Who was Kamehameha the Great?

King Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu
King Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu

When you’re in Hawaii, you’ll probably see the name Kamehameha (pronounced kuh-may-ha-may-ha) somewhere. Schools, highways, shopping centers, and resorts are named after Kamehameha. You may even see statues of Kamehameha while on your Hawaii vacation. If you are in Hawaii on June 11th, you’ll hear that it is Kamehameha Day. So I wanted you to know the significance of this name.

Who was Kamehameha? He was the first king of Hawaii to unite the Hawaiian islands. He established the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Kamehameha was born on the Big Island of Hawaii somewhere around 1758. Legend has it that he was born when Halley’s comet appeared and people viewed this as a sign of greatness. He became a ruler and began his reign over Kona, Kohala, Hamakua, and Waipio on the Big Island. He later conquered the ali’i (chief) of Puna to become the unified chief of the Big Island of Hawaii. Next he conquered Maui, Oahu, and Molokai. Kauai and Nihau joined the kingdom by negotiation, not by war.

Another point of significance about King Kamehameha is that he established a rule to protect common people from brutal harm by other chiefs. This was actually the first written law of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

You can find statues of King Kamehameha in Hilo and Kapa’au on the Big Island. On Oahu, you’ll find his statue in downtown Honolulu across from the Iolani Palace. On the US Mainland, there is a statue of Kamehameha in Washington D.C. Go Hawaii has some more insight on this Hawaii hero.


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