Hawaiokinailoa is the hero of an ancient Hawaiian legend about the settling of the
Hawaiian Islands. After having accidentally stumbled upon the islands, he returned to his homeland which he called "Ka okinaāina kai melemele a Kane", "the land of the yellow sea of Kane". He then organized a colonizing expedition that included his family and eight other skilled navigators. They settled on what is now the Island of Hawaiokinai, named in his honor. The legend contains reference to his sons: Kauaokinai, Ookinaahu, and Maui, who settled on the islands that bear their names.
The story of Hawaiokinailoa has received a great deal of attention from modern Hawaiians, as a realistic depiction of the settling of the islands, consonant with current anthropological and historical beliefs. Many people believe it is a validation of the veracity of ancient Hawaiian oral traditions.
It is perhaps from such a motive that the voyaging canoe "Hawaiokinailoa", was named after the legendary navigator. This canoe was built and sailed to prove that Polynesians were bold, intentional navigators, not the hapless voyagers blown off course that some theories of Polynesian migration claimed. The canoe Hawaiokinailoa is now docked at
Honolulu Harbor. It is often sailed on long voyages throughout the Pacific Oceanin hopes of studying voyaging techniques used in antiquity.
However, the story of Hawaiokinailoa is attested only by late sources, such as the antiquarians
Abraham Fornanderand Thomas George Thrum. As they did not give their original Hawaiian sources, but only digests and compilations, we cannot be sure that the tale has not been slanted towards proof of Fornander's now discredited migration theories, or that it has not been elaborated by 19th century Hawaiians eager to stress the validity of their own beliefs.
Hawaiokinailoa is not mentioned in early Hawaiian sources like
David Maloor Samuel M. Kamakau. Malo says that there are many stories of the origin of the Hawaiians, and cites some migration tales, some legends of indigenous origin. He does not mention Hawaiokinailoa. Kamakau says that the first man and woman were Hulihonua and Keakahuilani, and that they were created on Ookinaahu.
* [http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/buildloa.html Polynesian Voyaging Society] website on the building of "Hawaiokinailoa"
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