King Kamehameha I in Halawa
The one story that stood out behind closed doors and beyond any other I had heard for years was the actual birth place of King Kamehameha I. A local in North Kohala will tell you he was never born at the Heiau suggested by history books and tourist brochures. He was in fact born in a cave back up in the mountains and its location known only to a handful of elderly local residents and seasoned Kahuna’s.
Another enigma is where young Kamehameha was hidden during his early years to escape a planned death. Local Kahuna’s have indicated that for a time he was hidden along the Halawa Gulch area (Greenbank) and later on he moved the great rock which can still be found at the base of the property along the road. Here is the account we have been able to pest piece together between Hawaiian historians and predominant writings.
King Kamehameha I
It is estimated that Kamehameha the Great was born somewhere between 1748 and 1768 in North Kohala on the island of Hawaii. Hawaiians believe Kamehameha's birth fulfilled the prophecy that foretold of the birth of a male child who would rise to power and become a mighty conqueror and ruler of all the Hawaiian islands.
Alapa'inui, the ruling chief of Hawaii (ali'i nui) was warned by his Kahuna (advisor) about Kamehameha's potential and was advised to kill Kamehameha while he was still an infant. Implicative of the Biblical prophecy of baby Moses, Alapa'inui issued a decree to search and kill all male infants in the hope of destroying this threat to his kingdom.
Fearing for her son's life, Keku'iapoiwa, Kamehameha's mother sent him to live with her cousin Kaha'opulani where Kamehameha grew up in seclusion. Paiea, which means "hard-shelled crab," and Kamehameha, which means "the lonely one," literally defined Kamehameha's isolated childhood experience. For the locals of Kohala its believed he was hidden deep in the Halawa Valley near or on the property known as Greenbank today shown below.
The Jewell of the Big Island
King Kamehameha I
Also known as: Kamehameha the Great,
Pai'ea (hard-shelled crab)
Kamehameha means "The Lonely One"
Born: 1748-1761 (possibly in November or December of 1758)
Died: May 8, 1819
Favorite wife: Ka'ahumanu
King David Kalakaua commissioned a statue of Kamehameha I in 1878. At the time a kahuna (priest) is said to have commented that the statue would only feel at home if it rested in the lands of Kamehameha's birth.
Thomas Gould, an American sculptor living in Italy was commissioned to do a sculpture. He used John Baker, a part Hawaiian and friend of Kalakaua, as his model. Gould was paid $10,000 and his sculpture was sent to Paris for bronzing. It was then put on a ship bound for Hawaii, but the ship sank off the Falkland Islands. It was thought that the statue was lost forever.
With money collected from insurance a new statue was commissioned and that statue arrived in Honolulu in 1883. It stands in front of the Judiciary Building. It is, perhaps, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Honolulu. Twice a year, on May Day and for Kamehameha Day on June 11, it is adorned with leis.
.Nae'ole taught Kamehameha the knowledge and skills needed to become a great leader. Kamehameha memorized genealogical chants telling of how the young chief related to the gods and the names of all his ancestors and their great deeds. Also trained by Kekuhaupi'o, a great warrior, Kamehameha learned the art of war and became very skilled in vigorous sports such as he'e holua (sledding), kupololu (pole vaulting), 'Ulu maika (rolling stone discs), and hakoko (Hawaiian wrestling).
Kamehameha not only excelled in active games but quiet ones as well. It is said that Kamehameha mastered the art of playing konane (Hawaiian checkers). He would play for hours and no one was able to beat him.
Kamehameha became a highly skilled warrior. Captain George Vancouver later wrote that he saw six spears hurled at Kamehameha all at the same time. Kamehameha caught three in one hand as they flew at him. He broke two by hitting them with another spear he carried in his other hand and the last one he dodged.
In 1775 Kamehameha again proved his strength and power by overturning the Naha stone which weighed nearly five thousand pounds. According to prophecy, anyone who turned over the Naha stone would conquer all of the islands. Today the Naha stone rests in front of the Hawaii County Library in Hilo near the site of the ancient heiau Pinao.
By 1791 the entire island of Hawaii was under unified rule by Kamehameha. And by 1810, the last chiefs of the islands of Maui, Oahu, and Kauai relinquished sovereignty to Kamehameha thus creating the Kingdom of Hawaii.
For the rest of Kamehameha's life he ruled in peace with a resolute government, establishing strong ties to Britain as well as fostering the trade and agricultural industry in Hawaii.
For the record there are more versions of King Kamehameha I’s birth and upbringing than we can count on both hands. My experiences in Hawi and Kapa’au over several years of research allowed me the unique opportunity to get close to a few local Kahuna’s who were descendants of Kahuna’s several generations before them.
Hawaiians believe Kamehameha's birth fulfilled the prophecy that foretold of the birth of a male child who would rise to power and become a mighty conqueror and ruler of all the Hawaiian islands.
While growing up Kamehameha was trained to fulfill his prophecy of becoming a great warrior and leader. Trained by his kahu (guardian, attendant, mentor) Nae'ole, Kamehameha learned how to swim when he was only an infant.
After five years Nae'ole returned Kamehameha to his birth parents who resided in Kailua-Kona. Alapa'inui, no longer fearful of the kahuna's warning about Kamehameha, gave him the title of chief. Kamehameha then received the proper training of a future chief
And so it goes that Kamehameha was born in 1758, the year Halley’s Comet made an appearance over Hawaiian skies.
Another legend tells of a kahuna who prophesied that the man who moved the 7,000-pound Naha Stone would become the greatest king of Hawaii. When Kamehameha was 14, the story goes, he moved the massive rock, and then lifted it and turned it completely over.
Other stories have him moving the rock uphill from the beach below all the way up to its current day location to prove his strength.
The Rock is located about two miles South of Kapa'au on the inland side of the road.
When a road crew attempted to move the rock to a different location, the workers managed to get it up onto a wagon, but the rock stubbornly fell off - a sign that it wanted to stay put. Not wanting to upset Kamehameha's mana, the workers left it in place.
other stories have the rock being moved far away one day only to have it mysteriously returned to its original location the following morning.
And if anyone ever got a hold of the bones of someone as powerful as Kamehameha, they would have access and possession of that mana.
In the spring of 1819 Kamehameha became very ill and nothing could be done to heal him. His kahuna advised him to offer a human sacrifice to the gods, but Kamehameha refused, saying that "the men are kapu for he king." Meaning that the men must live to serve under his son Liholiho. Kamehameha's last words are believed to be "E 'oni wale no 'oukou i ku'u pono 'a'ole e pau." "Endless is the good that I have given you to enjoy."
Kamehameha passed away May 8, 1819 at his home in Kailua-Kona. Hawaiians believed that a man's bones carried mana (spiritual power). And if anyone ever got a hold of the bones of someone as powerful as Kamehameha, they would have access and possession of that mana. Therefore, whenever an ali'i (chief) or powerful person died, their bones where entrusted to a friend of the family to be hidden in a place that would never be found. By hiding the bones, the enemy could not steal them and get a hold over the dead's spirit. Kamehameha's long-time friend Hoapili hid Kamehameha's bones, which are still hidden to this day.
In describing Kamehameha the Great, historian Ralph Kuykendall wrote: "He was a man of powerful physique, agile, supple, fearless and skilled in all the warlike and peaceful exercises suitable for an ali'i. He had likewise a strong mind well-filled with the accumulated learning of his race and capable of thinking clearly and effectively. He was an excellent judge of men and had the faculty of inspiring loyalty in his followers. Ruthless in war, he was kind and forgiving when the need for fighting was past. He had foreigners in his service, but they were always his servants, never his masters; his was the better mind and the stronger will."
Today, a bronze statue of Kamehameha stands in front of Ali'iolani Hale in Honolulu, and every year, is draped with long strands of leis, measuring up to thirteen feet in length, for Kamehameha Day. A floral parade is also held in celebration of Kamehameha Day. A duplicate of the Kamehameha statue stands in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. alongside a statue of Father Damien. These two men were selected to represent Hawaii among the greatest heroes of the United States. Kamehameha is the first and only monarch thus far to be honored in this way, truly proving his skill and status as Hawaii's greatest leader.
Within weeks of the arrival of the new statue, the original statue also arrived in Honolulu, having been salvaged and located in a junk yard in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. The English captain that had found it sold it to King Kalakaua. Remembering the prophecy of the old kahuna, the original statue was send to the town of Kapa'au, near Kamehameha's birthplace on the Big Island of Hawaii where it stands today.
A third version of the statue was placed in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. in 1969 where it can be seen today. It retains the original design of Thomas Gould.
Finally, another 14-foot bronze and gold statue was originally supposed to reside in Kauai. It was donated by the Princeville Corporation. Native Hawaiians were not pleased with this location. Kauai was never conquered, but was peacefully turned over to Kamehameha. The statue was offered to Hilo. The statue of the greatest king in Hawaii's history came to Hilo with the help of many individuals and organizations raising funds for the construction of the pedestal. The dedication ceremony represented many of these local groups through ancient ritual, hula, prayer, and offerings. This fourth statue was dedicated on June 10, 1997.
Mau ke aloha, no Hawai`i.