skip navigation and jump to page content The Library of CongressThe American Folklife Center 
Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
 Home >> HAWAII
Lei-draped statue of King Kamehameha, June 11, 1999
Lei-draped statue of King Kamehameha I June 11, 1999. Photo: Ray Tanaka, The Photoplant

King Kamehameha Celebration

Kamehameha the Great was born somewhere between 1748 and 1761 in North Kohala on the island of Hawaii. Although the exact date is unknown, by royal Proclamation in 1871 of King Kamehameha V in honor of his grandfather, June 11 of each year was designated as a holiday to honor the life and times of Hawai`i's greatest statesman, warrior and king.

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 Hawai`i. His childhood was spent in seclusion with foster parents who would train him in the skills of warfare and prepare him for his role as warrior-king of the island nation. Following a period of civil war and dissension, by 1791 the island of Hawai`i was again under unified rule, and by 1810, the last of the chiefs of the islands of Maui, O`ahu and Kaua`i relinquished sovereignty to Kamehameha. The Kingdom of Hawai`i was born. For the rest of his life, Kamehameha I ruled in peace. He established trade with foreign countries, introduced new animal and plant life, promoted agriculture and fostered industry. A contemporary of Napoleon and George Washington, Kamehameha I accomplished all that he did without the aid of a written language and while the religion of the Hawaiian islands was still that of ancient Polynesia. This "Napoleon of the Pacific" died in Kailua~Kona on the island of Hawai`i in 1819.

The first commemoration day was held June 11, 1872, and was filled with horse races and other sporting events such as Velocipede races, sack races, wheelbarrow and foot races. In 1901 a group of "old Hawaiians" decorated with leis a statue of Paiea Kamehameha which had been erected in 1883. Today the statue decoration is an integral part of the King Kamehameha Celebration. A King Kamehameha Celebration Commission was established in 1939 and charged with the responsibility of planning and managing all festival activities, which today include parades on every island, arts and crafts fairs, sports challenges, pageantry, and an international hula competition. The year 2000 marks the 128th anniversary of the only holiday in the United States created to honor a once-reigning monarch in the only state that was once a kingdom, the Kingdom of Hawai`i.

Project documentation comprises a six-page report, 30 8 x 10 color photographs with accompanying descriptions, and a videotape of the 1999 Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade.

Originally submitted by: Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Senator Neil Abercrombie, Representative (1st District) & Patsy T. Mink,Representative (2nd District).

link to www.loc.govMore Local Legacies...

The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

disclaimer for external linksLearn More About It...
 Home >> HAWAII
  The Library of Congress 
The American Folklife Center
Contact Us
AFC Icon