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“Noho ʻana ka Wahine” (Pauahi ʻo Kalani) is among the traditional mele we sing on Founder’s Day honoring the December 19 birth date of our Kamehameha Schools founder, Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The mele was written by Pauahi’s hānai sister Liliʻuokalani about a memorable trip they took to Hawaiʻi Island. Enjoy the mele as sung by Hoʻokahua Cultural Specialist Hauʻoli Akaka and his son, ʻElia Akaka KSK’18. It includes two additional verses seldom sung today.

Founder’s Day 2020: The story behind the mele ‘Pauahi ʻo Kalani’

Dec. 8, 2020

  • the Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group

This mo‘olelo is part of Kūkahekahe – Cultural Conversations – featuring personal experiences and insights from faculty and staff about compelling cultural happenings within the KS organization, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and across the larger Pacific and global communities.

In Waimea at the aptly named Mānāhale, home of family friend and rancher John Parker, Princess Pauahi sits and gazes out the window, upon the rolling hillsides and beloved Mauna Kea. The sweet fragrance of maile and hala lei, given in Puna and Panaʻewa by well-wishers and admirers of the royal party, wafts through the house. Cherished friends and family members nanea (relax) away from the bustle of town and the immediacy of their chiefly kuleana (responsibilities). Inspired by the gaiety of their trip to Hawaiʻi Island and great love for her sister, Liliʻu takes up a pen and composes the mele “Noho ana ka Wahine” (Pauahi ʻo Kalani”).

“Pauahi ʻo Kalani” is one of a handful of mele that we sing every year on Founder’s Day to celebrate the December 19 birth date of our founder, Princess Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop,” said Hoʻokahua Cultural Consultant Manu Boyd KSK’80. Written by her hānai sister Liliʻuokalani, this mele commemorates a special trip they took together to Hawaiʻi Island. It also evokes images and deeper meaning to those who sing it.

“I’m imagining ʻono food, tons of poi, roasted meats at the ranch, and the smell and sound of a warm crackling fire. Being surrounded by friends, being treated with the highest level of hospitality, it’s a beautiful feeling,” Boyd said. “Mānāhale, was at the time a well-loved retreat for high-profile guests in the islands. Members of the royal family would go there to get away from Honolulu. In ‘Mānā,’ they could be themselves.”

At most of our Founder’s Day celebrations across the paeʻāina (Hawaiian archipelago), three verses of “Pauahi ʻo Kalani” are sung. However, there are actually two more verses in another version of this mele. Upon further study, it also becomes clear that “Pauahi ʻo Kalani,” like so many of our mele, evolved over time.

Noted composer, historian and educator Kīhei de Silva KSK’67 explores this profound mele and its older versions and verses in a 2006 article posted in the Collections: Mele section of the Kaʻiwakīloumoku website. In this article, he likens “Pauahi ʻo Kalani” to an “iceberg mele.” What we know about this mele is only the tip, and the rest remains in hidden depths.

He writes: “I examined Lili‘u’s HI.M.5:38 manuscript version of ‘Pauahi ‘o Kalani’ in the Bishop Museum Archives. This version contains an extra pair of verses, as well as an unfamiliar chant name for our Princess. My guess is that HI.M.5:38 is the actual 1868 text, and that it was subsequently revised by Lili‘u to reflect Pauahi’s changing role in a changing Hawai‘i… Pauahi ‘o Kalani, in this early form, strikes me as a mele for Pauahi the ali‘i, not for Pauahi the founder.”

At the time the mele was written, Pauahi was widely considered to be the future queen of the kingdom. Liliʻu’s usage of the honorifics “ʻo Kalani” and “laninui” (heavenly chief, most high ruler) coupled with Pauahi’s name and at the end of Pauahi’s name is an acknowledgement of this fact. According to de Silva, Pauahi’s refusal of the throne in 1872 and Lot Kapuāiwa’s (King Kamehameha V’s) death, is a possible point where this mele evolved.

“The original mele commemorates the interconnected relationships of a coherent Hawaiian world. The recast version, our Founder’s Day mele, speaks of a more fragmented world of contrasts and forfeits,” he said.  

Just as the mele evolved within Pauahi and Liliʻu’s lifetimes, it has continued to evolve today. The two verses have gained new meaning in recent years because of the connection Liliʻu evoked between Pauahi and the powerful akua wāhine (goddesses) of Mauna Kea – Poliʻahu, Lilinoe, Waiau and Kahoupokāne.

“At Puʻuhuluhulu on Mauna Kea, I was able to sing all the verses of ‘Pauahi ʻo Kalani’ for the kūpuna,” Boyd said. “And these verses are so out of the ordinary, they asked me to sing it again. There is a relevance or appropriateness of singing them now. It sheds light on the kuanaʻike (perspective) of Liliʻu, Pauahi and Hawaiians in general.”

Perhaps we will one day sing all five verses in all our Founder’s Day celebrations. As our lāhui rises in awareness of aloha ‘āina, words that were written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Liliʻu for Pauahi have new resonance.

Noho ana ka Wahine (Pauahi ʻo Kalani)
Noho ana ka wahine i ke anu o Mānā
The woman dwells in the cold of Mānā
Mahalo i ka nani nohea o ka nahele
Admiring the lovely beauty of the forest


E ola ‘o Kalani e Pauahi Lani Nui
Long live Pauahi the Heavenly One
A kau i ka puaaneane
To extreme old age
E ola ‘o Kalani e Pauahi Lani Nui
Long live Pauahi the Heavenly One
E ola loa nō a kau i ka wēkiu
Live long and be exalted

I walea ka nohona i nā manu kui pua
A relaxing setting where birds string blossoms
Hoʻolauna līlīlehua ʻāwili pua ʻawapuhi
And līlīlehua are entwined with ʻawapuhi

Lilinoe Poliʻahu Waiau Kahoupokane
Lilinoe, Poliʻahu, Waiau, and Kahoupokane,
Nā kūpua kamaʻāina o nei kuahiwi
The resident deities of this mountain

Ua ‘ike i nā paia ‘a‘ala ho‘i o Puna
She has seen the fragrant bowers of Puna
Ua lei i nā maile o Pana‘ewa ho‘i
And has worn the maile of Pana‘ewa

Ho‘i ana nō na‘e ke aloha i nā kini
But her love returns to multitudes
I ke one hānau i ka home i ke kaona
Of her birthplace, the home in the town

Attend our virtual Founder's Day service

For generations, our students, staff, and alumni have honored Ke Ali‘i Pauahi's life and legacy through our Founder's Day service. We invite you to join us for this year's virtual service, led by our haumāna from across our pae ‘āina.

Friday, December 18, 2020
10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Livestream at

Clockwise from left: Pauahi and Liliʻu as young women, c.a. 1859. Photo courtesy of KS Archives. Pauahi, c.a. 1870. Photo Courtesy of Bishop Museum. Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha predating 1880. Photo courtesy of the Hawaiʻi State Archives.

Mānāhale, the Waimea home of Hawaiʻi Island rancher and friend of Pauahi and Liliʻu, John Parker. Pictured in the 1920s. Photo Courtesy of Bishop Museum Archives

A view of a snow-capped Mauna Kea from Hilo. Photo courtesy of KS Archives, n.d.

lili‘uōkalani, pauahi o kalani, hawaii island, bernice pauahi bishop, founder's day

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