The underlying meaning contains a derision for one (not the chant owner) who aspires to something he has no right to- like a person who must get into higher society or perish in the attempt! The person or position sought remains out of reach, like a startled bird, but the seeker hesitates not in his pursuit.

Where the deep valleys lie between Kohala and Hāmākua, there Kākāʻaukī is located. The name Kākā (smite) ʻau (stalk) kī (tī) was derived from the fact that the natives smote ti stalks on the stones and then threw them into the water to test whether sharks were about. If the stalk vanished, there was a shark and so the person took the inland trail to go to the next valley. If the ti stalk did not vanish, then no shark was about. The person then swam around the point, a shorter and quicker way into the valley.

(Excerpt and mele translation provided by Mary Kawena Pukui)

ʻO ʻoe hoʻi kahi e nā huna palai,

Thou too, O fine-leaved fern,

Ka uhai manu a ka māino

Grow where the heartless bird-seekers go,

Aʻohe ke kohu o Hānunanuna.

It does not even reach Hānunanunaʻs standard.

Pūʻiwa ka manu ʻe ʻena i ke kanaka,

The bird is startled and shies away from man,

Aʻohe wahi lihi hopo iki o hopo iho au,

But there is no hesitation, lest I would have hesitated,

ʻO ka moe o ka iʻa o Kākāʻaukī.

Where the shark lies asleep at Kākāʻaukī.

ʻOia, ʻoia nō ʻoiaʻiʻo,

It is so, it is so indeed,

ʻOia paha ē.

Yes, it is so.

E pā wai au e kepa kāua.

Let me drink water and let us bite into food.

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Mele are an invaluable primary resource for Hawaiian scholarship and cultural connection. The Welo Hou: Building Connections to the Roberts Mele Collection project, funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will improve the digitization, indexing, and accessibility of a unique and treasured collection of mele dating from pre-Western contact to the early 1900s. This pilot project will serve as a model for improved access to and increased engagement with the Bishop Museum Library & Archives’ other mele collections.

Welo Hou, or to unfurl once again, aims to provide more opportunities for researchers of all levels of Hawaiian language and cultural fluency to access the Roberts Collection with ease, and honors the connections between Hawaiian voices of the past and our community of the present.


This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services NG-04-17-0218-17