Hawaiʻiloa is the settler of the island of Hawai'i based on an ancient Hawaiian legend. According to the legend, Hawai'iloa was an expert fisherman and navigator. While out with a crew of men, they accidentally stumbled upon the island of Hawai'i which was named in Hawai'iloa's honor. Hawai'iloa returned to his homeland of Ka ʻāina kai melemele a Kane, "the land of the yellow sea of Kane" in order to bring his family back with him to Hawai'i. He then organized a colonizing expedition with his family and eight other skilled navigators. They settled on what is now the Island of Hawaiʻi, named in his honor.
The story of Hawaiʻiloa has received a great deal of attention from modern Hawaiians, as a realistic depiction of the settling of the islands, consistent with current anthropological and historical beliefs. Many people believe it is a validation of the veracity of ancient Hawaiian oral traditions.
However, the story of Hawaiʻiloa is attested only by late sources, such as the antiquarians Abraham Fornander and 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.
Hawaiʻiloa is not mentioned in early Hawaiian historian sources like David Malo or Samuel Kamakau. Malo says there are many stories about the origin of the Hawaiians and cites some migration tales and some legends of indigenous origin. He does not mention Hawaiʻiloa. Kamakau says that the first man and woman were Hulihonua and Keakahuilani, and that they were created on Oʻahu.
Hawaiʻiloa is also the name of a voyaging canoe. Thought to be named after the legendary navigator, the canoe was built and sailed for international navigation. The canoe Hawaiʻiloa is now docked at Honolulu Harbor. It is often sailed on long voyages throughout the Pacific Ocean in hopes of studying voyaging techniques used in Ancient Hawaii.
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