Ka Moʻolelo o Kamehameha I


By Anakala Wayne Hinano Brumaghim

Looking back at Hawaiian politics over six centuries, unrest existed within the ruling families such that there was a need to unify, to conquer, to acquire power, and to divide/make strong. Hawaiʻi Island Chief Kalaunuiohua attempted, but failed, to unite the archipelago in 1270 A.D.

Liloa, a Hawaiʻi Island chief during the 15th century, divided his legacy between his two sons: his eldest son, Hakau, received his kingdom; his youngest son, ʻUmi, received his war god, Kūkāʻilimoku. ʻUmi later killed Hakau becoming sole heir following the first division of power in Hawaiian history.

In 1782, Chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu, in a second division of power, divided his legacy between his son and nephew. He left his kingdom to his son, Kalanikauikeaouli-Kīwalaʻō, and his war god to his nephew, Kamehameha. Later that same year, Kamehameha killed Kīwalaʻō at the Battle of Mokuʻōhai and became the sole heir.

Kapoukahi, a kahuna from Kauaʻi, advised Kamehameha to build Puʻukoholā Heiau at Kawaihae to confirm his mana to unite the archipelago. In 1792, after inviting his adversary Keōua Kūʻahuʻula to Kawaihae under false pretenses, Kamehameha killed him as he entered the harbor at Kawaihae and offered him as a sacrifice to sanctify the newly built heiau.

Kamehameha subsequently defeated Oʻahu Chief Kalanikupule at the Battle of Nuʻuanu (1795) and Hawaiʻi Island Chief Namakeha at the Battle of Kaipalaoa (1797). Maui Chief Kahekiliahumanu died of old age in 1794. And in 1810, Chief Kaumualiʻi became the vassal king of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau within the unified Kingdom of Hawaiʻi without a fight.

Kamehameha I was born in 1736 and died on May 8, 1819, at Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi Island. In life, he had 21 wives and in death, he left four widows: Keōpūolani, Kaʻahumanu, Kalakua and Nāmāhāna. He was buried in secrecy in North Kohala, Hawaiʻi Island, by the high chiefs Hoʻolulu (1794-1865) and Hoapili (1776-1840). In 1832, at the passing of Queen Kaʻahumanu, Hoʻolulu and Hoapili buried the queen as a Hawaiian chiefess beside her mōʻī (king), following Christian services at her first burial site in Honolulu.

Before his demise in 1819, Kamehameha I designated Queen Kaʻahumanu to rule beside his son Liholiho as Kuhina Nui (Prime Minister), and thus Hawaiʻi allowed women a “voice” in government a century before the U.S. passed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the same “voice.”

In her book, Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen, Queen Liliʻuokalani noted that “my great-grandfather Keawe-a-Heulu, the founder of the Kamehamehas, and Keoua, father of Kamehameha I, were own cousins.” In retrospect, then, Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last Hawaiian monarch to come from the Kamehameha dynasty, Ka Hale o Kamehameha.