First recorded in the written word by M. J. Kapihenui in 1861, “He Moolelo o Hiiakaikapoliopele” is an epic of mana wahine, or sacred feminine power or inherent authority. The epic relates the mo‘olelo, or (hi)story, of how the youngest of the volcano goddess Pele’s sisters faced various trials and tribulations in her coming of age as a goddess. This (hi)story and its heroine, Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, have been central to mana wahine–informed political activism in Hawai‘i since the nineteenth century. I first analyze the Hi‘iakaikapoliopele epic for its humor and wonder, which I argue is an aesthetic and coded narrative trope that has been used to assert mana wahine and resistance against American colonialism and colonial ideology. I then examine two contemporary activist translations by Kānaka, focusing on how both works celebrate mana wahine as a strong force of creation and intelligence while also invoking ancestral realities to transform colonial realities. I conclude with a look at recent political and cultural decolonial movements informed and incited by assertions of mana wahine.


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pp. 26-44
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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