The lessons of the 'Law of the Splintered Paddle╩╗ ring true 200 years after Kamehameha╩╗s passing

May. 8, 2019

Contributed by Nadine Lagaso

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the passing of our schools’ beloved namesake King Kamehameha the Great. In honor of our king, we share “Ke Kānāwai Māmalahoe” – the Law of the Splintered Paddle – among Kamehameha’s greatest accomplishments as a servant leader. Enacted in 1782 before he unified the Hawaiian islands, the law protected the weak during wartime, saving thousands of lives.

The Law of the Splintered Paddle
As Kamehameha grew to be an aggressive young chief, he decided to attack an innocent fishing village in Puna, Hawai‘i. When his foot became caught in a lava crevice, a fisherman struck him over the head with a paddle, nearly killing him. The paddle splintered.

Later, recognizing his fault in the attack on innocents, the compassionate Kamehameha proclaimed the “Law of the Splintered Paddle" which proclaimed that all innocent people, especially the elderly and the youth, be able to sleep safely on the side of the road unharmed.

The law provided for the safety of non-warriors during wartime. It became the first written law of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, and remains in the State Constitution to this day.  It is a symbol of servant leadership that elevates the importance of:

  • caring for and serving one’s people
  • standing steadfast for the principles from which leadership privilege is earned
  • knowing and doing what is right
  • taking responsibility for those you serve and
  • doing so with love, compassion and respect

Ke Kānāwai Māmalahoe promotes the leadership qualities that Kamehameha Schools instills in its haumāna.

To learn more about our namesake, read Kumu Kāwika Eyre’s award-winning book, “Kamehameha: The Rise of a King” by, available through Kamehameha Publishing.