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Mo`olelo O Na Ali`i

Roy Alameida

March 2009


In this issue, we continue the mo`olelo of Kamehameha’s advancement to unify the Hawaiian Kingdom under one ruler. His success thus far, included complete control of his own home island, Hawai`i, Maui and Moloka`i. Only O`ahu and Kaua`i stood in his way toward complete unification.

After the death of his cousin, Keōuakūahu`ula, at Pu`ukoholā heiau, Kamehameha was recognized as the ruler of Hawai`i Island. He remained on the island for several years and used the time of peace to rebuild the economy of the island, obtain large amounts of firearms from foreign ships and retained John Young and Isaac Davis as his military advisers and strategists. In addition to the construction of war canoes, Kamehameha also acquired foreign ships to add to his armada.

In 1794, the death of Kahekili of Maui resulted in a civil war between his son Kalanikūpule and Kahekili’s half-brother Kā`eokūlani, Ali`i of Kaua`i. The series of battles was fought on O`ahu with Kalanikūpule prevailing due in part to naval support from his ally, the British naval officer, Captain Brown. Eventually, Kalanikūpule and his warriors killed Brown, but spared part of the crew who would then forcibly sail the ship for Kalanikūpule. Because of his victory against his uncle, Kalanikūpule now had his mind set on fighting with Kamehameha using the few foreign ships he was able to amass under his control.

In the meantime, Kamehameha sent a large fleet of war canoes to seize Maui and Moloka`i. After his victory, Kamehameha then turned towards O`ahu. With an estimated fleet of 1,200 canoes bearing more than 10,000 warriors, Kamehameha arrived on the east side of O`ahu with the canoes landing on the shores from Waikīkī to Wai`alae, situated just east of Diamond Head. There, his warriors faced the O`ahu forces with heavy fire of the cannons and firearms causing the enemy to retreat and move toward the valley opening of Nu`uanu. As the warriors of O`ahu fled up the valley, Young and Davis directed the advancement of the battle from on the shoulders of Kamehameha’s warriors in between shots of cannons so they could keep up with the movement of the retreating enemy. As Kalanikūpule and his warriors reached the head of the valley, they were trapped with the 1,200 foot cliffs of Nu'uani Pali at their backs. The continuous advancing of Kamehameha and his forces literally pushed the O`ahu warriors off the cliffs of Nu`uanu to their deaths. It was the year 1795.

While on O`ahu in preparation for the invasion of Kaua`i, Kamehameha employed British carpenters to build a warship to support his war campaign. While crossing the channel between O`ahu and Kaua`i, Kamehameha and his fleet was forced to return to O`ahu because of a treacherous storm. Another planned invasion of Kaua`i was delayed because of an uprising on Hawai`i Island. After returning to Hawai`i and stopping any further rebellions by the chiefs, Kamehameha spent the next several years rebuilding his armada of peleleu or war canoes and several schooners.

In 1804, he moved the fleet to O`ahu and prepared for another invasion of Kaua`i. But an epidemic swept through the island of O`ahu and killed a large number of his warriors. This forced Kamehameha to postpone any further attempts to invade Kaua`i. Meanwhile, Kaumuali`i, Ali`i of Kaua`i, employed Russians on the island to build a fort near Waimea in anticipation of an impending invasion.

With the stage set for a dramatic confrontation, the British and American traders in the islands were concerned that the impending conflict would disrupt the lucrative sandalwood trade. The American, Captain Barber, managed to convince Kamehameha that he would sail to Kaua`i and bring Kaumuali`i to him to negotiate a peaceful settlement between the two in which Kamehameha would be recognized as the supreme ruler and Kaumuali`i would continue to rule Kaua`i until his death. Kamehameha consented.

After years of bitter wars, Kamehameha now ruled the Hawaiian Kingdom as supreme ruler. With O`ahu as the capital, he governed in a justly fashion. As he took a final tour of his Kingdom in 1812, Kamehameha settled at Kamakahonu in Kailua, Kona where he remained until his death in 1819.

He mo`olelo maika`i kēia, `eā. (This is a good story, isn’t it?).

Ua ‘Ike Anei ‘Oe… (Did you know that…)

  • the first Hawaiian flag was made by Captain Alexander Adams, a British resident of Honolulu.
  • the Russians expressed interest in the Hawaiian Kingdom and built the fort near the mouth of the Waimea River on Kaua̒i.
  • no one to this day know the location of Kamehameha’s burial site as his bones were secretly hidden shortly after his death.

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