Grave site opportunity brings woman’s descendants together

The descendants of a family with ties to the gunner for King Kamehameha I at the battle of Kepaniwai and Kihapi’ilani, one-time king of Maui, will be caring for a family grave site March 30 in West Maui as part of the 21st annual Celebration of the Arts cultural festival at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

All family members of Kale Davis Adams, also known as Sally Adams and by her Hawaiian name, Kaniaulono, are invited to “malama her grave,” a news release about the event said. Attendees of the Celebration of the Arts will be allowed to observe the Hawaiian cultural practice of caring for the kupuna.

Seven generations ago, before the plantation days, the Kapalua land district of Honokahua was under Kaniaulono’s stewardship, the news release said.

She was the daughter of Isaac Davis, King Kamehameha’s gunner at Kepaniwai in the conquest of Maui. Her mother was Nakai Nalima’alu’alu, a descendant of Kihapi’ilani, who built the Alaloa road around Maui, also known as the King’s Trail.

Kaniaulono married James Kanehoa Young, Capt. Alexander Adams, Pahaaikaua, Kanekuapu’u, and Kaholokahiki. She had six children: Isaac Adams of Niu; ‘Uwaikikilani Halstead of Maui; Amelia Nakai Davis of Waikoloa, Hawaii island; Mele Kuamo’o of Lahaina; Fanny and James Kanehoa Young Davis of Honokahua.

The Adams family of Oahu descends from Kaniaulono, as does the Davis family of West Hawaii. On Maui, descendants of this “alii wahine” include the Mahoe family of Lahaina, Kaeo and Davis families of Molokai and the Wilcox family of Waihee.

Born in 1797, Kaniaulono died in 1867.

For 150 years, the Davis family grave was preserved by Maui Land & Pineapple Co., set off in a pineapple field by a white rail fence and marked with one papaya tree. The grave itself was reserved from sale by the family in 1894 and remains the property of Davis family descendants.

Clifford Nae’ole, cultural director at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, said Sunday that Kaniaulono is buried at the site above Kapalua, but there may be others there. There is a burial mound, but another flat area nearby could be another burial area, though there is no record of others being laid to rest there, he said.

When the families converge on the site to put up a new fence, to weed and to add native plantings, they will be treating the area as if Kaniaulono and others are buried there, Nae’ole said.

This will not be a traditional family reunion, but it will be a “meaningful,” first-time gathering of members of their lineage. The idea of the gathering at the Celebration of the Arts came from Derrick Ke’eaumoku Adams of the Oahu lineage, who is married to the sister of Nae’ole, the event chairman, said Kama’ema’e Smith, whose book “The Love Remains” chronicles Kaniaulono’s life, on Sunday.

In their informal conversations while working, family members will learn about their heritage and about their genealogy in “the way it was done” for generations of Native Hawaiians. They will learn who they were, then they can learn who they are. The next step will be to plan “who they want to be,” said Nae’ole.

“Present-day Hawaiians are finding out who they are,” he said. “It’s all about tracing and planning.

“It’s been a long time coming” for this family.

Smith’s historical novel revealed Kaniaulono to many of her descendants and the reality of their heritage, the news release said. The cultural editor of the book, Aloha Keko’olani, was a lineal descendant of Kaniaulono and with her brother Dean Pua Keko’olani, traced Kaniaulono’s mother’s line back to Kihapi’ilani and further.

In 2006, Nae’ole and Caroline Belsom, a lawyer and a lineal descendant of Kaniaulono, initiated registration of the grave with the Maui County Burial Council.

The work at the grave site is expected to take three hours. Protocol at the grave begins at 10 a.m. Transportation to and from the Ritz Carlton bell desk will be provided. Attendees of the Celebration of the Arts will be allowed to observe this Hawaiian cultural practice of caring for the kupuna.

Family members who wish to participate or those wishing to observe should call Nae’ole for more information at 665-7084.

The Celebration of the Arts, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 29 and 30, will bring together artisans, educators, cultural practitioners, speakers and entertainers. Those attending, both visitors and residents, may engage in hands-on art, observe demonstrations and cultural panels and watch films, music and dance.

* Lee Imada can be reached at