At the time of ‘contact’ (Captain Cook’s arrival (1778,)) the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
“At that time Kahekili was plotting for the downfall of Kahahana and the seizure of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi, and the queen of Kauaʻi was disposed to assist him in these enterprises. The occupation of the Hana district of Maui by the kings of Hawaiʻi had been the cause of many stubborn conflicts between the chivalry of the two islands …”
“… and when Captain Cook first landed on Hawaiʻi he found the king of that island absent on another warlike expedition to Maui, intent upon avenging his defeat of two years before, when his famous brigade of eight hundred nobles was hewn in pieces.” (Kalākaua)
Then, in 1782, Kamehameha started his conquest to rule the Islands. After a struggle of more than ten years, in 1791, Kamehameha succeeded in securing the supreme authority over the island of Hawaiʻi.
After conquering that Island, he moved on to defeat the armies in Maui Nui and concluded his wars on Oʻahu at the Battle of Nuʻuanu in 1795. After failed attempts at conquering Kauaʻi, he negotiated peace with Kaumualiʻi and the Island chain was under his control (1810.)
In getting there, he appointed Keʻeaumoku, Keaweaheulu, Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa (the four Kona Uncles) to be his secret advisors (hoa kuka malu) and counselors (hoaʻahaʻolelo) in ruling the island. They alone were consulted about what would be for the good or the ill of the country. (Kamakau)
Two of the four (Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa) were twins, often referred to as the Royal Twins; they are depicted on the Hawaiian Coat of Arms. The men are “clad in the ancient feather cloak and helmet of the Islands, the one bearing a kahili (Kame‘eiamoku on the right) and the other a spear (Kamanawa on the left) as in the processions of former times.”
Their father was Chief Keawepoepoe and mother was Kanoena (Keawepoepoe’s sister.) Because their parents were high ranking siblings, Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa were known as nīʻaupiʻo, the offspring of a royal brother and sister.
In 1790, American fur trader Simon Metcalf of the ship Eleanora flogged Kameʻeiamoku when he boarded his ship. Metcalf later sailed to Maui and, in retaliation to Hawaiians stealing a skiff, he fired his cannons on the villagers of Olowalu.
Kameʻeiamoku vowed to attack the next American ship to appear; it ended up being the Fair American, captained by Thomas Metcalf, the son of Simon. The lone survivor was Isaac Davis. Later, the Eleanora returned to the Island of Hawaiʻi and John Young went ashore and was abandoned by Simon Metcalf.
Young and Davis would both become military advisors and translators for Kamehameha and fought alongside Kamehameha and his Kona Uncles.
As a reward for Kameʻeiamoku’s service to Kamehameha, certain lands were given to him, including the property that now makes up Punahou School. At Kameʻeiamoku’s death in 1802, the land transferred to his son Ulumāheihei (Hoapili,) who resided there from 1804 to 1811. Hoapili passed the property to his daughter Kuini Liliha. (Ultimately, the gift to Punahou was considered to be a gift from Kaʻahumanu, Kuhina Nui or Queen Regent at that time.)
Kameʻeiamoku’s grandson shared the same name as Kameʻeiamoku’s twin, Kamanawa. The grandson Kamanawa and Kamokuiki were parents of Caesar Kapaʻakea. In 1835, Caesar married the High Chiefess Analeʻa Keohokālole; they had several children.
Most notable were a son, who on February 13, 1874 became King Kalākaua, and a daughter, who on January 29, 1891 became Queen Liliʻuokalani.
Grandson Kamanawa had one other notable claim; he was the first to be charged and hanged under Hawaiʻi’s first modern criminal laws for poisoning his wife in 1840.
Kameʻeiamoku’s twin brother Kamanawa also served Kamehameha well. Late in 1790, Kamehameha sent an emissary to the famous kahuna (priest, soothsayer,) Kapoukahi, to determine how Kamehameha could conquer all of the island of Hawaiʻi.
Kapoukahi prophesized that war would end if Kamehameha constructed a heiau dedicated to the war god Kū at Puʻukoholā. (This was at about the same time that George Washington was serving as the US’s first president (1790.))
With Puʻukohola completed in 1791, but, pending its formal consecration, Kamanawa (and others) were dispatched to Kaʻū under a flag of truce, to invite rival Keōua to visit Kamehameha, with the view of arranging terms of peace. (Kalākaua)
Kamehameha gave the order: “Go to Keōua Kuʻahuʻula and tell him that great is my desire to make friends (ike.) You are the best one to bear the message, for you are related to his mother, and he will heed your words sooner than anything I could say to him.” (Pratt)
By the time Keōua’s canoes arrived at Kawaihae, it was clear that Keōua expected Kamehameha’s warriors would try to kill him and all his supporters travelling with him in his canoe (“the wind clouds are gathering in the heavens for a storm.”)
Just as Keōua was stepping from the canoe onto the beach at Kawaihae, Keʻeaumoku and other chiefs of Kamehameha’s forces attacked and killed Keōua.
With Keōua dead, and his supporters captured or slain, Kamehameha became King of Hawaiʻi Island, an event that according to prophecy eventually led to the conquest and consolidation of the islands under the rule of Kamehameha I.