Kamehameha Day was first proclaimed by Kamehameha V as a day to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha I.
I was curious about why June 11 was selected as the day to celebrate King Kamehameha I; I could not see the reason for the date.
Sometimes celebrations are based on the individual’s birthday … It is not clear what year, much less what day Kamehameha was born, so it probably didn’t relate to that. (However, many say the year was 1758.)
Sometimes, the day people died is the memorial/celebratory day … Kamehameha died on May 8, 1819, so it is not related to that.
Maybe the date relates to the day he became the ruler over all the islands … Negotiations between Kamehameha and Kaumuali‘i, in 1810, occurred around April (based on Isaac Davis’ death,) so it probably doesn’t relate to that.
I asked my friend Kepā Maly if he had guidance and he referred me to a translation of SM Kamakau, which states:
“The celebration of Kamehameha Day on June 11, came about in the following way.”
“On December 11, 1871, the birthday of Kamehameha V who was at that time ruling king, a public celebration was held with horse-riding and other sports.”
“It was agreed to make this celebration an annual event, but because of the uncertain weather in December to change the date to June.”
“Kamehameha V died soon after, and the holiday remained as a “Day in Commemoration of Kamehameha I,” (La Ho‘o-mana‘o o Kamehameha I.)”
So, while linked to Kamehameha V’s birth date, it boils down to having a celebration when the weather is better (6-months from King Kamehameha V’s birthday.)
The 1896 legislature declared it a national holiday.
Almost from its first observance this day was celebrated chiefly by horse races in Kapi‘olani Park, but the races eventually gave way to today’s parades of floats and pāʻū riders.
In 1939, Hawaii Revised Statute 8-5 under the Territorial Legislature of Hawai‘i created the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.
In 1978 the legislature renamed this holiday King Kamehameha I Day.
On February 14, 1883, the Kamehameha statue was unveiled at Aliʻiōlani Hale during the coronation ceremonies for King Kalākaua. The customary draping of the Kamehameha Statue with lei dates back to 1901.
Kalanimōkū was a trusted and loyal advisor to Kamehameha I, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III.)
Kalanimōkū was born at Ka‘uiki, Hāna, Maui, around 1768. His father was Kekuamanohā and his mother was Kamakahukilani. Through his father, he was a grandson of Kekaulike, the King Maui. He was a cousin of Kaʻahumanu, Kamehameha’s wife.
In various written documents Kalanimōkū’s name appears with various spelling. Sometimes he is called Kalaimoku, Crymokoo, Craymoku, Craimoku and Krimokoo. In documents personally signed by him, he spelled his name Karaimoku.
Kalanimōkū was made Prime Minister for Kamehameha I and held the same position during the reign of Liholiho and of Kauikeaouli, until his death.
He adopted the name William Pitt, because of his great admiration for the British Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger. He was frequently addressed as Mr. Pitt or Billy Pitt.
He had great natural abilities in both governmental and business affairs. He was well liked and respected by foreigners, who learned from experience to rely on his words.
Captain George Vancouver described Kalanimōkū as someone possessing “vivacity, and sensibility of countenance, modest behavior, evenness of temper, quick conception.”
However, in his earlier years, Kalanimōkū was known for excessive drinking, and according to Kamakau, was the first Hawaiian chief to buy rum. This behavior appears to have stopped after his acceptance of the Christian faith.
In 1819, Kalanimōkū was the first Hawaiian Chief to be baptized a Roman Catholic, aboard the French ship Uranie, in the presence of Kuhina Nui (Premier) Kaʻahumanu and King Kamehameha II. Kalanimōkū had a passion for Christianity and later regularly attended services at Kawaiahaʻo Church.
Kalanimōkū witnessed and participated in some of the significant historic moments in Hawai‘i.
When Kamehameha set out to conquer O‘ahu in 1795, Kalanimōkū commanded a large segment of Kamehameha’s invading army.
In 1816, Kalanimōkū, with a group of warriors, found that the Russians had begun construction of a trading post/fort at the entrance of Honolulu Harbor and were flying the Russian flag. However, when confronted by Kalanimōkū’s warriors, they quickly departed and no hostilities took place.
Realizing the advantage of a fortification at the harbor’s entrance, Kalanimōkū issued a proclamation ordering people throughout the island to assist in the construction of a fort.
As Kamehameha’s health slowly declined, Kalanimōkū’s role increased; as treasurer of the kingdom, he supervised the collection of taxes and oversaw the lucrative sandalwood trade.
Kalanimōkū was one of several chiefs who treated Kamehameha as his illness worsened, and was present when Kamehameha died.
Following the wishes of Kamehameha’s sacred wife, Keōpūolani, Kalanimōkū took charge of matters, deciding who might remain with the body, and dispatching messengers to spread the news to all islands.
For his strong leadership and strength in a time of great turmoil, Keōpūolani declared Kalanimōkū the “iwikuamo‘o” (literally the spine or backbone,) defined as “a near and trusted relative of a chief who attended to his personal needs and possessions and executed private orders.”
Kalanimōkū, following ancient custom, offered himself as a death companion to the great chief he so idolized; he was prevented from carrying out his desire by other chiefs.
In 1819, when Liholiho proclaimed an end to the kapu system and Kekuaokalani and his wife Manono refused to accept the new order and vowed to go to war rather than abandon the ancient system, Kalanimōkū led an army against the revolt of Kekuaokalani in December 1819, in the successful battle of Kuamoʻo.
When the missionaries first anchored at Kawaihae, they invited some of the highest chiefs of the nation; Kalanimōkū was the first person of distinction that came to greet them.
Reportedly, Kalanimōkū developed an immediate and sincere liking for the New England missionaries. Throughout his life, they turned to him for assistance and their requests invariably met with positive results.
He served as regent along with Queen Kaʻahumanu, while Kamehameha II traveled to London in 1823, and to Kamehameha III after Kamehameha II’s death in 1824.
Kalanimōkū died at Kamakahonu (the former home of Kamehameha I) in Kailua Kona, Hawai‘i Island on February 7, 1827. He had only one son, William Pitt Leleiohoku I, who married Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani.
His death was a great loss to the Hawaiian kingdom; he demonstrated loyalty and faithfulness toward Kamehameha I, his cousin Ka‘ahumanu, as well as Liholiho and Kauikeaouli.
For 4½ years, as Director of DLNR, my office was in the Kalanimōkū Building. At the time, I didn’t know of the profound positive impact Kalanimōkū had in Hawaiian history. I am glad I followed-up and learned a little more about him. (There is a lot more to tell about him; some bits have been added to other stories of his time and place.)
The image is Kalanimōkū, drawn by Alphonse Pellion in 1819. In addition, I have added a few more images of Kalanimōkū in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.
Pā‘ao (CA 1300,) from Kahiki (Tahiti,) is reported to have introduced (or significantly expanded) a religious and political code in old Hawai‘i, collectively called the kapu system.
This forbid many things and demanded many more, with many infractions being punishable by death.
Anything connected with the gods and their worship was considered sacred, such as idols, heiau and priests. Because chiefs were believed to be descendants of the gods, many kapu related to chiefs and their personal possessions.
Certain objects were also kapu, and to be avoided, either because they were sacred or because they were defiling. Seasons and places could also be declared kapu.
Certain religious kapu were permanent and unchangeable, relating to customary rites, observances, ceremonies and methods of worship, and to the maintenance of the gods and their priests.
They were familiar and understood by all, having been practiced from childhood. Civil kapu were more capricious, erratic and often temporary, depending on the whims of the chiefs and priests.
The Hawaiian kapu can be grouped into three categories. The first evolved from the basic precepts of the Hawaiian religion and affected all individuals, but were considered by foreign observers to be especially oppressive and burdensome to women.
One of the most fundamental of this type of prohibition forbade men and women from eating together and also prohibited women from eating most of the foods offered as ritual sacrifices to the gods (for example, it was kapu for women to eat pork or bananas.)
A second category of kapu were those relating to the inherited rank of the nobility and were binding on all those equal to or below them in status.
This system, a “sanctioned avoidance” behavior conforming to specific rules and prohibitions, prescribed the type of daily interactions among and between the classes, between the people and their gods, and between the people and nature.
By compelling avoidance between persons of extreme rank difference, it reinforced class divisions by protecting mana (spiritual power) from contamination while at the same time preventing the mana from harming others.
These kapu posed enormous difficulties for the high Ali‘i because it restricted their behavior and activities to some degree. Because these kapu prohibited the highest-ranking chiefs from easily walking around during the day, some of them traveled in disguise to protect the people and themselves from the difficulties presented by this custom.
The third category were edicts issued randomly that were binding on all subjects and included such acts as the placing of kapu on certain preferred surfing, fishing or bathing spots for a chief’s exclusive use.
In addition, the chiefs proclaimed certain kapu seasons as conservation measures to regulate land use and safeguard resources.
These had the same force as other kapu, but pertained to the gathering or catching of scarce foodstuffs, such as particular fruits and species of fish; to water usage; and to farming practices. These kapu were designed to protect resources from overuse.
While the social order defined very strict societal rules, exoneration was possible if one could reach a pu‘uhonua (place of refuge) and be cleansed, as well as cleared by a kahuna (priest).
The pu‘uhonua was especially important in times of war as a refuge for women and children, as well as warriors from the defeated side.
This intricate system that supported Hawai‘i’s social and political structure directed every activity of Hawaiian life, from birth through death, until its overthrow by King Kamehameha II (Liholiho).
Shortly after the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) declared an end to the kapu system. In a dramatic and highly symbolic event, Kamehameha II ate and drank with women, thereby breaking the important eating kapu.
This changed the course of the civilization and ended the kapu system), effectively weakened belief in the power of the gods and the inevitability of divine punishment for those who opposed them.
The end of the kapu system by Liholiho (Kamehameha II) happened before the arrival of the missionaries; it made way for the transformation to Christianity and westernization.
The image represents Liholiho breaking the kapu and eating with women (from Mark Twain ‘Roughing It’)
Kamakahonu Royal Center at Kailua Bay was the residential compound of Kamehameha I from 1813 until his death in 1819.
It had previously been the residence of a high chief, and it was undoubtedly a residential area back into the centuries prior to European contact.
Kamakahonu (which literally means eyes of the turtle) was the location of multiple heiau known collectively as Ahu‘ena, originally said to have been built by either Liloa or his son Umi-a-Liloa during the sixteenth century, was reconstructed and rededicated by Kamehameha I in the early nineteenth century.
John Papa ʻĪʻī, attendant of Kamehameha I, to become a companion and personal attendant to Liholiho (later King Kamehameha II,) described Kamakahonu from on board a ship in 1812, “Kamakahonu was a fine cove, with sand along the edge of the sea and islets of pāhoehoe, making it look like a pond, with a grove of kou trees a little inland and a heap of pāhoehoe in the center of the stretch of sand.”
Kamehameha first moved into the former residence of Keawe a Mahi. He then built another house high on stones on the seaward side of that residence, facing directly upland toward the planting fields of Kuahewa.
Like an observation post, this house afforded a view of the farm lands and was also a good vantage from which to see canoes coming from the south.
The royal residence at Kamakahonu was served by a series of anchialine pools, upwellings of fresh and salt water found on young lava fields. These anchialine pools were used to raise bait fish and shrimp for larger catches.
During Kamehameha’s use of this compound, reportedly 11 house structures were present. These included his sleeping house, houses for his wives, a large men’s house, storehouses and Ahuʻena heiau.
Kamehameha also included a battery of cannon and large stone walls to protect the fortress-like enclosure.
Upon Kamehameha’s death, a mortuary house was built, which held his remains until they were taken and hidden away.
After Liholiho’s departure from Hawaiʻi Island in 1820, the high chief Kuakini, who served as Governor of Hawai’i for many years, resided here until 1837, when he had Huliheʻe built and moved there.
By the late-1800s, Kamakahonu was abandoned and in the early-1900s H. Hackfield & Co. purchased the land, and its successor American Factors used the site as a lumberyard and later for the King Kamehameha Hotel.
Today, three remnant structures are present on the seaward beach of the property (all recreated in the 1970s and recently refurbished) – ‘Ahu’ena heiau, the mortuary house’s platform and an additional structural platform.
These structures are set aside in a covenant agreement between the State’s Historic Preservation Division and the current hotel owners.
Kamakahonu became the backdrop for some of the most significant events in the early nineteenth-century history of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Three momentous events occurred here which established Kamakahonu as one of the most historically significant sites in Hawaiʻi:
- In the early morning hours of May 8, 1819 King Kamehameha I died here.
- A few months after the death of his father, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) broke the ancient kapu system, a highly defined regime of taboos that provided the framework of the traditional Hawaiian socio-economic structure
- The first Christian missionaries from New England were granted permission to come ashore here on April 4, 1820.
The property is now part of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel; none of the original houses or walls remain.
Ahuʻena heiau was reconstructed in the 1970s at 2/3-scale and can be viewed, but not entered.
The small sandy beach provides a protected beach for launching canoes and children swimming. The first Hotel was built here in 1950; it was imploded (boy, that was an exciting day in Kona) and the current one constructed in 1975.
Kamakahonu is one of the featured Points of Interest in the Royal Footsteps Along The Kona Coast Scenic Byway. We prepared the Corridor Management Plan for the Scenic Byway.
The image is a portion of a Kekahuna map (Bishop Museum) noting the Kamakahonu Royal Center. In addition, I have placed other images and maps of Kamakahonu in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.
After the Battle of Nu’uanu, in the summer of 1795, Kamehameha’s chiefs and followers populated Honolulu.
In those days, the area around today’s Honolulu Harbor was not called Honolulu. Instead, each land section had its own name. This area was oftentimes referenced as “Kou.”
In 1804, Kamehameha I first lived at Waikīkī, but then moved near the Pākākā canoe landing in 1809. This area was then referred to as Halehui Palace Complex.
This complex was located at what is today approximately just Ewa of Fort and Queen Streets.
The complex was surrounded on the mauka and Diamond Head sides by a fence, it consisted of many houses, for Kamehameha, Ka‘ahumanu and other chiefesses, and for his Gods and his personal attendants.
Close by were two drilling sites and a “foot racing” and maika field, where the king kept a personal eye on the performances of his warriors and chiefs.
The Hale Mua (men’s eating house) was the largest thatch building. The next largest building was the Hale ‘Aina (women’s eating house). Ka‘ahumanu, and others with her, slept in three small buildings nearby.
Next, along the beach of Kuloloia, was the home of the chiefess Nāmāhana, mother of Ka‘ahumanu; that of Liliha, mother of Keōpūolani, Kamehameha’s sacred wife and mother of Kamehameha’s II and III.
Then came the residence of Kalanimoku, the king’s prime minister – known to the foreigners as “Billy Pitt.”
Other buildings nearby included a storage house, powder magazine, guardhouse, attendant houses, a battery of 16 carriage guns and two extensive stone storehouses for the King’s western goods.
At Kamehameha’s request, O‘ahu governor Kuihelani gave Don Francisco Paula de Marin a waterfront holding of about two acres.
Marin, a Spaniard who arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1793 or 1794 and had become a confidante of Kamehameha, recorded in his journal, “In the end of 1809 and beginning of 1810 I was employed building a stone house for the King” (Honolulu’s first permanent building.)
This was the first stone structure in Honolulu, a town that, by 1810, was “a village of several hundred native dwellings centered around the grass houses of Kamehameha on Pākākā Point near the foot of what is now Fort Street. Of the sixty white residents on O‘ahu, nearly all lived in the village, and many were in the service of the king.”
It is unclear whether Kamehameha himself ever resided in the completed house.
The left section of the map (where Nu‘uanu Stream empties into the harbor) identifies the area known as Kapu‘ukolo; this is “where white men and such dwelt.”
Building in Honolulu, however, continued quickly with Marin and other foreign residents building their own stone houses and buildings during the ensuing decade.
A system of trails led from the village. In the Diamond Head direction, one path led from the homes of Kamehameha, Kalanimoku, Kīnaʻu and others partially across modern Kakaʻako to Kālia (in Waikīkī.).
A second series of trails followed modern South King Street before branching off in Pāwa‘a to Waikīkī, Waialae and areas now generally East Mānoa and Mānoa Roads.
The Ewa bound path passed the homes of Kamehameha, chiefs and Marin, and followed the Diamond Head side of Nu‘uanu Stream before passing into Kapālama and taking the route of the Moanalua Freeway into ‘Aiea.
Honolulu appeared as shown here for only a short while; in the latter part of 1812, Kamehameha and most of his Court, including Liholiho, went to Hawai‘i to the Kamakahonu Royal Center, where he remained until his death in 1819.
The map image (a portion of the Ii-Rockwood map from UH at Mānoa, Hamilton Library) notes the Kamehameha compound and surrounding associated uses that made up the Halehui Palace Complex in the 1810 time frame.
Again, the Pākākā area of this complex was located at what is today approximately just Ewa of Fort and Queen Streets – the reef was filled in and land added to form what is now Aloha Tower and surrounding uses.