Sunday, December 20, 2015

Great Leaders: King Kamehameha I (Part 2): Unifying the Home Islands

Kamehameha as depicted in Civilization V
Kamehameha faced tremendous challenges as he assumed his position as one of the high chiefs or ali’i in the big island of Hawaii. After a bloody civil war, the island had been split into three ruled by him, Keoua, and Keawema’uhili. Outside the island of Hawaii, King Kahekili of Maui had advance his domains to the islands of Lanai, Molokai, and Oahu. He even controlled indirectly through his brother the islands of Kauai and Nahuii. Kamehameha faced a though threat outside Hawaii and faced division within his home island. How could he unite all Hawaiian island if his home island itself suffered division? How Kamehameha did united his home island of Hawaii?

After the fall of Kiwali’o in 1782, Kamehameha consolidated his position in Kohala, Kona, and parts of Hamakua. He spent years farming the land and making his domain self-sufficient. He also prepared his people for war. Canoe building and arms production rose. Training of warriors intensified. In 1785, Kamehameha sent his brother to invade the Hana region in the island of Maui. However, the son of the Maui King Kahekili, Kalanikupule managed to drive back the invasion.

Following, the failed invasion of Hana, infighting in the big island of Hawaii distracted Kamehameha’s attention from the conquest of other islands. The three kingdoms of Hawaii fought each other in skirmishes and raids. Each attacking the other to loot and capture their people for slaves. In 1790, however, Keawema’uhili agreed to have peace with Kamehameha. The two even became closer when Keawema’uhili sent several canoes and warriors to Kamehamaha for the invasion of Maui Island.

Kamehameha’s alliance with Keawema’uhili, however, threatened Keoua, the other high chief of Hawaii. Keoua felt that the alliance threatened his survivability as a chief. And so, while Kamehameha fought in Maui, he attacked Keawema’uhili. During the battle between the two high chiefs, the aging Keawema’uhili fell in a battle in Hilo. He then launched an attack to Kohala and plundered Kamehameha’s capital.

Kamehameha heard the news of the attack on Kohala and fell into despair with the fall of his capital. But even in despair, he knew he had to return to Hawaii and postpone his unification campaign in order to retake and protect his home. “How could he unify an archipelago if can’t defend his own capital?” might have ran in Kamehameha’s mind. Immediately, he returned to Hawaii and landed in Kawaihae. Keoua retreated to Hamakua and prepared to face Kamehameha. Indeed, Kamehameha arrived in Hamakua with his warriors. Wanting vengeance, Kamehameha attacked Keoua’s forces. But the battle ended in a stalemate and both side retreated, Kamehameha returned to Kohala while Keoua retreated to Hilo to consolidate his control over he lands of Keawema’uhili.

After staying for quite some time in Hilo, Keoua decided to return to his capital in Ka’u. He and his army planned to return to Ka’u by passing through Ola’a and effectively, Kilauwea. As his long procession, which included him, his warriors, their women and children as well as his family, marched. Suddenly, with no signs, the massive volcano of Kilauwea erupted causing huge ash fall. The eruption ceased Keoua’s march. The untimely eruption might be a sign of disfavor of the volcano goddess Pele to Keoua. For three days, Keoua had been bogged down. He then decided that he had to move and formed his caravan into three sections. During their march, the volcano continued to burst its ashes. The front section of the party suffered suffocation and burns. The middle suffered worst with many either got buried or suffocated from the inhalable materials that Kilauwea spurted. The back section did not suffered as bad as the other two sections. After they passed Kilauwea, the tired, fatigued, injured, weakened and highly demoralized army of Keoua then faced an attack from a lesser chief and ally of Kamehameha Ka’aina. But this assault failed. Although Keoua survived a volcanic eruption and an attack, Keoua began to think that the gods disfavored him.

In 1790, Kamehameha devised a dubious plan to unite his home island. During his stay in Molokai, he sought the advice of a soothsayer. He then received an instruction from the oracle. In order to unite Hawaii, he had to build a heiau or temple dedicated to the war god Ku. He then planned the construction of the heiau but then news of the attack of Keoua made him return to Hawaii. After driving Keoua out of Kohala, he ordered immediately the construction of a large heiau. His priest told him that he must built in Pu’ukohola near Kawaihae. Thousands of men started the construction in earnest. Men carried stones for mile and laid them up by hand. By the following year, the heiau was complete. It stood as an impregnable monument that dominated the coast of Kawaihae Bay. Its area covered 224 feet by 100 feet and its walls stood at 20 feet. The only thing that it missed was its consecration. The consecration, however, involved a human sacrifice from the highest level of society – otherwise, a chief. And Kamehameha had an idea who would it be.

Kamehameha invited Keoua to settle peace between both sides. However, a deception laid behind the invitation. The invitation only meant to rouse Keoua to come to Pu’ukohola and to be sacrificed to the war god Ku. Advisers of Keoua urged their chief to decline the offer. Keoua himself knew the invitation’s true nature. But he already felt demoralized by the signs he perceived from the eruption of Mt. Kilauea. In addition, he observed that facing Kamehameha would mean total defeat. Especially after Kamehameha managed to repel and defeat an invasion force sent by Kahekili with guns, cannons, and his American ship Fair American. Demoralized and hopeless, Keoua agreed to go against the advices of his counsel.

In a double canoe and a companion of 26 men, Keoua sailed to the trap that Kamehameha had prepared for him. As he entered the Kamihae Bay, the imposing heiau in the hill of Pu’ukohola appeared. He knew he was walking into a trap and he could be sacrificed to the gods. And so, in order to ruin a perfect sacrifice, he desecrated himself by cutting of the head of his own penis. As Keoua’s canoe sailed near the coast, Kamehameha and Keoua looked upon each other. While the two chief gazed to each other’s eyes, Kamehameha’s canoes and warriors surrounded Keoua’s canoe. After Kamehameha’s warriors surrounded Keoua’s boat, they began to slaughter his companions until he remained alive. But then a warrior of Kamehameha, Ke’eaumoku, threw a spear to Keoua. Keoua, a chief who had been weakened by the bleeding caused by the cutting of his penis’ head, failed to miss or catch the spear, and it hit him. It killed Keoua and Kamehameha finally, with an act of nature and a deception, had slain his last rival in big island of Hawaii. In order to finish the act and to thank the gods for their blessing to Kamehameha, he sacrificed the corpse of Keoua in the Heiau he had built.

With the death of his last rival in Hawaii Island, Kamehameha had reunified his home island and became its king. With his home island unified. Kamehameha then turned his attention to his greater task – the unification of the whole Hawaiian archipelago.

See also:
McGregor, Davianna Pomaika'i. Na Kua'aina: Living Hawaiian Culture. Hawaii: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007.

Oaks, Robert. Hawai'i: A History of the Big Island. Chicago, Ilinois: Arcadia Publishing, 2003

Potter, Norris, et. al. History of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bess Press, 2003.

Wong, Helen, & Kayson, Ann. Hawaii's Royal History. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bess Press, 1987.

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