Kamehameha I (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Through his prowess, astute leadership in battle, and adroit use of European advisers, ships, and weapons, Kamehameha overcame his adversaries and united the Hawaiian Islands for the first time in their history. In the process, he made himself their king and founded a dynasty.
Since Kamehameha (“the lonely one” or “the silent one”; born Paiea, or “soft-shelled crab”) was born before the European discovery of the Hawaiian Islands and therefore before there were any written records, scholars have been forced to rely on native tradition for information about his birth. Estimates of his birth year vary from 1736 to 1758, but today the consensus favors 1758. Kamehameha’s mother was Kekuiapoiwa, and his father was Keoua, although there is a story that his real father was Kahekili, king of Maui.
Kamehameha was described by European contemporaries as being well over six feet tall, athletically built, and savage in appearance. He was a member of the chiefly caste, the alii, who ruled despotically over the common people. The alii were considered to have descended directly from the gods and possessed varying degrees of divinity. The highest alii were those who were born to a high-ranking chief and his sister—a system reminiscent of ancient Egypt. Hawaiians worshipped a number of gods, including Kane, the god of creation; Ku, the war god; and Lono,...
(The entire section is 1854 words.)
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