For their services, Kamehameha appointed Keʻeaumoku, Keaweaheulu, Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa (the four Kona Uncles) to be his secret advisors (hoa kuka malu) and counselors (hoaʻahaʻolelo) in ruling the islands. They alone were consulted about what would be for the good or the ill of the country. (Kamakau)
The latter 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.
However, Kamakau also notes that the twin chiefs as the “children of Kekaulike,” one of the ruling chiefs of Maui. (The term ‘children’ may refers to a generational difference between Kekaulike and the twin chiefs, rather than meaning that they were his direct offspring.) (Kelly)
It was the custom in Hawai‘i during the 18th and 19th centuries to have young chiefs be hanai (adopted) by and grow up under the protection of an important relative, sometimes even one who lived on another island.
Kamanawa and Kame‘eiamoku were sent to live with their uncle during their childhood years. This uncle was Kalani‘ōpu‘u, the high chief of the Island of Hawai‘i in 1779, when Captain Cook arrived at Kealakekua Bay in Kona, Hawai‘i.
Kamehameha was also raised in the court of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, along with two of the sons of Kalani‘ōpu‘u, Kīwala‘ō and Keōua.
The twins were later neighbors.
Kamanawa is reported to have been living at Kiholo at the time of the death of Kalani‘ōpu‘u in 1782, and Kame‘eiamoku at Ka‘upulehu (originally Ka‘ulu-pulehu, the roasted breadfruit), the adjacent ahupua‘a to the south of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a. (Kelly)
When Kalani‘ōpu‘u died, his son, Kiwala‘ō was declared his heir. Kamanawa and Kame‘eiamoku expressed their opposition to Kiwala‘ō and to his plan to bring the district of Kona under the domination of the Puna and Ka‘u chiefs.
The Kona-Kohala coast had more favorable harbors for the visits of western-sailing ships than the windward (Hilo-Puna-Ka‘u) coast. Because of this, the Kona-Kohala chiefs had greater access to trade items from the foreign ships than the windward chiefs.
Keʻeaumoku “was the most noted of all the warriors of Kamehameha I, and by his personal prowess placed that eminent man on the throne of Hawaii …”
“… first by slaying with his own hand his great antagonist Kiwalaʻo, and subsequently Keōua, the only remaining enemy on that island.” (Jarves; The Friend)
Ke‘eaumoku was the father of Ka‘ahumanu, who became a wife of Kamehameha and was a very powerful woman in her own right. Her mother was Nāmāhāna, who was the daughter of Kekaulike, high chief of Maui. (Kamakau)
Keaweaheulu was at Kaʻawaloa at the time of Cook’s death; he assisted Kamehameha in his battles with Kiwalaʻō and Keōua; he was at Molokai when Kalola died and her granddaughter, Keōpūolani (Queen mother to Liholiho and Kauikeaouli,) was given to Kamehameha. Keaweaheulu was maternal great-grandfather of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani.
The lives of the twin chiefs of Kekaha, Kamanawa of Kiholo, and Kame‘eiamoku of Ka‘upulehu, are closely bound with the history of the Hawaiian Islands during the period of the rise of Kamehameha I, as the ali‘i nui (high chief) of the Islands.
Presumably, whoever had control over the leeward ports of the Island of Hawai‘i would play an important part in the history of the Islands during this early historical period.
As it was, that role fell to Kamehameha, Kamanawa, Kame‘eiamoku, Ke‘eaumoku, and a few others who were anxious to further their own interests. (Kelly) (Artwork by Brook Parker.)