KING KAMEHAMEHA THE GREAT: WARRIOR UNIFIER, SURFER, TRADER, SHAPER OF MAUI
(One of 60 short tales of the people who made modern Hawaii and today Maui in the book Voies of Aloha on Magical Maui
POWERFULLY BUILT, SQUARE-JAWED WARRIOR King Kamehameha the Great completed the unification of the Hawaiian Islands. Ten years before, he conquered all of Maui, Lana‘i, and Moloka‘i. Kamehameha’s decisions in the early 1800s shaped Maui as we know it today. MORE..
When locals think of Kamehameha, we think of King Kamehameha III Elementary School named after his son, the famous Kamehameha Schools, Kamehameha Avenue in Kahului, and even the ocial Kamehameha Day state holiday in June.
Few remember that a nuclear submarine was named for this Hawaiian and that his statue is in a place of honor in the US Capitol at the National Statuary Hall.
Kamehameha did not cut down a cherry tree, nor did he wear wooden false teeth, yet he could be considered the George Washington of these islands.
If alive today, the great king would probably lash out at the comparison, since he was a great fan of Great Britain, a country he considered a protector of the islands.
Kamehameha was born of ali‘i (kingly) heritage on the island of Hawaii, unied the islands, was a erce warrior, and had the physique of a tall, muscular NBA player. e fascination is in the detail.
Kamehameha—his name means the one who is set apart—was destined for glory as the son of two high chiefs, including one of Oahu’s most powerful warriors, from the day of his birth.
Some believe the future king was born in 1758 at about the time of Halley’s Comet and that he was the powerful king mentioned in prophecies. The fledgling king already had mega mana derived from two royal parents that each had considerable mana in their own right. Mana was acquired by inheritance or heroics in battle. Battles were often fought to acquire more mana.
According to tradition, Kamehameha got more even more mana when he acquired the hair of the slain Captain Cook, explorer of much of the Pacic Rim. Hawaiians be- lieved Cook also had a lot of mana.
e remains of the man who named these Sandwich Islands were divided up after his death on the beach near Kona. Kamehameha, an admirer of Cook, had visited his ships, even though he had nothing to do with the explorer’s demise. Historical facts complete the story.
Trained to be a erce warrior, Kamehameha fought hisrst battle on Maui at 17 in an unsuccessful eort by a Ha- waiian chief to conquer the island.
Kamehameha returned again and again to Maui’s Iao Val- ley to Lahaina’s shoreline, to the rough volcanic landscape of the island of Hawaii, and to the newly discovered harbor in Honolulu he decided was the ideal place to foster trade. Both epic and trivial, these journeys transformed Hawaii.
In 1783, the man who was to become great launched his campaign to unify these islands. Kamehameha had fought his rst battle on Maui at 17 in an unsuccessful eort by a Hawaiian ali‘i (king) to conquer the island.
Later, after moving a 5,000-pound stone called Naha, which legend said could be moved only by a man of destiny, the powerfully built warrior with the erce face set forth on his life’s work of conquest.
To invade Oahu, in a feat of organization, Kamehame- ha assembled 36,000 warriors transported in 800 canoes. Kamehameha organized his units in groups of 400. us, he marshaled 900 sets of troops (36,000) and two groups of canoes (400 each).
Trained warriors led by ali‘i fought to take over land of
both living ali‘i and the recently deceased. warrior. Some 200 years ago, the powerfully built, square-jawed warrior com- pleted the unication of the Hawaiian Islands after conquer- ing Oahu, Maui, Lana‘i, and Moloka‘i.
His exploits are richly described in dozens of books by numerous illustrious historians—Lahaina’s David Malo in- cluded. Kamehameha was born of ali‘i (kingly) lineage on the island of Hawaii. He had the physique of a tall, muscular NBA player.
Some believe the future monarch was born in 1758 at about the time of Halley’s Comet, an event mentioned in prophecies as signaling the birth of a powerful king.
e edgling king already had mega mana (a word mean- ing acquired authority, power, and prestige) derived from two royal parents who each had considerable mana of their own. Mana was acquired by inheritance or heroics in battle. Battles were often fought to acquire more mana.
Tradition says Kamehameha got even more mana when he acquired the hair of the slain Captain Cook, explorer of the Pacic Rim. Hawaiians believed Cook also had a lot of mana.
Kamehameha, an admirer of Captain Cook, had visited his ships, although that had nothing to do with the explorer’s demise.
Kamehameha fought his rst battle on Maui at 17 in an unsuccessful eort by a Hawaiian ali‘i (king) to conquer the island. Later, after moving a 5,000-pound stone called Naha, which legend said could be moved only by a man of destiny, the powerfully built warrior with the fierce face set forth on his life’s work of conquest. Wars were declared by cutting down a coconut tree in another’s territory. Battles were fought according to rituals, traditions, and rules.
A clear picture of what Kamehameha did, and how he did it, emerges by looking at his travels.
1778, Hana: Meets Captain Cook and discovers unique sticks that re bullets. He has the foresight to see their potential in battle.
1783, Island of Hawaii: Starts campaign to unify islands by unsuccessfully attacking Hilo.
1785, Hilo: Hawaii A new attack.
1788, Kauai: Trades land he controls for guns, includ- ing a swivel cannon. Captures sailor John Young, kidnaps Isaac Davis, and then names them military advisors.
1790, Maui: Fights near Huelo and uses cannon for therst time in the Iao Valley. Blood and bodies clog the stream, giving the ght the name “Kepaniwai” (Dam- ming of the Water). Leaves before conquering Maui.
1791, Island of Hawaii: Builds Pu‘ukohola Heiau temple to win support of the gods for his unication eort. Uses swivel gun and cannon to win the battle and conquer the island.
1792–94, Period of peace.
1793, Befriends Captain George Vancouver, who was also acquainted with beautiful, Hana-born Ka‘ahumanu, a surng partner who became the king’s rst and favor- ite wife. Vancouver gives Kamehameha cattle, sheep, and goats. Ka‘ahumanu along the way deserted Kamehame- ha, after he irted with Ka‘ahumanu’s sister. Vancouver is instrumental in bringing the two back together.
1794, Announces that Hawaiian people are subjects of Great Britain and under its protection. Great Britain nev- er agreed, but Vancouver gifts Kamehameha with a sail- ing ship with a Union Jack sail.
1795,Maui and Oahu: Destroys Lahaina and then con- quers Maui, Lana‘i, and Moloka‘i in February. Sails to Oahu and wins Battle of Nu‘uunu on the windward side of Waikiki to control Oahu. Leader of Kauai eludes cap- ture.
1796, Kauai: Invades Kauai for the second time.
1797, Takes a second wife in Keopuolani, who bears him a son, Liholiho, who succeeds Kamehameha as king. Ka‘ahumanu, though childless, would later rule as regent for the young Liholiho and become Hawaii’s rst “fem- inist,” ending the kapu (forbidden) system that banned kane and wahine (men and women) from eating together.
1802, Maui: Fleet lands in Maui to prepare to invade Kauai again. A storm overwhelms warriors and ends ex- pedition.
1803: Honolulu: Sends eet to new harbor and head- quarters there. Kamehameha believed the Oahu harbor is better for loading ships (Lahaina harbor was too shallow to permit docking of sailing ships). Becomes a trader, taking over the lucrative sandalwood trade and sending wood to China in exchange for worldly goods.
1810, Completes unication by acquiring Kauai by agreement with the ali‘i Kaumuali‘i without a ght.
1812–19, Kohala, Island of Hawaii: Returns to birth is- land. Engages in his favorite pastimes of surng, swim- ming, shing, and growing taro. Dies in 1819.
2018, Front Street, Lahaina: Kamehameha images will grace annual parade. Each Kamehameha Day, horseback rid- ers on the former King’s Highway pass within yards of where Kamehameha the Great once surfed, lived, and en- joyed the King’s Taro Patch. Kamehameha, in a sense, was a man before his time. He recognized immediately the merits of western technology (guns, for example, which he rarely used).
He lived in three geographic areas like modern-day corporate types, learned a foreign language (English), and created what would become one of the world’s most pro- gressive monarchies. Add everything up, and no wonder he is called great.