- 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.
Kamehameha I died May 8, 1819 at Kamakahonu at Kailua-Kona.
“His bones, in accordance with traditions afforded high kings, were separated from his flesh and placed in a kaʻai, a basket woven of sennet cordage.” (Bill Maiʻoho, Mauna Ala Kahu (caretaker,) Star-Bulletin)
“Mother of pearl was inlaid for the eyes and the king’s own teeth formed the mouth; his flesh was thrown far out to sea.” (Maiʻoho)
“Kamehameha was a planner, so he talked to Hoapili and Hoʻolulu about where his iwi should be hidden,” noting Kamehameha wanted his bones protected from desecration not only from rival chiefs, but from westerners who were sailing into the islands and sacking sacred sites. (Maiʻoho)
Hoapili (originally known as Ulumāheihei) (c. 1775–1840) and Hoʻolulu (1794–1865) were brothers. Both were trusted advisors to Kamehameha.
Their father, High Chief Kameʻeiamoku, was one of the “royal twins” who helped Kamehameha I come to power – the twins are on the Islands’ coat of arms – Kameʻeiamoku is on the right (bearing a kahili,) his brother, Kamanawa is on the left, holding a spear.
When the days of purification were ended and the platform for the body was covered with kapa and a girdle of leaves had been placed, then the high priest finished his ceremonies within the temple house where he had been praying that the spirit of the dead might be given life and welcomed to the company of the good spirits to dwell with Wākea. (Thrum)
When these ceremonies were finished, Hoapili and Hoʻolulu prepared to obey the command given them by Kamehameha to take care of his body and thoroughly secrete it. (Thrum)
The chief’s bones belonged by right to the family of Keawe-a-heulu and to the hidden burial places of its members from Kiolakaʻa and Waiʻōhinu in Kāʻu, but Kamehameha doubted whether this family could keep the place secret, for the place where the bones of their father, Keōua, were hidden was pointed out on the cliffs of Kaʻawaloa. (Kamakau)
Kamehameha had therefore entrusted his bones to Hoapili and Hoʻolulu, with instructions to put them in a place which would never be pointed out to anyone.
Different stories suggest different places where Kamehameha’s bones are located: to an undersea cave that could only be accessed at low tide; over the rough lava plains of Puʻuokaloa to Kaloko in Kekaha; within Kaloko fishpond and others. All stories note he was buried in secret under the cover of darkness.
The ceremonial burial of iwi kupuna (ancestral Native Hawaiian remains) and moepū (funerary objects) involves great secrecy in order to protect the burial site and ensure the peace and sanctity of ancestors who have passed away, as well as the spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being of their descendants. (He Ho‘olaha, OHA)
Kamehameha’s final resting place and his bones have never been found; a saying related to that site notes: ‘Only the stars of the heavens know the resting place of Kamehameha.’
For Hawaiians, burial locations were one of the most secretive traditions in a culture over a thousand years old, and proper handling of ancient burial remains uncovered today; continue to be a highly sensitive cultural concern. (Yardley)
State law (§6E) addresses dealing with burials; §6E-43 Prehistoric and historic burial sites – at any site, other than a known, maintained, actively used cemetery where human skeletal remains are discovered or are known to be buried and appear to be over fifty years old, the remains and their associated burial goods shall not be moved without the department’s approval.
§6E-43.5 Island burial councils; creation; appointment; composition; duties. (a) The department shall establish island burial councils for Hawaii, Maui/Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai/Niihau, to implement section 6E-43.
The councils shall: Determine the preservation or relocation of previously identified native Hawaiian burial sites; Assist the department in the inventory and identification of native Hawaiian burial sites; Make recommendations regarding appropriate treatment and protection of native Hawaiian burial sites, and on any other matters relating to native Hawaiian burial sites.
Reportedly, upon the death of Ka‘ahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha, Kuakini, with the help of Hoapili and Ho‘olulu (who had previously hidden the bones of Kamehameha) took the bones of Ka‘ahumanu and put hers with his, so she would be with Kamehameha forever. (Mellen)
After uniting the Hawaiian kingdom, King Kamehameha the Great returned from Oʻahu to Historic Kailua Village in 1812 to rule from his compound at Kamakahonu.
Here, he could see the vast upslope crops known as the Kona Field System as well as the strategic positioning of Kailua Bay.
Reconstructed by King Kamehameha the Great between 1812 – 1813, the Ahuʻena Heiau (“red-hot heap” “burning altar”) is on the register of National Historic Landmarks as one of the most important of Hawaii’s historic sites.
This was the center of political power in the Hawaiian kingdom during Kamehameha’s golden years and his highest advisors gathered at Ahuʻena Heiau nightly.
Many descriptions and illustrations of the impressive Ahuʻena Heiau, the religious temple that served Kamehameha, were done by early voyagers. The distinctive anuʻu (oracle tower) indicated a heiau of ruling chiefs.
As Kamehameha rose to power, Ahuʻena was deemed among the most powerful heiau of the island of Hawaiʻi.
Ahuʻena Heiau served his seat of government as he ruled the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
It was a luakini or a temple where human sacrifice was conducted. Upon this temple was the Lana Nuʻu Mamao (Oracle Tower) a feature not a part of every heiau of that period.
As the King returned to Kailua in 1812, Kona was suffering from famine. Kamehameha directed his attention towards food production and care of the land.
He dedicated Ahuʻena Heiau to Lono, god of healing and prosperity of the land.
Ahuʻena became a heiau māpele, a thatched temple for the worship of Lono and the increase of food, concerned with success of crops. It was also used for the training of Liholiho as a future heir and for many political purposes.
Three momentous events occurred here that established Ahuʻena Heiau as the most historically significant site in Hawaii:
• In the early morning hours of May 8, 1819 King Kamehameha I died here.
• A few months after the death of his father, in a time of political consternation and threat of civil war, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) broke the ancient kapu system, a highly defined regime of taboos that provided the framework of the traditional Hawaiian government.
• The first Christian missionaries from New England were granted permission to come ashore here on April 4, 1820.
In August of 1823 when the Reverend William Ellis visited the area he observed that Ahu`ena had been converted into a fort:
“Adjacent to the governor’s house stand the ruins of Ahuena, an ancient heiau, where the war-god was often kept, and human sacrifices offered.”
“Since the abolition of idolatry, the governor has converted it into a fort, has widened the stone wall next the sea, and placed upon it a number of cannon.”
“The idols are all destroyed, excepting three, which are planted on the wall, one at each end, and the other in the centre, where they stand like sentinels amidst the guns, as if designed, by their frightful appearance, to terrify an enemy.”
The present Ahuʻena was rebuilt in the 1970s as an accurate 2/3-scale model replica and continues to be restored and maintained.
The current restored Ahuʻena Heiau is more properly a restoration of Ahuʻena House, a personal/residential heiau built by Kamehameha sometime around 1813.
Today, beside the Heiau and the Hale Lua, the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel holds their nightly lūʻau and Polynesian entertainment. Ahuʻena Heiau Inc., formed in 1993 to permanently guide the restoration and maintenance of the property.
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 landed 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.)
Today’s ‘Timeline Tuesday’ takes us through the 1810s – Kamehameha and Kaumualiʻi negotiations, death of Kamehameha and the fall of the Kapu. We look at what was happening in Hawai‘i during this time period and what else was happening around the rest of the world.
A Comparative Timeline illustrates the events with images and short phrases. This helps us to get a better context on what was happening in Hawai‘i versus the rest of the world. I prepared these a few years ago for a planning project. (Ultimately, they never got used for the project, but I thought they might be on interest to others.)