In the 18th century, the Hawaii Islands were just a bunch of islands ruled by a dozen tribes cut off from the rest of the world, but in just 100 years, a man united all the islands and started trade and diplomatic contacts that stretched from Canton to St. Petersburg. This man was Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani I Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea or as he is popularly known today, “Kamehameha the Great”.
Born in 1736, prophecies said Kamehameha would be a usurper, a “slayer of chiefs”, to save from the king at that time “Alapaʻinui”, his mother sent him to raise him in secret. He returned at the age of 5 when his uncle “Kalaniʻōpuʻu” took power and was raised in his court. His advisors were not happy with this decision because as he grew, they realized he was a great person of mana (or spiritual life force). It was believed those with great mana were spiritually, physically, and mentally adept, that is a person with great ability, power, and personal charisma. He was a formidable warrior, deeply intellectual with an appetite for knowledge.
In 1781, the Hawaiian chief was dying, in his last moments, he left his son 3 districts and the title of chief, to Kamehameha a single district as a powerful religious position: the guardianship of the war god. This infuriated the new chief who then killed some of Kamehameha’s men, a battle started and 5 months later, the new chief was killed. The dead chief’s younger brother escaped with his forces vowing to come back for revenge. Kamehameha now in control of Hawaii’s northwestern side declared himself king and married the former chief’s daughter to legitimize his rule. He then got into conflicts with the former chief’s relatives and lost battle after battle after battle. This might shake many rulers, but to Kamehameha, he believed it was more of a tactical and scientific problem. HE reorganized his troops into infantries and the shockers who suddenly ambushed the enemy before the infantry could clear them. He developed new tactics and modified his entire army, his ambition was to defeat the rival kings of Maui, O’ahu, and Kaua’i to united Hawaii.
Kamehameha was a visionary, he welcomed foreigners and made friends with them to learn modern ideas, but he was smart enough to know the risk they posed, to resist them, the islands had to be united. There had been a few misunderstandings with the American ships that visited them which ended with people being killed on both sides. Kamehameha took a hostage named Isaac Davis from the American ship Eleonora and convinced him and another prisoner John Young to become his advisors. They helped him secure guns and ships through trade with American shapes and also acted as his military advisors who taught his men modern methods of war and sailing.
When the king of Maui conquered and settled in O’ahu, he attacked Maui now controlled by the king’s son, Kalanikupule, and won but he was forced to withdraw as his old enemy, the former chief’s younger brother attacked Hawaii. Kamehameha suppressed the rebellion and now in 1790, he was the sole master of Hawaii with armies, guns, cannons, and ships at his disposal. 1794, Kamehameha was faced with an alliance of all the other alliances, but after trading with western ships for 4 years, he boasted quite a force. He took over the islands of Maui and Moloka’i before moving on the enemy in O’ahu. Kamehameha now ruled all the islands except Kaua’ I and Ni’ihau.
In 1810, the King of Kaua’i who had already taken over the island of Ni’ihau agreed to become a vassal of Kamehameha. Kamehameha was now the first undisputed ruler of the kingdom of Hawaii.
Kamehameha was more than just a warrior who united all the islands. He actually established diplomatic and trade relations with the United States and Britain. Hawaii had something attracted everyone one from the US to Russia, sandalwood. In 1812, the United States and Britain were at war with each other, both of which were important trading partners for Hawaii. They were worried their ships might be mistaken for an enemy and attacked, Hawaii needed a flag, so that they could declare their neutrality. The new flag had a British Union Jack in one corner, and stripes like the US flags one for each of its islands. The colors were red, white, and blue to mirror the flags of British, American, French, and Russian, this flag is used even today.
In 1819, either on May 8 or 14, Kamehameha died.