|Portrait of King Kamehameha The Great|
|King of the Hawaiian Islands|
|Reign||July 1782 – May 8, 1819|
|Issue||Liholiho (Kamehameha II)
Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III)
Kīnaʻu (Kaʻahumanu II)
|Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea|
|House||House of Kamehameha|
Kapakai, Kokoiki, Moʻokini Heiau, Kohala, Hawaiʻi Island
|Died||May 8, 1819
(aged 60 or 61)|
Kamakahonu, Kailua-Kona, Kona, Hawaiʻi island
Kamehameha I (Hawaiian pronunciation: [kəmehəˈmɛhə]; c. 1758 – May 8 or 14, 1819), also known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaiʻi's independence under his rule. Kamehameha is remembered for the Kānāwai Māmalahoe, the "Law of the Splintered Paddle", which protects human rights of non-combatants in times of battle. Kamehameha's full Hawaiian name is Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea.
Parentage, birth and concealment
The traditional chant of Ke-aka, wife of Alapaʻi indicates he was born in the month of ikuwā (winter) or around November. A different chant dates to Makaliʻi. Abraham Fornander dates the year of Kamehameha's birth to 1736, but this date has been widely contested by earlier Hawaiian historians such as James Jackson Jarves, eyewitness observations on the age of the king from contemporary sources, and modern historical consensus. Current consensus considers the most probable date of birth as being 1758 and is supported by the stories of a bright star that appeared when he was born, corresponding with Halley's Comet that was visible from earth that year.
Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Keōua were half brothers. Kalaniʻōpuʻu's father, Kalaninuiʻīamamao and Keōua's father, Kalanikeʻeaumoku were both son's of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. They shared a common mother, Kamakaʻīmoku. Both brothers served Alapaʻinui, the ruling King of Hawaiʻi island. Hawaiian genealogy notes that Keōua may not have been Kamehameha's biological father, and that Kahekili II might have been the figure's real father. Regardless, Kamehameha I's decent from Keawe remains intact through his mother, Kekuʻiʻapoiwa II, a granddaughter of Keawe. Keōua acknowledged him as his son and is recognized by official genealogies. Both Keōua and Kamehameha's mother, Chiefess Kekūʻiapoiwa were of the Kohala district on the island of Hawaiʻi.
There are several versions of King Kamehameha I's birth. Hawaiian historian, Samuel Kamakau published an account in the "Nupepa Kuokoa" in 1867 and was widely accepted until 1911. Alapaʻinui, (the Aliʻi Nui or ruling chief of the island of Hawaiʻi) was warned by his kahuna (priest) that the child would be born that would become "the slayer of chiefs". According to custom, he had two houses built that day, one for the child that would be hunted and killed and the other for the kahuna's. Kaha, who was one of Alapaʻi's kahunas and was knowledgeable of the prophecy and the killing, went to Kekuʻiapoiwa and told her to give the child to Naeʻole, who was a famous runner of chiefs (kūkini), and he ran from Kokoiki to Pali Hulaʻana at ʻĀwini, the third valley from Waipiʻo where he was raised by the chiefess Kahaʻōpulani (who by some accounts was the sister of Naeʻole and a cousin of Kekuʻiapoiwa) along with her own mother, Hikuʻikekualono, daughter Kuakāne.
He was known as Paiʻea, which means "hard-shelled crab". One story says the name Paiʻea was given to Kamehameha after he first distinguished himself as a warrior in a battle between Maui and Hawaiʻi island in 1775–1779.:84 Paiʻea is said to have had a dour disposition, and acquired the name he is best known for today: Ka mehameha, from the Hawaiian language for "the lonely one". In February of 1911, the version written by Kamakau and held by Fornander was challenged by the oral family history of the Kaha family as published in a series of newspaper articles appearing in the "Kuokoa". After the Kaha family's published accounts became known, the Stillman family story was published by Kamaka Stillman and verified by others within her family.
Unification of Hawaiʻi
Legend has it that the man who moves the Naha Stone would be the one to unite the islands. Many have tried and failed to get the stone to move from its original spot and those who have tried were of high ranking "naha’’ blood line. Kamehameha was of the nīʻaupiʻo descent and Ululani (high-ranking chiefess of Hilo) believed Kamehameha was not worthy of attempting to move the stone. Kamehameha ignored all negativity and in the end, not only had he moved the stone but legend says the stone had been overturned. Kamehameha went on to unite the islands through a series of hard fought battles.
Raised in the royal court of his uncle Kalaniʻōpuʻu, Kamehameha achieved prominence in 1782, upon Kalaniʻōpuʻu's death. While the kingship was inherited by Kalaniʻōpuʻu's son Kīwalaʻō, Kamehameha was given a prominent religious position, guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kūkāʻilimoku, as well as the district of Waipiʻo valley. There was already hatred between the two cousins, caused when Kamehameha presented a slain aliʻi's body to the gods instead of to Kīwalaʻō. When a group of chiefs from the Kona district offered to back Kamehameha against Kīwalaʻō, he accepted eagerly. The five Kona chiefs supporting Kamehameha were: Keʻeaumoku Pāpaʻiahiahi (Kamehameha's father-in-law), Keaweaheulu Kaluaʻāpana (Kamehameha's uncle), Kekūhaupiʻo (Kamehameha's warrior teacher), Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa (twin uncles of Kamehameha). Kīwalaʻō was soon defeated in the first the first key conflict, the battle of Mokuʻōhai, and Kamehameha took control of the districts of Kohala, Kona, and Hāmākua on the island of Hawaiʻi.
Kamehameha then moved against the district of Puna in 1790 deposing Chief Keawemaʻuhili. Keōua Kūʻahuʻula, exiled to his home in Kaʻū, took advantage of Kamehameha's absence and led an uprising. When Kamehameha returned with his army to put down the rebellion, Keōua fled past the Kīlauea volcano, which erupted and killed nearly a third of his warriors from poisonous gas.
When the Puʻukoholā Heiau was completed in 1791, Kamehameha invited Keōua to meet with him. Keōua may have been dispirited by his recent losses. He may have mutilated himself before landing so as to make himself an imperfect sacrificial victim. As he stepped on shore, one of Kamehameha's chiefs threw a spear at him. By some accounts he dodged it, but was then cut down by musket fire. Caught by surprise, Keōua's bodyguards were killed. With Keōua dead, and his supporters captured or slain, Kamehameha became King of Hawaiʻi island.
Maui and Oʻahu
Kamehameha's dreams included far more than the island of Hawaiʻi; with the counsel of his favorite wife Kaʻahumanu, who became one of Hawaiʻi's most powerful figures, he set about planning to conquer the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. Help came from British and American traders, who sold guns and ammunition to Kamehameha. Two westerners who lived on Hawaiʻi island, Isaac Davis and John Young, became advisers of Kamehameha and trained his troops in the use of firearms.
In 1795, Kamehameha set sail with an armada of 960 war canoes and 10,000 soldiers. He quickly secured the lightly defended islands of Maui and Molokaʻi at the Battle of Kawela. The army moved on the island of Oʻahu, landing his troops at Waiʻalae and Waikīkī. What Kamehameha did not know was that one of his commanders, a high-ranking aliʻi named Kaʻiana, had defected to Kalanikūpule. Kaʻiana assisted in the cutting of notches into the Nuʻuanu Pali mountain ridge; these notches, like those on a castle turret, would serve as gunports for Kalanikūpule's cannon.
In a series of skirmishes, Kamehameha's forces were able to push back Kalanikūpule's men until the latter was cornered on the Pali Lookout. While Kamehameha moved on the Pali, his troops took heavy fire from the cannon. In desperation, he assigned two divisions of his best warriors to climb to the Pali to attack the cannons from behind; they surprised Kalanikūpule's gunners and took control of the weapons. With the loss of their guns, Kalanikūpule's troops fell into disarray and were cornered by Kamehameha's still-organized troops. A fierce battle ensued, with Kamehameha's forces forming an enclosing wall. By using their traditional Hawaiian spears, as well as muskets and cannon, they were able to kill most of Kalanikūpule's forces. Over 400 men were forced off the Pali's cliff, a drop of 1,000 feet. Kaʻiana was killed during the action; Kalanikūpule was captured some time later and sacrificed to Kūkāʻilimoku.
Kamehameha wanted to win the hearts of the people. After the victory at Nuʻuanu, Kamehameha, not only cared for his own warriors but for the warriors of his opposition. He helped replenish the island of Oʻahu by repairing ‘‘kalo’’ patches and planting more sweet potatoes.
King of Hawaii
As king, Kamehameha took several steps to ensure that the islands remained a united realm even after his death. He unified the legal system and he used the products he collected in taxes to promote trade with Europe and the United States. Kamehameha did not allow non-Hawaiians to own land; they would not be able to until the Great Māhele of 1848. This edict ensured the islands' independence even while many of the other islands of the Pacific succumbed to the colonial powers.
The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi that Kamehameha established retained its independence, except for a five-month British occupation in 1843, until it was annexed by the United States in 1898. It was this legacy that earned Kamehameha the epithet "Napoleon of the Pacific" (Napoleona o ka Pākīpika in the Hawaiian language).
Kamehameha also instituted the Māmalahoe Kānāwai, the Law of the Splintered Paddle. Its origins derived from before the unification of the Island of Hawaiʻi, in 1782, when Kamehameha, during a raid, caught his foot in a rock. Two local fishermen, fearful of the great warrior, hit Kamehameha hard on the head with a large paddle, which actually broke the paddle. Kamehameha was stunned and left for dead, allowing the fisherman and his companion to escape. Twelve years later, the same fisherman was brought before Kamehameha for punishment. King Kamehameha instead blamed himself for attacking innocent people, gave the fisherman gifts of land and set them free. He declared the new law, "Let every elderly person, woman, and child lie by the roadside in safety". It has influenced many subsequent humanitarian laws of war.
Young and Davis became advisors to Kamehameha and provided him with advanced weapons that helped in combat. Kamehameha was also a religious king and the holder of the war god Kukaʻ ilimoku. Vancouver noticed that Kamehameha would worship his gods and wooden images in heiau and he wanted to spread the religion in England to Hawaiʻi. The reason missionaries were not sent to Hawaiʻi from Great Britain is because Kamehameha told Vancouver that the gods he worshiped were his gods with ‘‘mana’’ and through these gods, Kamehameha became supreme ruler over all of the islands. Witnessing the devotion Kamehameha had, Vancouver decided not to send missionaries from England.
After about 1812, Kamehameha spent his time at Kamakahonu, a compound he built in Kailua-Kona. It is now the site of King Kamehameha's Beach Hotel, the starting and finishing points of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.
As the custom of the time, he took several wives and had many children, although he would outlive about half of them.
Final resting place
When Kamehameha died May 8 or 14, 1819, his body was hidden by his trusted friends, Hoapili and Hoʻolulu, in the ancient custom called hūnākele (literally, "to hide in secret"). The mana, or power of a person, was considered to be sacred. As per the ancient custom, his body was buried hidden because of his mana. His final resting place remains unknown. At one point in his reign Kamehameha III asked that Hoapili show him where his father's bones were buried, but on the way there Hoapili knew that they were being followed, so he turned around.
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Kamehameha IBorn: ? 1738/1759 Died: May 8 1819
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