NASA aerial view of Hawai’i (2002)

The islands of Hawai’i had a distinctive religious and ruling system, centred around the kapu, or code of conduct. The original rulers were a line of native Hawaiians, with the four islands of Hawai’i, Maui, Kaua’i and O’ahu ruled by their supreme ruler, also known as an ali’i nui, and other chiefs, or ali’i ‘aimoku, ruling other areas. The al’i nui was a gender neutral term, used to describe rulers of any gender. There were several female rulers across the islands in the last millennium, and you can find out more about them below!


Kamakau, Samuel. Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1961

Kamehiro, Stacey L. The Arts of Kingship: Hawaiian Art and National Culture of the Kalakaua Era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009

Kawainui Kane, Herb. Ancient Hawaii. Hawaii: Kawainui Press, 1998

La Croix, Sumner. Hawai’i: Eight Hundred Years of Political and Economic Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019

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