King of Hawaiiby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The only state to have ever been a royal kingdom, Hawaii, was first united by King Kamehameha I. Although Hawaii is often viewed as a beautiful, peaceful set of islands, much blood had to be shed before they were united. Kamehameha was born anywhere in between 1740 and 1758 on the big island of Hawaii. It is a popular belief that he was born in 1758 when Halley’s comet was visible in Hawaii. However, the actual date and year is unknown. When Kamehameha was an infant, Alapa’i, (the chief of the island) ordered his death because it was prophesied that Kamehameha would be a “killer of chiefs”. Before Kamehameha could be killed he was given to the care of a childless couple to be raised away from the tribe. This is said to be the reason for Kamehameha’s name which means “the lonely one”. When Alapa’i heard that Kamehameha was still alive about five years later, he welcomed him back into the tribe.
After the death of Alapa’i, his son, Keawea’opala, was named his successor. Alapa’i’s great nephew, Kalani’opu’u, challenged the rule of Keawea’opala and was supported by his nephew Kamehameha. After intense fighting Kalani’opu’u emerged as the victor and promoted Kamehameha to be his aide. In 1779 Kamehameha met Captain Cook and was first introduced to British weaponry. A few years later Kamehameha’s uncle died giving Kamehameha the position of guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kuka’ilimoku. However, the kingship was given to Kalani’opu’u’s son Kiwala’o. Soon after, Kamehameha was offered kingship from a group of chiefs in the district of Kona. Of course that did not sit well with his cousin, Kiwala’o, and so a bloody battle ensued. Kamehameha emerged as the victor and soon took control of Kohala, Kona, and Hamakua. In 1790 Kamehameha went on to overthrow Keawema’uhili of the district of Puna. Meanwhile, Keoua, the brother of Kiwala’o, started an uprising in the district of Ka’u, forcing Kamehameha to return and stamp out the uprising. When the army of Keoua rushed out to meet the army of Kamehameha, one third of the army was killed by poisonous gas from a volcano. A year later Kamehameha invited Keoua to a feast where he was murdered on the beach.
Now that Kamehameha had the entire big island of Hawaii under his control, Kamehameha set his eyes on the surrounding islands. He had help from both Englishmen Isaac Davis and John Young in training his soldiers to use firearms. Kamehameha also received many firearms from trading with the English which gave him a huge advantage against the other islands. In 1795 he set sail for Maui with 10,000 soldiers and 1,200 war canoes. It did not take long to defeat the island of Maui. After fierce battling he then captured the island of Oahu. His next target was the island of Kaua’i, but he was forced to return home in 1796 due to his appointed governor stirring up rebellion on the main island. Again in 1803 he attempted to capture the island but disease broke out among his warriors and he himself became ill, once again setting him back. The next several years Kamehameha spent building up his army to attack the island of Kaua’i. However, the chief of the island of Kaua’i saw what a large army Kamehameha was building and came to an agreement with Kamehameha instead. The chief agreed to pay tribute and submit to the rule of Kamehameha and there would be no bloody battles. Finally, in 1810 Kamehameha was king of all the Hawaiian islands.
During his reign as king Kamehameha implemented a unified legal system and used taxes to promote trade with Europe and the United States. He was also a strict enforcer of the kapu system which was a set of Hawaiian religious laws. He also outlawed the practice of human sacrifice, although he himself sacrificed many of the chiefs he conquered. During his last few years he spent his time fishing, building temples, and increasing agricultural production. King Kamehameha died in 1819 and was buried by his friend Hoapili. Where Hoapili buried him is still unknown to this day.
Kamehameha practiced the Hawaiian religion fervently his entire life. The Hawaiian religion is a form of Polynesian mythology containing four major gods; Lono, Ku, Kane, and Kanalou. Like many mythological religions they had a god for the sky, fertility, mother earth, and even the volcanoes. Although he listened to stories about Christianity from Christian missionaries, he never took it seriously. Even though Kamehameha was a pagan and committed a number of atrocious things, that does not mean he wasn’t used by God. Through him the Hawaiian islands were united and would eventually come under the rules of his sons who opened the door for Christianity in Hawaii. In 1820 Christian missionaries arrived and began the work of translating the language into a written form. Eventually the Bible was translated and printed along with other textbooks. After sixteen years of ministry a revival broke out and 96% of the population accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Although many lives were lost due to King Kamehameha I, thousands of lives would eventually be found through his help in uniting Hawaii and through his sons.
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Kamehameha,” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamehameha_I
www.google.com, s.v. “King Kamehameha I,” at http://gohawaii.about.com/cs/hawaiianhistory2/a/kamehameha_I_2.htm
www.google.com, s.v. “Kamehameha,” at http://www.janesoceania.com/hawaii_kamehameha/index.htm
www.google.com, s.v. “King Kamehameha,” at http://www.hometownusa.com/hi/images/Hawaii_Kamehameha.jpg