Chiefess Kamakahelei statue, by artist Karen Lucas, in front of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

Chiefess Kamakahelei, ruler of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, was known throughout the Hawaiian Islands to possess a dreadful prayer. Supposedly, fire Goddess Pele taught Kamakahelei the feared ‘ane‘ekapuahi. When prayed upon someone, the ‘ane‘ekapuahi was believed to cause that person to burn to death immediately.

Kamakahelei died in 1794. But some believe after two failed attempts by Kamehameha I to invade Kaua‘i — the first, in 1796, thwarted by a storm and the second, in 1804, by a ravaging disease — he feared Kamakahelei’s prayer, even though she had been dead for years.

Kamakahelei’s youngest son, Kaumuali‘i, became King of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. He sealed a peace treaty in 1810 with Kamehameha. Though Kaumuali‘i agreed to rule Kaua‘i as a vassal king to Kamehameha, the treaty ensured peace and avoided war.

Today, Kamakahelei’s legacy of a powerful woman is honored at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi, where her statue greets students, parents, teachers and staff.