- Barbara Bennett Peterson
Kamehameha I (1758–05 May 1819), unifier of the Hawaiian Islands, was born in Kohala, Hawaii. His lineage is disputed, with three men listed as his possible father: Kalani-Kupu-A-Keoua, Keouakalani, and Kahekili, the king of Maui. Although Kekuiapoiwa was his mother, he probably was adopted at birth by Naeole, who is credited with caring for him during the first five years of his life. Shortly before the birth of Kamehameha, a comet had appeared in the sky in 1758, which was interpreted by the kahunas (priests) to mean that the mightiest ruler of Hawaii was about to be born. Seeing this as a threat to his power, King Alapai, uncle of Kekuiapoiwa, ordered that her child be killed at birth. For this reason she had entrusted her newborn son, Kamehameha, to chief Naeole, who, with his sister Kakunuialaimoku, raised Kamehameha in secret until Alapai relented and allowed the child to be brought back to court. Kamehameha, whose name means the Lonely One, was not in line to inherit the kingdom in Kohala. As Kamehameha was growing up, the islands were divided into four kingdoms, each ruled by an alii-aimoku (ruling chief). The most significant of these chiefs were Kalaniopuu, of Hawaii (the largest island in the Hawaiian chain), who was the uncle of Kamehameha; and Kahekili. Kamehameha grew up in the court of his uncle Kalaniopuu. When Kalaniopuu died in 1782, his power was divided between Kamehameha, who was given guardianship of the war god Kukailimoku, and Kalaniopuu’s natural son Kiwalao, who inherited the kingship....