Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kohala and King Kamehameha I

"K" is for Kohala, also known as the "Kohala Mountains," the name of an extinct volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. At its highest elevation, Kohala is 5,480 feet above sea level. It is the oldest of five volcanoes that make up the island.

Ages ago a large landslide on the northeastern flank of the volcano removed a massive portion of the mountain, estimated to be as much as a section 20 kilometers wide. The part of the mountain removed by the landslide collapsed into the ocean at a very high speed and traveled as far as 81 miles across the ocean floor. The large sea cliffs on the northeast flank of the volcano mark the headwall of this landslide. There are two districts named North and South Kohala.

This is a photo of the dry side of the Kohala Mts.
Rick Reece photo (all rights reserved)

This photo was taken from the Ditch trail looking down on the rainy side of the Kohala Mts into the Pololu Valley.

Rick Reece photo (all rights reserved)

Kohala and King Kamehameha I go together. Known as Kamehameha the Great, the first King of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was born in North Kohala, near Hawi. The exact place as well as the exact year of his birth seem to be up for debate. However, Hawaiian legends claimed that a great king would one day unite the islands, and that the sign of his birth would be a comet. Halley's comet was visible from Hawaiʻi in 1758 and it is likely Kamehameha was born shortly after its appearance.

When the child was born, Alapaʻi the reigning chieftain, ordered him to be killed. One of his priests (kahuna) had warned him that a fiery light in the sky would signal the birth of a "killer of chiefs." Alapaʻi, nervous at the thought of this child eventually usurping his rule, decided to take no chances. Kamehameha's parents, however, had anticipated this. As soon as he was born, he was given into the care of Naeʻole, another noble from Kohala, and disappeared from sight. He was welcomed back by Alapa'i when he was 5 years old.

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. According to native belief, such a feat indicated superhuman strength and foreshadowed the inevitable conquest of all of Hawai'i.

As Kamehameha I rose to power, he first conquered the various districts of the Big Island, uniting them as one. Then with the aid of a massive army and naval fleet, he conquered the other islands one by one, the final chief submitting to Kamahameha through peaceful negotiations rather than war. Kamehameha I formally established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. Then by developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaiʻi's independence under his rule. Kamehameha is remembered for the "Law of the Splintered Paddle," which protects human rights of non-combatants in times of battle.

The Hawaiian kingdom enjoyed a period of peace during Kamehameha's reign. The king unified the legal system and used taxes to promote trade with the Americans and Europeans. He enacted laws, specifically one that prohibited any non-native Hawaiians from land ownership, that preserved the independence of Hawaii long after his death. He also did away with the practice of human sacrifice, although he continued to follow the religious practices of his predecessors.

All the sources I researched mentioned that King Kamehameha's final resting place is a mystery. However, some of the people who helped us search for our son confirmed the rumor we had heard that the tombs of the kings of Hawaii are located somewhere in the rough terrain of the Kohala Mountains where our son also found his final resting place.

It was 6 months after the death of Kamehameha the Great, that the bondage of the kapu (taboo) system was broken. Details of this can be found in Daniel Kikawa's book, Perpetuated in Righteousness (p. 153-154). Two wives of Kamehameha the Great along with Kamehameha II openly broke the kapu by eating together. This shocked the Hawaiian people but it sent the unmistakable message that the kapu system was no longer honored by the king and the highest ali'i (ruling class) in the land.

On page 154 of his book Kikawa writes,
"Liholiho (Kamehameha II) sent messengers to all the districts of Hawaii ordering the heiaus desecrated and the images of the gods overthrown. 
"Contrary to popular belief, the missionaries did not force the Hawaiian people to desecrate their heiaus and destroy the images of their gods. The Hawaiian people, following the lead of the ali'i, rose up and broke the bondage of that evil system on their own! The overthrow of the kapu system happened six months before the missionaries arrived! 
"The One True God, whom the Hawaiian people had worshiped before the coming of Pa'ao and the kapu system, was sovereignly preparing his people to return to Him!"
Have you seen pictures of one of the statues of King Kamehameha I or have you seen one of the actual statues? There are several.


  1. You make me feel like I'm there. I can see what I am missing! Thank you so much for your comment about the meatballs! Let me know when you make it how it turns out. I hope your family enjoys the spaghetti and meatballs as much as mine does. Baking them is so easy and they get a nice brown crust. Then when you cook them in the sauce they absorb more wonderful flavor.

  2. Love this bit of history you shared. Fabulous. :)

  3. Aloha, so happy to meet you. I see some of our a-to-z posts dovetail: aloha and heiau. I visited North Kohala several years ago to do some research for a (yet to be written) mystery novel. I stayed at a spa place in Hawi. I visited Mo'okini Heiau and got half way to Kokoiki before spotting a dog under a trailer and walking back to my car! Close enough.

  4. Sandy, thanks for your comments. I'll try to remember to let you know when I make the guarantees. I've been known to forget things more than once!

    M.Pax, thanks for your visit and comment.

    Gail, yes, I can imagine it was close enough, especially if you were alone. Going over to visit your blog right now.

  5. Yes, hubby and I have seen the statue on the Big Island. This is a beautiful blog and a lovely post. So glad I stopped by from the a-z challenge.

  6. Oh, fun history (and legend) here! I love Hawaii, but I guess know very little about it prior to the US acquiring it.

  7. I've been to Hawaii and I've seen the statues. Interesting history there.

  8. Hi, Sharon!

    I just ordered your book. We realized after we left conference that we didn't purchase one, though we intended to. Looking forward to receiving it.



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