At the time of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778-1779), 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.
Kalaniʻōpuʻu was born about 1729, the son of Kalaninuiamamao and his wife Kamakaimoku. He died at Waioahukini, Kaʻū, in April 1782. His brother was Keōua; his son was Kiwalaʻō; he was the grandfather of Keōpūolani.
When Keōua, the father of Kamehameha, died, he commended his son to the care of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who received him, and treated him as his own child. (Dibble)
Kiwalaʻo, a real son of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, occasioned much trouble to his father, and in several instances proceeded so far as to engage in open revolt. Kamehameha seems always to have been obedient and to have possessed the good will of Kalaniʻōpuʻu. (Dibble)
At the death of Alapaʻinui, about 1754, a bloody civil war followed, the result of which was that Alapaʻi’s son Keaweopala was killed, and Kalaniʻōpuʻu, descended from the old dynasty, became king of Hawaiʻi. (Alexander)
Kalaniʻōpuʻu, from the very beginning of his reign, made repeated attempts to conquer the neighboring island of Maui. He held portions of the Hāna district and the Kaʻuiki fort in 1775, when, in the war between Hawaiʻi and Maui, he commanded a raid in the Kaupō district. (Thrum)
While Kalaniʻōpuʻu was at Hāna he sent his warriors to plunder the Kaupō people. Kahekili was king of Maui at that time, when Kahekili’s warriors met those of Kalaniʻōpuʻu at Kaupō, a battle developed between the two sides. It was known as the Battle of Kalaeokaʻīlio; Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s army was routed and returned to Hāna.
Then, at the same time as the American Revolution, Kalaniʻōpuʻu promised revenge and, in 1776, he again went to battle against Kahekili. This battle (known as the Battle of Sand Hills or Ahalau Ka Piʻipiʻi O Kakaniluʻa) was recorded as one of the most bloody.
Unfortunately, Kalaniʻōpuʻu was not aware of the alliance between Kahekili and the O‘ahu warriors under Kahahana, the young O‘ahu chief, and these numerous warriors were stationed at the sand dunes of Waikapū and also at a place close to those sand dunes seaward of Wailuku.
Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s army was annihilated as they entered the sand hills of Wailuku. In a desperate act to save what was left, Kalaniʻōpuʻu requested that his wife, Kalola, plead for peace from her brother Kahekili.
However, knowing that Kahekili would not look upon her with favor, Kalola suggested their son, Kiwalaʻo be sent instead. Kahekili welcomed Kiwala‘ō; for a time, after the great Sand Hills battle in Wailuku, peace and tranquility returned.
Although often defeated, Kalaniʻōpuʻu managed to hold the famous fort of Kaʻuiki in Hāna for more than twenty years. (Alexander)
At the time of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778-1779), Kalaniʻōpuʻu was on the island of Maui. Kalaniʻōpuʻu returned to Hawaiʻi and met with Cook on January 26, 1779, exchanging gifts, including an ʻahuʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (ceremonial feather helmet.) Cook also received pieces of kapa, feathers, hogs and vegetables.
In return, Cook gave Kalaniʻōpuʻu a linen shirt and a sword; later on, Cook gave other presents to Kalaniʻōpuʻu, among which one of the journals mentions “a complete Tool Chest.”
After the departure of the Resolution and Discovery, Kalaniʻōpuʻu left the bay and passed to Kaʻū, the southern district of Hawaiʻi, having in his charge the young Kaʻahumanu. (Bingham)
In about 1781, Kahekili was able, by a well-planned campaign, to regain possession of the Hāna district and this marked the beginning of the disintegration of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s kingdom. (Kuykendall)
Kalaniʻōpuʻu died shortly thereafter (1782.) Before his death, Kalaniʻōpuʻu gave an injunction to Kiwalaʻo and Kamehameha, and to all the chiefs, thus: “Boys, listen, both of you. The heir to the kingdom of Hawaii nei, comprising the three divisions of land, Kaʻū, Kona and Kohala, shall be the chief Kiwalaʻo. He is the heir to the lands.” (Fornander)
“As regarding you, Kamehameha, there is no land or property for you; but your land and your endowment shall be the god Kaili (Kūkaʻilimoku.)”
“If, during life, your lord should molest you, take possession of the kingdom; but if the molestation be on your part, you will be deprived of the god.” These words of Kalaniʻōpuʻu were fulfilled in the days of their youth, and his injunction was realized. (Fornander)
Following Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s death in 1782, and following his wishes, the kingship was inherited by his son Kīwalaʻō; Kamehameha (Kīwalaʻō’s cousin) was given guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kūkaʻilimoku.)
Kiwalaʻō and his chiefs were dissatisfied with subsequent redistricting of the lands; civil war ensued between Kīwalaʻō’s forces and the various chiefs under the leadership of Kamehameha (his cousin.)
In the first major skirmish, in the battle of Mokuʻōhai (a fight between Kamehameha and Kiwalaʻo in July, 1782 at Keʻei, south of Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawaiʻi,) Kiwalaʻo was killed.
With the death of Kiwalaʻo, the victory made Kamehameha chief of the districts of Kona, Kohala and Hāmākua, while Keōua, the brother of Kiwalaʻo, controlled Kaʻū and Puna, and Keawemauhili declared himself independent of both in Hilo. (Kalākaua)
Kamehameha, through the assistance of the Kona “Uncles” (Keʻeaumoku, Keaweaheulu, Kameʻeiamoku & Kamanawa (the latter two ended up on the Island’s coat of arms,)) succeeded, after a struggle of more than ten years, in securing to himself the supreme authority over that island (and later, the entire Hawaiian Islands chain.)