Topic: Indigenous

Hawaiian spear ritual seen for the first time in 200 years

updated By Heeni Brown

For the first time in 200 years a Hawaiian ritual called the "Kāli'i" was performed as more than 50,000 spectators bore witness at the homecoming of traditional voyaging canoe Hokule'a.

The Kāli'i or spear-throwing custom is commonly used to challenge the people of a returning canoe.

The last person known to have been a part of a Kāli'i using eight spears was Kamehameha I.  Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands after years of conflict into one royal kingdom in 1810.

Hokule'a crew member Sam Kapoi says, "We had two spears thrown at the same time, the last time [the person] who did this ceremony with these spears was Kamehameha, and the story with him catching three spears was just amazing."

Kapoi was chosen to take the Kāli'i challenge on behalf of Hokule'a and voyaging communities as part of the homecoming for Hokule'a from her three-year Malama Honua World Voyage.

Kapoi explains the Kāli'i tradition is used to test those who have returned from the realm of the sea god Kanaloa.  The spears are used to test whether the person is still a man or returned a God.

"The spear throwing ceremony is called Ko Kāli'i Lima and was done when a voyaging canoe was back home in Hawai'i - basically to justify that you're a kanaka (man) and not a god."

Sam hopes that traditions like the Kāli'i will be performed more often and are maintained for future generations.

"I would do anything for our people, anything and everything.  Whether it's sailing in the craziest oceans to voyage, to catching spears and putting my life on the line so that we as a people can grow to become a better Lāhui (nation)."