KING KAMEHAMEHA and HIS DESCENDANTS (Illustration) American History Biographies Famous People Geography Social Studies World History Legends and Legendary People Film

This image depicts the cliffs of the Ko’olau Range as seen from the Nu’uanu Pali lookout on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The area is a key place in the history of King Kamehameha. Nu’uanu Pali, a traversable section of the Ko’olau mountain rage (connecting the leeward side of Honolulu to the windward side of Kailua and Kane’ohe), was the scene of a deadly battle in 1795. At the end of the fighting, Kamehameha had conquered Oahu, bringing it under his rule. Photo by Howcheng, online via Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0


A great legend was once told about a future Hawaiian ruler.  The day a fiery light - with feathers like a bird - appeared in the sky was the day a great ruler would be born.  It was he who would unite all of the islands and would be known as a “killer of chiefs.”

On the day a child named Pai'ea was born into a noble family, on the island of Hawaii, the fiery light of Halley's Comet - with its feather-like tail - was visible in the Hawaiian skies.  Because of the legend, his parents worried that the current ruler - a man named Alapa'i who was himself a killer of chiefs - might order the death of their son. 

To be safe, they asked another nobleman to care for, and raise, Pai'ea.  Their concerns saved the child's life since Alapa'i had, indeed, ordered the baby's death. 

Five years later, the ruler relented and allowed Pai'ea to be raised by his own parents.  There he was taught the ways of the court, and the ways of war, by his teacher.

Some records tell us that Pai'ea was given a new name, based on his personality.  Other records say the name came about because the child was away from his parents for five years.  However it happened,  Ka mehameha means "solitary," or "lonely," in the Hawaiian language. 

Kamehameha was strong.  According to stories which survive about him, he was able to overturn a massive stone - called the Naha Stone - which reportedly weighed between 2.5 - 3.5 tons.  And ... he was anything but lonely in his drive to unite all of Hawaii's islands.

Born in 1758 (although other records say he was born in November of 1737), Kamehameha lived and ruled at the same time as American colonists were revolting against Great Britain.  Long before Hawaii became part of the United States, Kamehameha had fulfilled the legend - he had united the various islands of Hawaii:

  • Hawaii  - “The Big Island”
  • Kauai - “The Garden Island”
  • Lanai - “The Pineapple Island”
  • Maui - “The Magic Island”
  • Molokai - “The Friendly Island”
  • Niihau - “The Forbidden Island”

As ruler of the newly formed Kingdom of Hawaii - in 1810 - Pai'ea would soon have two additional names:  "Kamehameha I" and "Kamehameha the Great." 

Kamehameha I instituted laws which governed a united Hawaii.  His first law protected civilians during war.  Known as the "Law of the Splintered Paddle," it required that every man, woman and child would be able "to lie down to sleep by the roadside without fear of harm." 

His stance on protecting civilians and non-combatants, during war, remains a model law and is part of Hawaii's state constitution.  After the great King's death, however, his descendant - Kamehameha III - allowed the "Great Mahele" in 1848.  It would lead to disastrous consequences for native Hawaiians.

Following the advice of foreigners, Kamehameha III drastically changed Hawaii's land-use laws.  It was the first step in allowing people with no historical ties to the area to own some of Hawaii's prime real estate.

Kamehameha's great-granddaughter - Princess Bernice Pauahi Paki - left her own mark on Hawaii when she willed her fortune - mostly tied-to Hawaiian land - to benefit Hawaiian children.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Feb 11, 2016

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"KING KAMEHAMEHA and HIS DESCENDANTS" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2011. Feb 27, 2020.
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