5 Facts About Kamehameha The Great

June 10, 2016

Graduating from Kamehameha Schools, I've been fortunate to learn about Kamehameha and what he stood for. Kamehameha Day is a parade that was established on December 22, 1871 by King Kamehameha V in order to honor the memory of King Kamehameha 'The Great' who unified the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. 

5 facts about Kamehameha:

1. Birth: Haley's Comet: Paiea

Traditional mele chants indicate that Kamehameha was born in the winter months of 1758, around November during the year of Halleyʻs comet. 

Hawaiian prophecy stated that a light in the sky would signal the birth of a great chief and warned that the child would one day conquer the islands.

2. Kamehameha: The Lonely One

Originally named Paiʻea, meaning hard-shelled crab, Kamehameha was hidden throughout his adolescence years to prevent assassination. He lived in isolation along the Hāmākua coast of Hawaiʻi and throughout his early years, his uncle Kalaniʻopuʻu trained him as a warrior (koa). He was well trained in the use of the javelin, long and short spear, the shark tooth dagger, and war club. When he finally came out of hiding he was renamed Kamehameha, meaning The Lonely One.

3. Naha Stone

His uncle trained him as a warrior and his legendary strength was demonstrated when he overturned the Naha Stone. Legend stated that whoever had the strength to move the Naha Stone would rule the Hawaiian Islands. The same stone can be seen in Hilo in front of the Hilo Public Library.

4. Splintered Paddle 1797

Kānāwai Māmalahoe, or the Law of the Splintered Paddle, was a law originating with Kamehameha. The law let every non combative, elderly person, woman, and child lie by the roadside in safety and has become a model for human rights law regarding the treatment of civilians and other non-combatants. 

It was created during a battle in Puna, Hawaiʻi, in which Kamehameha encountered several non-combatants on the beach. While chasing them to kill them, Kamehameha's leg became caught in the reef. Two fishermen who had stayed behind to cover the retreat of a man carrying a child hit Kamehameha on the head with a paddle. Instead of finishing Kamehameha off, the fisherman spared his life.

Years later, the same fisherman was brought in front of Kamehameha. Instead of ordering his death, Kamehameha stated the man had only been protecting his land and family, and thus the Law of the Splintered Paddle was declared.

5. "Imua!"

"Imua!" is the famous battle cry from Kamehameha, "Imua e nā pokiʻi a inu I ka wai ʻawaʻawa aʻohe hope e hoʻi mai ai." Translated it means, "Forward my young brothers and drink the bitter waters of battle, there is no turning back."

It became the motto of Kamehameha during the battle of ʻIao on Maui in which Kamehameha's warriors from Hawaiʻi island defeated the Maui warriors at ʻIao valley. The stream became backed up from the sheer number of bodies and as a result, the battle became known as Kaua i Kepaniwai o ʻIao or the Battle at the dammed waters of ʻIao.


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