Portrait of Keakealani’wahine by Brook Kapūkuniahi Parker. Image Credit: Brook Kapūkuniahi Parker.

By Victoria Rasbridge

Born in 1640 to Chief Iwikau-i-kaua of O’ahu and Queen or Moi Kaekamahana of Hawaii, Keakealani’wahine was the 20th sovereign queen of what was also known contemporaneously as The Big Island.

Over the course of her life, the Hawaiian queen was married two, or according to some historians, three times. Firstly, she married her cousin Alii Kanaloa-i-Kaiwilena Kapulehu, 13 years her senior.

However, in 1665 Keakealani’wahine loses both her husband and her mother, inheriting the role of sovereign. In so doing, she also became the only woman, aside from her mother, to rule over The Big Island.

Following this, Queen Keakealani’wahine decided to remarry. This time she married an even closer relation – her half-brother, Chief Kane-i-Kauaiwilani, her father’s son from his second marriage. This incestuous relationship was an example of power-sharing, whereby incestuous relations were established to beget a more sacred ruler for the future.

Over the course of her two marriages, Queen Keakealani’wahine gave birth to four children, two boys and two girls.

Then in 1695, after 25 years of rule and aged 55, Keakealaniwahine died. She was succeeded by her eldest son from her first marriage, Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku, who became the 21st king of Hawaii.

Recommended Reading

Abraham Fornander, An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origins and Migrations, and the ancient history of the Hawaiian people to the times of Kamehameha I, (Hawaii: Tubner & Company, 1880, 1996)

Jocelyn Linnekin, Sacred Queens and Women of Consequence: Rank, Gender, and Colonialism in the Hawaiian Islands (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1990)

John Papa ’I’i, Fragments of Hawaiian History (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2013)

Niel Gunson, “Sacred women chiefs and female ‘headmen’ in Polynesian history,” The Journal Of Pacific History 22.3 (1987): 139-172.

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