aha Hipu’u was adopted from this story.  The word aha also means gathering. Hipu’u refers to the clasp of a necklace, holding it securely, thus Aha Hipu’u means the clasped gathering or the secure cordage.

The historical story of Aha Hipu’u goes back to 400 A.D. Hana Maui when the last migration of our ancestors to this new land was complete.  In the wisdom of a few great Kahuna, there grew a fear that the contemporaries of that period would turn their backs on the true traditions left in their care, thereby forming the first group.  By the time Kalakaua became King, so much of our culture had been lost.

Lot Kapuaiwa, Kamehameha V, tried his best to revive the cultural practices of his people. In 1865, in the spirit of his sister, Victoria Kamamalu who had two years earlier established the Ka’ahumanu Society, Kamehameha V established the Royal Order of Kamehameha I.  Kalakaua’s efforts to save the chants, dances and other facets of our culture eventually led to the opening of the Hale Naua II.

It is said Prince Kuhio in 1902 stood upon the mound before Ali’iolani Hale calling for the assembly of the Hawaiian people.  Some interpreted this as the rebirth of the Hawaiian Royal Societies, The Hawaii Chapter of the Kamehameha Lodge, the Kaahumanu Society reopened and the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors-MAMAKAKAUA was to follow in 1912, and Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii opened in 1918.

There is a document that a “federation” of Hawaiian organizations possibly met on January 28, 1948 viewed to “be of supreme value as a clearing house uniting all Hawaiian organizations which have the same principle and purpose-that of furthering the welfare of the Hawaiian people with important measures and projects..” This was another attempt to assemble an Aha Hipu’u.

We look to 2003 as the year when the current Aha Hipu’u was cemented.  The first ever joint meeting was held in the spirit of unity set forth in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the four Honolulu Royal Society heads met monthly.

The Aha Hipu’u currently includes the leaders of the Societies and their reps:  Hailama Farden of Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii; Arthur Aiu, Alii Ai Moku Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Chuck Tilton, William Souza; Donna Lei Smythe, Pelekikena Ahahui Kaahumanu Chapter I, Edna Cathcart, Wilmalee Kimble & Leilani Kupahu-Marino; Watters Martin, Kim Garner, Kuhina Nui of Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors-Mamakakaua; Kealoha Ballesteros of Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii Po’omaikelani Chapter and Harriet Smith Hale O Na Alii Wahiika’ahu’ula Chapter.  Issues that affect the societies are discussed as well as the sharing of information.   Meetings are still held monthly or more often.  The strength and unity of the Royal Societies continues.