Left: Statue of Kamehameha the Great in front of Ali'iolani Hale, Honolulu. Photo courtesy of a friend of Ken Conklin
Center: Hawai'i Senator Dan Akaka, Indian Affairs Committee; Introducer of Akaka bill. Photo taken from Senator Akaka's webpage; photo URL
Right: Hawai'i Senator Dan Inouye, Indian Affairs Committee (previously chairman and ranking member), co-sponsor of Akaka bill. Photo from the Honolulu Advertiser:
Kamehameha The Great unified all of Hawai'i. He was the first person to accomplish that feat throughout all 1500 years that people had lived in Hawai'i. He succeeded where others had failed because first contact between Europeans and Hawaiians occurred in 1778. Kamehameha as a young chieftain went aboard Captain Cook's ship and saw metal and powerful weapons. He was present at important meetings with Captain Cook and other newcomers. He personally saw the devastation caused when guns and cannons were used against natives (in reprisal for thefts). Non-native technologies and military advisors were essential to his success. During his conquests and for the remainder of his life, he included non-natives in high positions in his government and in his family. For further information about the special role of Englishman John Young, see below. All Hawaiian monarchs after Kamehameha I had increasing numbers of non-natives as cabinet officials and as members of the Legislature (both appointed and elected). Thousands of non-natives were subjects of the Kingdom with full voting and property rights. The Kamehamehas and their successors exercised self-determination on behalf of native Hawaiians to choose racial integration in their personal lives and in their government.
But now along come Senators Akaka and Inouye. They are trying to split up Hawai'i along racial lines. They are proposing legislation to establish a government based on race, exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians. Their legislation contains language describing future negotiations over how to separate the lands and resources of Hawai'i between a new ethnic Hawaiian government vs. the governments of the (remaining) state of Hawai'i and the United States. Their legislation would splinter the multiracial rainbow that has been a great asset for Hawai'i for over 200 years. For extensive information about the Akaka bill and what's wrong with it, see:
Let not Akaka and Inouye split apart what Kamehameha joined together.
Kamehameha's final important battle was fought on O'ahu in 1795 at Nu'uanu Pali, where his invading army defeated O'ahu King Kalanikupule. Kamehameha drove hundreds or perhaps thousands of Kalanikupule's men to the edge of a precipice. Kamehameha's men had cannons and guns, used by Englishmen or by natives who had been trained by Englishmen; in addition to spears and other traditional stone-age weapons (some now tipped with metal). Kalanikupule's men who were not killed by cannons, guns, or spears either jumped or were pushed over the edge and tumbled to their deaths on the rocky cliffs far below. The most famous picture of that event is a huge oil painting by artist Herb Kane. There are many reproductions of Herb Kane's famous painting. The one below was copied from:
King Kamehameha Day is an official holiday of the State of Hawai'i celebrated on June 11 every year. This is not the birthdate of Kamehameha -- further information about how this holiday got established, and when Kamehameha was born, can be found at the bottom of this webpage.
On June 11, 2005 (the Kamehameha Day holiday), artist Dick Adair published a cartoon whose concept is based on Herb Kane's painting. The cartoon shows opposition to the Akaka bill being pushed over the edge of the Pali. Adair's cartoon, copied here, was originally published in the Honolulu Advertiser at:
Civil rights attorney H. William Burgess was quite unhappy with Dick Adair's cartoon. Mr. Burgess wrote a letter to the editor explaining that Kamehameha united Hawai'i's people, but the Akaka bill would divide us. His letter was published on Tuesday, June 14, at:
Kamehameha cartoon was off the mark
Dick Adair's cartoon in The Advertiser on Kamehameha Day (suggesting that Kamehameha would have thrown opponents of the Akaka bill over the Pali) was uncalled for and historically inaccurate.
In 1790 (20 years before 1810 when he unified the Islands), Kamehameha brought John Young and Isaac Davis on to join his forces and welcomed them into his family. Non-natives thereafter continued to intermarry, assimilate and contribute to the conquests and governance under the great king both in high governmental positions and as ordinary subjects of what ultimately became Kamehameha's unified nation of Hawai'i.
This tells me that if someone (perhaps an ancestor of Sen. Akaka) had proposed to Kamehameha a new sovereign government to be created by Native Hawaiians only, separate from the government of the rest of Hawai'i residents (which is exactly what the Akaka bill now proposes), that person would probably have been sent sailing over the Pali.
H. William Burgess
Almost the entire political establishment in Hawai'i, and all the major newspapers, support the Akaka bill (because it would keep federal money flowing to Hawai'i for institutions now under court challenge due to their racially exclusionary policies). So it's often hard for supporters of unity and equality to get our views presented to the public.
On Wednesday, June 15, 2005 the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (a local think-tank) published an advertisement in the Honolulu Advertiser that took up almost the entirety of page 14. The ad featured a huge photo of the Kamehameha Statue at Ali'iolani Hale, together with the text below. The beautiful ad, in shades of gold, brown, red, and white, can be downloaded in pdf format at:
Here is the text of the ad:
Kamehameha united us all
Long before he unified the islands in 1810, Kamehameha the Great brought non-natives on to his team and into his family.
Ever since then, non-natives have continued to intermarry, assimilate and contribute to the social, economic and political life of Hawaii.
Most Native Hawaiians today are mostly of other ancestries and Hawaii's racial blending has become a model for the world.
Akaka would divide us forever
The Akaka bill would impose on the people of Hawaii an unprecedented separate government to be created by Native Hawaiians only.
It would require the U.S. to recognize the new government as the governing body of ALL of the Native Hawaiian people whether a majority of Hawaiians agreed or not---no vote, no referendum, no chance to debate.
On his deathbed, King Kamehameha the Great said, "I have given you -- the greatest good: peace. And a kingdom which -- is all one -- a kingdom of all the islands."
The Akaka Bill would divide the people of Hawaii forever and undo the unification which made Kamehameha not only the greatest of the Hawaiian chiefs, but one of the great men of world history.
An educational project of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Telephone (808) 591-9193 - Email:
Nurturing the rights and responsibilities of the individual in a civil society...
Download the above ad in color from:
The Akaka bill has become extremely controversial in Hawai'i and throughout all fifty states. It was blocked in Congress for five years, 2000-2004. It was introduced again in 2005, and was expected to be debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate sometime in August. A history of the Akaka bill in the 109th Congress (2005-2006) can be seen at:
A five paragraph summary of what's wrong with the Akaka bill, with extensive documentation of all the main points, is at:
In mid-May, 2005 the latest movie in the Star Wars series was released, breaking box-office records. A TV network also re-ran an earlier movie in the series. The Honolulu Advertiser of Sunday, May 22 printed a cartoon by Dick Adair, showing a movie theater where the scene on the screen was two opponents battling with light-sabres. One audience member asks, "I've lost track. What are they fighting about now?" A neighboring audience member answers, "The Akaka Bill." Supporters of unity and equality see Senators Akaka/Inouye as Darth Vader, representing the Evil Empire of racially exclusionary institutions trying to create an apartheid government in Hawai'i. And to Senator Kyl and other opponents of the Akaka bill we say: The Force is with you.
The Adair cartoon below was copied from:
Rubellite Kawena Johnson, Professor of Hawaiian language and literature at the University of Hawai'i, contains in her own personhood a living example of the unification achieved by Kamehameha. She is a direct descendant of Kamehameha the Great, and also of the pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower. She is a "Living Treasure" of the State of Hawai'i, and is proud of all her heritages. She is a patriotic American, and opposes the Akaka bill because it would divide Hawai'i's people against each other along racial lines and because it would set a precedent for the further balkanization of America. See background information about Professor Johnson, and her testimony opposing the Akaka bill, at:
NOTES ON JOHN YOUNG
The most notable non-native in Kamehameha's government was the Englishman John Young (given the Hawaiian name Olohana).
Kamehameha The Great unified all of Hawai'i. He was the first person to accomplish that feat throughout all 1500 years that people had lived in Hawai'i. He succeeded where others had failed because first contact between Europeans and Hawaiians occurred in 1778. Kamehameha as a young chieftain went aboard Captain Cook's ship alongside his King Kalaniopu'u, and saw metal and powerful weapons totally unknown in Hawai'i -- guns, cannons, swords, steel knives, and large ships. Kamehameha was present at important meetings between Kalaniopu'u, Captain Cook and other newcomers. Non-native technologies were essential to his success, along with non-native military advisors to help him train his troops and develop strategies to use the new technologies successfully.
In gratitude Kamehameha appointed John Young to be governor of Kamehameha's home island (the "big" Hawai'i Island); gave him land and a home next to the great heiau Kamehameha built at Pu'ukohola in fulfillment of a prophecy; and gave him one of his own daughters to be his wife (Queen Emma, wife of King Alexander Liholiho Kamehameha IV, was granddaughter to John Young).
During his conquests and for the remainder of his life, he included non-natives in high positions in his government and in his family.
The Kamehameha dynasty continued to honor the legacy of John Young. His son John Young II became the most powerful person next to the King. His signature with his Hawaiian name (Kioni Ana) was the only signature on the second Constitution of the Kingdom, other than the King's, proclaimed in 1852 by Kamehameha's second son King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III. When Mauna Ala (the Royal Mausoleum) was established, John Young (senior) was given a place of great honor -- his burial mound with pulo'ulo'u (kapu sticks) still today lies next to the chapel which was the original crypt for the Kamehameha family.
Historian Emmett Cahill published a very readable book "The Life and Times of John Young (Confidant and Advisor to Kamehameha the Great)" (Honolulu: Island Heritage, 1999). The book's cover is a village scene by ethnic Hawaiian artist Herb Kane (who also created the famous painting of Kamehameha's forces pushing Kalanikupule's army over the edge of the Pali).
NOTES ON KAMEHAMEHA THE GREAT -- THE CREATION OF HIS HOLIDAY, HIS UNIFICATION OF ALL HAWAI'I, AND THE LACK OF ANY DEFINITE BIRTHDATE OR BIRTH YEAR FOR HIM
King Kamehameha Day, June 11, is an official holiday of the State of Hawai'i. This holiday was originally created in 1871 when King Lot Kamehameha V proclaimed June 11 a national holiday in honor of his grandfather Kamehameha I. This holiday is NOT "Kamehameha's birthday" -- nobody knows the date when Kamehameha I was born. Even the year of his birth is a matter of speculation -- some say 1738 because of one legend, some say 1756 because of a different legend, and other years ranging from 1736 to 1761 have been suggested.
One thing everyone agrees upon is that Kamehameha deserves his title "The Great" because he was the first person known to have unified all the islands in the archipelago under a single rulership. He was a ruthless warrior, conquering and killing all his opponents on all the major islands except Kaua'i, where King Kaumuali'i finally submitted to him without a fight -- Kamehameha's first two invasion attempts had failed due to disease and an ocean storm, and he was gathering his troops and war canoes preparing for a third try when Kaumuali'i wisely surrendered in return for being allowed to remain as governor of Kaua'i.
Despite the bloody warfare, Kamehameha's unification of all the islands earned him the title of peacemaker. Following his death in 1819 there was almost no organized military conflict for several decades. A small civil war erupted when Liholiho Kamehameha II ordered the old religion to be abolished in 1819, but the traditionalists were quickly defeated. There were small skirmishes on Kaua'i until the last rebellion was put down in 1824. From 1824 until a minor Wilcox rebellion in 1889 there were occasional small riots (as when Kalakaua defeated Emma in the parliament's election of a new monarch following the death of Lunalilo), but no organized military battles. Thus Kamehameha The Great brought peace, unity, and considerable stability to his newly-established Kingdom of Hawai'i.
There is disagreement over the birthdate of Kamehameha the Great. Even the year of his birth is unknown within a range of about 25 years, from perhaps as early as 1736 to perhaps as late as 1761. Various birthdates and years are suggested depending on which legends or prophecies are put forward. Some of the prophecies make Kamehameha's birth and early years seem almost miraculous, imitating the story of the bright star that guided the three wisemen to the manger where Jesus was born, or the story of how baby Moses escaped a slaughter. If it's true that native Hawaiians had expertise in passing down genealogies and other stories through lengthy memorized chants, AND if it's true that Kamehameha's birth and childhood were a fulfillment of prophecy, then it makes no sense that his date and year of birth were completely unknown and could not be reconstructed through such chants after the Western way of noting calendar dates was introduced. The same problem occurs regarding the birthdate of Kamehameha's second son Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III, who chose an official birthdate for ceremonial purposes when he was unable to find out his real birthdate, which happened during historical times, about 25 years after Captain Cook arrived and only about 5 years before the missionaries arrived. For a thorough exploration of Kamehameha III's birthday, see: "King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III chose St. Patrick's Day to be his "official birthday." But why did neither he nor anyone else know his actual biological birthdate?" at:
An illustration of the great discrepancies in the dates and legends of Kamehameha's birth can be found in two articles published in the daily newspaper of the largest town that has a daily newspaper near to where he was (allegedly) born. On Kamehameha Day weekend of 2005, the Kona ('Big island") newspaper "West Hawai'i Today" published articles on Friday June 10 and Sunday June 12 which contradicted each other in important respects. Here are the relevant excerpts of those two articles.
West Hawaii Today, Friday, June 10, 2005 ** excerpts **
King Kamehameha I: A lifetime of achievements
Depending Upon Which Tradition Is Followed, Kamehameha The Great Was Born Around 1736 Or 1758.
The latter date is based upon legend, which says his birth coincided with the appearance of Kokoiki, a bright heavenly body which many believe was Halley's Comet.
The earlier date would more likely coincide with the legend that he was first ordered killed by his grandfather, ruling chief Alapai, and then later taken into Alapai's court as a warrior destined for greatness. It is believed Alapai died around 1754, four years before Halley's Comet made its appearance in Hawaii skies.
Foster parents hid Kamehameha in North Kohala for the first five years of his life. He was allowed to emerge after Alapai learned the child was still alive and had changed his mind about the boy, who was then given the name, Kamehameha, or the Lonely One.
He later served as an aide to Kalaniopuu, a later king of the Big Island, and became the custodian of the image of Kukailimoku, the war god. Around this time that he was given the nickname "Paiea" because of his fighting style that resembled the defensive stance of the paiea crab.
West Hawaii Today, Sunday, June 12, 2005 ** in full **
The history of King Kamehameha Day
In 1871, King Kamehameha V Proclaimed June 11 A Holiday In Honor The Grandfather, King Kamehameha I. Kamehameha The Great Was Born Between 1748 And 1761 In North Kohala.
Hawaiians believe that the birth of Paiea Kamehameha fulfilled their traditional prophecy of a birth of a male who would vanquish all other chiefs to become the greatest of all chiefs in Hawaii.
By 1791 the island of Hawaii was under unified rule of King Kamehameha the Great, and by 1810, the last of the chiefs of the islands of Maui, Oahu and Kauai relinquished sovereignty to Kamehameha. The Kingdom of Hawaii was born.
Kamehameha died in Kailua-Kona in 1819.
The first commemoration day was held June 11, 1872, and was filled with horse races, Velocipede races, sack races, wheelbarrow and foot races.
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