Women Regiments, Rebel Warriors and Female "Bandits"

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Sometime ago while research the ʻĀlapa regiment of Kahekili II in the Hawaiian newspaper, Kuokoa, I came across oral traditions about moʻolelo about a group of “bandits”. They were called bandits by the ruling aliʻi and by the men of their time. They were originally formed by King Piliwale as a body guard for his daughter and air, Kūkaniloko. Kūkaniloko would become Oʻahuʻs first queen regnant. This group of women were called the Moʻo Alā–translated as black lizard–unit. They were originally boxers hand picked by Piliwale to protect his daughter from her rivals. They served under Queen Kūkaniloko and Queen Kalaimanuia, both of these female monarchs created the infrastructure that made Oʻahu prosperous. These “Moʻo Alā numbered 40, had removed their hair (even on eye brows), and painted themselves in black kukui nut paint and wore garments of shark skin (perhaps as a cape or as something else?) when in parade. Hence the name “black lizards”. These women were present in repelling the invasions of Kauaʻi and Maui to Oʻahu. During the reign of King Kahikapuamanuia, there was a fall out and they were disbanded officially from court. But they did not obey. Instead they became a guerrilla army sacking royal storage houses and giving them to the poor. They conducted psychological warfare by pretending to be ghost marchers while sacking temples that took too much from the commoners. Good priests and chiefs were rewarded with help and protection. They recruited from the commoner women and was adept in the Koʻolau mountains. Corrupt lowland chiefs were done away and the Aha ʻUla (the Ruling Council) of Oʻahu worried. Their ideology was the most dangerous to them for they desired to do away with the aliʻi system and began governing themselves that defied the stratified Hawaiian system. The aliʻi labelled them as Kanaka ʻaeʻa or outcasts. Despite launching raids into the mountains and doing all sorts of nasty things, Kahikapuamanuia failed. Then King Kākuhihewa ascended the Throne. Kākuhihewa was much more brainy than his father. Instead of combating these women, he brought them into his government and into his army. He began to appointment more konohiki (low ranking laiʻi and commoners) to positions of importance. One of the commanders became a kahu to his children. In time, the wāhine of the Black Lizards became part of Kākuhihewaʻs court in Waikīkī. But the fierceness and fighting techniques of these women would inspire later elite Hawaiian armies including the ʻĀlapa regiment.

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