He aliʻi i ka moa.

“The rooster is a chief.”

The rooster sleeps on a high perch. His feathers are used in kālihi, which are the symbols of chiefs. Source: ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, by Mary Kawena Pukui.

This ʻahuʻula was gifted to London’s British Museum in 1780. It is believed to have been gifted to Capt. James Cook in 1778 from Kauaʻi King Kaneoneo, the second husband of Chiefess Kamakahelei. Or perhaps the chiefess herself presented Cook with the ‘ahuʻula, since some historians believe Kaneoneo had left Kauaʻi to O‘ahu in 1777 or even earlier, summoned by his father to help him to defend Oʻahu against Maui Chief Kahekili. Seizing on the opportunity, Kahekili sent his younger brother, Kaʻeokūlani, to Kaua‘i to court Kamakahelei and control the island. The plan worked, and in 1780, the Kaua‘i chiefess gave birth to Kaumualiʻi. Kaʻeokūlani and Kamakahelei also had two daughters; Kapiolani, in 1783, and Kaininoa, in 1785.

The ʻahuʻula shown here has red feathers from ʻiʻiwi, yellow feathers from ʻoʻo (extinct in 1987), and black cock feathers. It has been on the British Museum’s collection since November 1780. After Cook’s death on the Big Island in February 1779, Capt. Charles Clerke took over the expedition. He would die en route to Kamkatcha from the Bering Strait in August, leaving his collection to British botanist and Royal Society President Sir Joseph Banks, who then donated the collection to the museum.


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