Posted in Hawaii & South Pacific

Kamehameha The Great

The recorded history of Hawaii begins with the arrival of Captain James Cook on the island of Kauai on January 18, 1778, when the United States was less than 2 years old. Before that, the Hawaiian Islands used the lunar calendar with 12 equal months and a few days left at the end of the year for celebrations. (I like that idea.) Hawaiians did not count their years like the Christians and Muslims did. In Hawaii, before Cook, one year simply turned into another year. Because of this, the dates around King Kamehameha’s birth, being pre-Cook, are guesses as best, more myth and legend, than measurable by modern calendars. So, depending on which legend you follow, King Kamehameha was born sometime between 1735 and 1759. (I like this too, but I don’t think our current Social Security Administration would appreciate it if I stated that I was born sometime between 1959 and 1974.)

Why is this important, and why is there a statue of King Kamehameha in front of the Aliiolani Hale instead of statues of other kings? King Kamehameha the Great was the king that brought all the individual Hawaiian Islands together to create one territory by vanquishing kings of Maui, Lani, Kauai, Hawaii, Molokai, and Oahu. Depending on the birth year you choose, he either did that in his early 20s or when he was 2.

But if you use the earlier the birth date, then when King Kamehameha first met Captain Cook, he would have been in 40s, but Captain Cook called Kamehameha the Great a young man. And it would mean that King Kamehameha died in his 80s instead of his 60s, which friends say is more accurate. Why is this important? It isn’t. And that is the point of these opening paragraphs. If you are going to enjoy the story of King Kamehameha the Great, don’t get bogged down with the dates and the facts. (Note: There was a Kamehameha Nui who was an older man when Kamehameha the Great started his battles. My personal opinion is European historians got the two Kamehas mixed up along the way.)

Story 1: “Kamehameha the Great was a glorious warrior, a constructive and bright administrator, a diplomat who brought warring island tribes together for a long period of peace and plenty. He was a great surfer, swimmer, and warrior. He was an artful dodger of spears and the wrath of females, a prestigious lover of women, and a king who used European and American technology (muskets and cannons) to conquer and bring peace to the Hawaiian Islands.

Comparing him to another leader at the time, Kamehameha the Great, known by some as the Napoleon of the Pacific, stood 6’6’’, compared to Napoleon Bonaparte’s 5’. He weighed twice as much at his thinnest than Bonaparte did at his fattest. He was a natural athlete, linguist, and loved his Hawaiian Islands and their Polynesian ways. Even as an old man, he continued to swim, to surf, to pursue women, and enjoy the beauty of the islands.” And to quote a relative of mine. “King Kamehameha was a genuine Hawaiian badass.”

Cite: The Warrior King: Hawaii’s Kamehameha, the Great by Richard Tregaskis


Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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