Despite some contact with Europeans, Kamehameha I, after creating a united Kingdom of Hawaii, followed the ancient Hawaiian Religion called the Kapu system. When he died in May 1819, power passed to his wife Queen Kaʻahumanu and Kamehameha I's son Liholiho (Kamehameha II) who abolished the kapu system, leaving Hawaii religionless; Christian missionaries didn't reach Hawaii until the March 30, 1820. However, Kamehameha I's nephew, Kekuaokalani, wanted to keep the kapu system. Kekuaokalani was asked by the Chiefs of the Puna, Hamakua, Ka'u and Hilo Districts to lead their warrior armies in an armed rebellion to protect the traditions still honored by the Aliʻi Chiefs and many of the common people. The original Hawaiian Kahuna Religion had also created the aristocratic prerogatives of the Ruling Class of Hawaiian society, which would also result in a disorganized classless society. The traditionalists marched from Kaʻawaloa at Kealakekua Bay and met the royal army headed by Kalanimoku in an area also known as Lekeleke in December 1819. Both sides in the battle at this site had muskets, but Kalanimoku had a small cannon mounted on a double canoe, cannons mounted on the late King Kamehameha Paiea I's small sailing vessel "Fair American," in addition to 16 cannons of the French Frigate L'Uranie (commanded by French Captain Freycinet) Liholiho had requested off-shore supporting the Royalists, which ultimately turned the tide of battle. Over 300 warriors were killed, including Kekuaokalani and his wife Manono, who were buried under the lava rocks cairns on the battlefield. The rest of the Traditionalist followers of the old religion dispersed to the protection of the four High Chiefs of the Big Island of Hawaii who sponsored the Traditionalist rebellion. They were ultimately pardoned. Within a year, American Christian Protestant Missionaries such as Asa Thurston and Hiram Bingham arrived, and the culture was forever changed. There has not been a battle of that size on the island since.
The battlefield is listed on the Hawaii register of historic places as site 10-37-1745, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 as site 74000714. The name comes from the Ahupuaʻa (traditional land division), point, and bay called Kuamoʻo just to the South where the battle actually took place. It literally means "backbone" in the Hawaiian Language. The burial ground was called Lekeleke, on the border between the Ahupuaʻa of Keauhou and Honalo. Just to the North of this site is the Keauhou hōlua and historic Keauhou Bay. The Battle of Kuamoʻo site was named after the Kahuna Prince son of King Kamehameha Paiea I, the Conqueror, who led the Traditionalist Army: Kai-iwi-kuamoo-kekuaokalani (aka "Kekuaokalani" aka "Kuamoʻo.)
The remains of the fallen on both sides were buried in these terraces of lava rock