last royal descendant of Kamehameha I, Pauahi honored her
ancestors when she bestowed the name Kamehameha on the schools
she endowed in her will. Considered during Pauahis time
as "the most conspicuous name in Polynesian history,
a name with which we associate ability, courage, patriotism
and generosity," five monarchs ruled the Hawaiian kingdom
under the Kamehameha name. Three of them reigned in her lifetime.
Kamehameha I (sometimes called the Great) founded this dynasty
by uniting the eight major islands of the Hawaiian Chain under
his rule in 1810. The son of Chief Keouakupuapaikalaninui
and Chiefess Keku`iapoiwa, Kamehameha is believed to have
been born in about 1758. Raised in the courts of Alapa`inui,
and later, Kalani`opu`u, the ali`i nui (ruling chiefs) of
the island of Hawai`i, Kamehameha became a skilled and fierce
warrior and intelligent leader.
As a young man, Kamehameha met Captain James Cook in 1778
on Cooks second visit to Hawai`i. It was his first of
many encounters with foreigners from the outside world that
would influence his vision and strategies in the future.
Before dying in 1782, Kalani`opu`u declared his son, Kiwala`o,
heir to his rule and Kamehameha the guardian of the familys
war god, Kuaka`ilimoku. Several Kona district chiefs, unhappy
with Kiwala`os new division of lands, enlisted Kamehameha
as their leader. Over the next thirteen years, Kamehameha
and his loyal followers would battle for control not only
for the island of Hawai`i, but for the other seven as well.
By 1795, he conquered five islands. Only Kaua`i and Ni`ihau
eluded his grasp. Thwarted by rough seas and strong winds
on one occasion and an epidemic on another, it was 1810 before
Kamehameha and Kaumuali`i, the king of Kaua`i, peacefully
negotiated to place Kaua`i and Ni`ihau under Kamehamehas
During his long quest for sovereignty, Kamehameha took wives
and sired children to continue the dynasty he founded. His
significant wives included:
- Keopuolani (his sacred, highest ranking wife), the mother
of his sons, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha
III) and daughter, Nahienaena;
- Kanekapolei, the mother of his first-born son, Kaoleioku,
the grandfather of Pauahi; - Kalakua, the mother of Kina`u
whose sons Alexander Liholiho and Lot Kapuaiwa became Kamehameha
IV and V; - Ka`ahumanu, his favorite wife.
In later years, Kamehameha focused on governing his kingdom.
He appointed governors for each island, made laws for the
protection of all, planted taro, built houses and irrigation
ditches, restored heiau, encouraged industry (farming and
fishing) among his people, managed natural resources such
as sandalwood, and traded shrewdly with the foreigners that
followed Cook. Foreigners such as Vancouver and von Kotzebue
thought favorably of Kamehameha. Vancouver described him as
having "an open, cheerful and sensible mind; combined
with great generosity of disposition," and provided him
with cattle, sheep, grapevines and orange trees. Von Kotzebue
wrote, "The king is a man of great wisdom and tries to
give his people anything he considers useful. He wishes to
increase the happiness and not the wants of his people."
Kamehameha I died in 1819 and was buried secretly by trusted
companions as befits a high chief, and was greatly mourned
by his people.