There are numerous statues in honour of Kamehameha I. You'll find everything you need to know below (feel free to use the table of contents). But we also want to provide you with background information so that you are prepared with cultural knowledge when you visit these statues.
Throughout history - the poignant life of King Kamehameha
Almost every visitor to Hawaii has heard of King Kamehameha or seen the pompous statue in downtown Honolulu. King Kamehameha led a violent and brutal life, he was one of the great fighters of his time and a diplomatic leader of the Hawaiian Islands. The records of his successful battles and conquests of Big Island, Maui and also Oahu still exist today. He took on many wars and because of these deeds was able to unite all of the islands under the Hawaiian Kingdom and his rule. His deeds, experiences and stories provide fascinating insights into Hawaii's past and take listeners back to days long gone.
The beginning of the history of Hawaii - the birth of King Paiea
King Kamehameha was born under the name Paiea, which means crab with a hard shell. He lived up to this name throughout history. He was born from an early age into one of the former ruling families and the reigning ruler of Kona District was his grandfather.
Even before the birth of the king, it was predicted that he lives a life full of power, danger and adventure. According to historians and mystic priests, Paiea's birth was foretold by looking at the Kokoiki star. The star conveyed that a powerful and great leader would be born, who would rule over all the Hawaiian islands and win all the contested battles.
From the day of his birth, Kamehameha's life was full of dangers and stories of survival because not everyone wanted to see the young king Kamehameha alive. Some of the current rulers were afraid of the prophecy coming true and wanted the child to die. The young king was kidnapped before he was born, cut out of his mother's womb and taken to the mountains of Hawaii. There he was kept hidden from war and domination for years. Some may know King Kamehameha by the name -The Very Lonely One- due to the kidnapping in babyhood.
Old enough to understand what was going on, the Kamehameha returned to his family, was taught all the arts of combat by his uncle and gained tremendous strength. Over the years, he built up his fighting skills and progressed to become a general in the Kalani'opu'u army on Big Island.
This was when Kamehameha first encountered the world-famous James Cook. Cook had just departed from Kahului and he was headed for Maui where he was trading with locals to replenish his supplies. Arriving in Kahului, Cook's ships were greeted by royal double-hulled canoes and their entire crews were invited aboard by Cook. Among the crew members at that time was General Kamehameha. He stayed aboard the ship all night and learned in detail about the technologies and the armour of the Europeans. He was fascinated by the battle strategies and admired the weapons from the western country.
In 1782, Kamehameha's uncle died and, contrary to expectations, did not leave the rule of the Big Island to his son but to Kamehameha. In a very short time, he fought with various districts and island chains, first conquering the island of Maui in 1970. Thanks to Western allies, such as Isaac Davis, Kamehameha possessed weapons that his opponents did not have. When the current ruler of the island of Maui, Kahekilis, was on Oahu to form political alliances, Kamehameha attacked and secured victory over Kahekilis' forces and Maui with the new Western weapons.
The Battle of Oahu and the Unification of Hawaii
Lahaina was named the first capital of Hawaii by Kamehameha and it was the centre of Hawaiian government for over fifty years. Kamehameha gathered all his warriors on the shores of the capital to plan and prepare for the invasion of Oahu.
Four ships with over eight thousand warriors made their way to Oahu. It was stormed and developed into an imposing and formidable battle on the summit of Nuʻuanu Pali. Thousands of Kalanikūpules warriors were pushed down the steep cliffs and the battle went down in history as the Battle of Nuʻuanu. When the current ruler of Oahu, Kalanikūpule, admitted defeat, he took refuge in the surrounding mountains and hid for several months until he was found by warriors. He was sacrificed to the gods and his death was the end of his rule over the kingdom of Maui.
At this point, only Kauai remains to be conquered. But the ruler of the time, Ka'umu'ali'i, proposed a deal to avoid an impending war. Thus, in 1810, Kamehameha was the first king of the entire Hawaiian island kingdom.
The unification of all the Hawaiian islands was an important point in Hawaii's history. Had it not been for Kamehameha, the islands would likely have been torn apart under separate rulers and would never have developed as we know them today.
Life away from battles and war
Throughout his reign, the king lived strictly by the kapu system, despite Western connections and friendships. A Hawaiian prescribed set of rules defines exactly which actions are allowed or forbidden. It referred, for example, to political matters or the religions of the population. Also, the distribution of tasks of the different sexes in the community is strictly defined by the Kapu system.
King Kamehameha is estimated to have had about 30 wives and a total of 35 children by 18 of the wives. He did not father any children with the remaining 12 wives. The holiest of his wives was Keopuolani. The children and grandchildren continued the ruling career of the Kamehameha family for several years after the king's death.
Statues in honor of the King Kamehameha
To ensure that Kamehemeha's deeds and great actions for the Hawaiian Kingdom are not forgotten, four commissioned statues stand in Hawaii and America to honour and celebrate him even after his death.
The most famous of the statues stands in front of the Justice Building in downtown Honolulu. Directly opposite the world-famous Iolani Palace and only a stone's throw away from cafes, restaurants or art galleries. Officially, the statue was requested from Europe and transported to Honolulu by ship. For inexplicable reasons, this ship was lost in the ocean and a second statue was made, which was inaugurated in 1883.
Address: 447 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813
Big Island (Kohala)
Years after the disappearance of the first statue, the ship was mysteriously recovered and the statue was transported to Kohala. Since 1912, it has stood near the birthplace of Kamehameha in Kapaau (not far from Kohala). Thus, the actual original is not on Oahu but on Big Island to admire 🙂
Address: Akoni Pule Hwy / kapauu rd intersection, Kapaau, HI 96755.
The third of the Kamehameha statues can be admired by visitors since 1969 in the National Statuary Hall of the United States of America in Washington DC. There are statues of important historical figures from all states of the USA. In total, there are 50 statues to admire.
Big Island (Hilo)
In Hilo, visitors will find the largest of the Kamehameha statues in Wailoa State Park. Hilo was the site of the king's first seat of government and, since 1997, one of the popular statues.
Address: 774 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720
Celebrations and events in honor of King Kamehameha
Since the earliest events, June 11 has been a Hawaiian holiday and celebratory events are held in honour of Kamehameha. Large celebrations with lavish selections of food and drinks are planned in extensive preparations. On this day, the aloha of Hawaii is lived more than on any other day in Hawaii. Hospitality and exuberant get-togethers are at the top of the agenda.
But festivals, culinary delicacies and drinks are far from the end. Since the earliest records, horse races, sporting events, parades and even festivals are said to have taken place on King Kamehameha's Day. Thus, each of the Hawaiian islands celebrates the holiday in its own way.
The parade on Oahu is the most outlandish and extravagant parade of all. Thousands of residents and even vacationers join the happy crowds and line the streets of Honolulu's downtown. Around 9 a.m., the statue of King Kamehameha is decorated with lei (flower necklaces) and the parade wanders in a happy mood from the statue to Iolani Palace and all the way to the base of Diamond Head in Queen Kapi'olani Park in Waikiki.
There is something special and extravagant about the parade in Lahaina. It is not just any parade, it includes a Pa'u parade. Wahine (women), who are dressed in stunning robes and adorned with flower necklaces, form part of the parade and ride down the spectator-lined streets on the backs of proud horses. Sometimes, the celebrations are combined with a Ho'olaule'a, a Hawaiian music festival, and the city becomes one big celebration over several days.
A beautiful procession along Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului reminds of King Kamehameha. Surrounded by the imposing Maui Mountains and the Iao Valley, this makes a fascinating backdrop for such a special day.