The Father of the Kingdom

In celebration of Father’s Day, we’re publishing a series of short articles on Hawaii’s greatest men. Today we present Kamehameha I, Father of the Kingdom. This Saturday, June 11 2011, Hawaii recognizes the great king with statewide holiday Kamehameha Day. Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea. A great name for an even greater man.
Paiʻea Kamehameha I was born to high ranking royalty on the island of Hawaii in the mid-1700s. His mother was Kekuʻiapowa and his father was either the high Kona chief, Keōuakupuapāikalaninui, or Maui ruler Kahekilinui’ahumanu. Hawaiian legend stated that a great king would be born strange night skies, and Kamehameha’s birth seemed to solidify the prophecy: he was apparently born when Haley’s comet passed over in 1758. Neighboring chiefs believe this omen and plotted to assassinate the warrior at a young age. They of course failed. Kamehameha grew up to become one of the most ruthless warriors in Hawaii and battled alongside his uncle, Kalaniʻopuʻu. When his uncle died, Kamehameha battle for territorial control after he learned his uncle left him no inheritance. Kamehameha fought battles with traditional weapons like spears and clubs until 1790, when the young ruler incorporated Western firearms and greatly increased his chances of winning battles. He slowly gained control over the islands. His greatest battle took place at Nuuanu Pali against the chief of Maui and Oahu. Kamehameha was victorious, though massive bloodshed was unavoidable as the great warrior drove his enemies to the edge of the Pali cliff, doomed to the depths below. Both warring chiefs used Western weapons—cannons, guns—in addition to traditional arms. After Kamehameha’s victory, the ruler of Kauai relinquished his throne to Kamehameha so to avoid any more lives lost. Kamehameha then founded the Kingdom of Hawaii and ensured Hawaii’s relevancy to the world by creating a national legal system and international trading system. His “Law of the Splintered Paddle” is perhaps the most well-known edict in the Hawaiian Islands. The story goes like this: Kamehameha and his warriors raided a fishing village, terrorizing everyone including men, women and children. But as he was walking, Kamehameha caught he foot and was stuck, unable to free himself. Two men took advantage of his helplessness and struck Kamehameha over the head with a wooden paddle. It nearly killed him, but he survived.
Years later when he reigned king over Hawaii, Kamehameha called upon the same two men. Terrified, the men thought they’d surely be executed. Kamehameha graciously forgave them, gave them parcels of land and sent them off. He knew he was wrong to attack civilians, and from that day on he declared a new law, one which made attacking civilians strictly forbidden by punishment of death. Such a just humanitarian wartime law continues to hold effect in today’s modern world. Kamehameha’s accomplishments are many. In celebration of Father’s Day this June, it’s no question that a man who united the Hawaiian Islands and created a foundation for Hawaii’s future. Here’s to a great man who deserves much more than our respect. Tour Historic Honolulu and witness the famous King Kamehameha the Great statue. Book your reservation today!

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