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).
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.