Kamehameha I is one of the most important and significant people in the history of Hawaii. He was a warrior, leader, and diplomat who united the independent islands of Hawaii and reigned during the age of European discovery.
The Story of King Kamehameha I
Kamehameha was born to Keku’iapoiwa II, the niece of Alapainu, between 1736 and 1761. Alapainu was a usurper to the throne of Hawai’i (the largest of the Hawaiian islands) but seemed to have been a popular leader.
It is said that Kamehameha’s mother had a craving to eat a shark’s eyeball while she was pregnant and this was deemed to be a sign that the child would grow up to be a chief killer. Alapainu tried to have the child killed, but he was unsuccessful and in later years, he reconciled with his niece and her child.
A Future Ruler of the Hawaiian Islands
Kamehameha was raised in the court of Kalani’opuʻu, his uncle, and it’s here where he began to establish himself as a promising warrior and leader.
He has said to have displayed his power by overturning the Naha Stone (which weighed somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 tons) when he was just 14.
The Naha Stone is a large volcanic rock that originates from Mount Waialeale and is currently located in Hilo. There were several legends surrounding this stone, including the belief that the person who could overturn it would one day rule all of Hawaii, a task that the teenage Kamehameha achieved.
Although the stone is real, the legends are unconfirmed. You’ll also find many similar stories in other cultures, including the Sword in the Stone in Arthurian legend and the Gordian Knot slashed by Alexander the Great.
A Bloody Period in Hawaiian History
Toward the latter quarter of the 18th century, there was a great deal of conflict throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The islands were constantly at war with one another and in 1778, they also witnessed the arrival of Captain James Cook.
Kamehameha proved himself on the battlefield and in 1782, he was given the position of the guardian of Kuka’ilimoku, the Hawaiian God of War. Actual control of the island was given to the king’s son, Kiwala’o.
Kamehameha and Kiwala’o fought over control of the island and after Kiwala’o’s death, Kamehameha turned his attention to other islands. Over the next couple of decades, Kamehameha defeated his enemies and united the Hawaiian islands.
It was a pivotal point in the history of Hawaii and it made King Kamehameha I the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It also meant that the island was unified by the time the Europeans arrived, which placed it in a much stronger position to deal with traders, explorers, and potential invaders.
How Did Kamehameha the Great Die?
Kamehameha died just 9 years after unifying all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. He died of unknown causes, although he could have been anywhere from 58 to 83 at the time of his death, so he may have died of natural causes.
Where Is King Kamehameha Buried?
The final resting place of King Kamehameha I is a secret. It was custom to hide the bodies as a means of protecting their “mana” or “power”. His friends, Hoapili and Ho’olulu, are said to have known where the king was buried, but the truth has been lost to the ages.
Some believe that King Kamehameha I is buried at Kaloko-Honokohau, where other Hawaiian leaders are also buried.
It’s not uncommon for burial places of famous leaders to be hidden. After all, while many would respect those graves, others are just as likely to desecrate them and steal from them, as we have seen with countless Egyptian pharaohs.
We also don’t know where the great Genghis Khan was buried. Legend has it that he was buried in a deep and unmarked pit and that 10,000 horses trampled the area to hide his resting place. The tomb of Alexander the Great is also unknown, and the same is true for the scourge of the Romans, Attila the Hun.
In fact, it’s said that Attila was buried like a Russian doll in three coffins (iron, silver, and gold), and that the people who buried him were killed so as to never give up the secret.
FAQs About King Kamehameha I
The history of Kamehameha the Great is vast and there’s a lot to cover. So, let’s check out some additional FAQs about this great warrior king.
When Was King Kamehameha Born?
The exact birth date of King Kamehameha I has been disputed, with some suggesting 1736 and others 1758 or 1761.
What Was His Name?
Kamehameha I was known as “Paiea”, which translates as something like “hard-shelled crab”. He would be given the name “Kamehameha” in later years and it roughly means “the lonely one”.
What Was King Kamehameha Famous For?
Kamehameha the Great is best known for unifying the Hawaiian Islands. He was a great warrior who led his army to many victories against the warring clans.
He is also known to have implemented some important laws, including one known as the “law of the splintered paddle”, which protects travelers and defenseless people.
Did Kamehameha The Great Have Any Heirs?
Kamehameha I founded the House of Kamehameha, which lasted until 1893.
Liholiho was the king’s firstborn son and was crowned Kamehameha II upon his father’s death. However, he died just 5 years later after contracting measles during a visit to England.
Where is the King Kamehameha Statue?
There have been several statues commissioned to honor King Kamehameha I.
The most famous of these statues is in front of the Aliiolani Hale, the home of the state’s Supreme Court. The is also a statue on the Island of Hawaii in North Kohala and one in Washington D.C.
What Is King Kamehameha Day?
King Kamehameha I Day is a public holiday that takes place every June 11 in the state of Hawaii. It celebrates the life and accomplishments of Kamehameha the Great and was first announced by Kamehameha V in 1871.