Today (ok, yesterday for pretty much everyone not living in the central Pacific) was King Kamehameha Day. Here are some excerpts from Tammy Yee's description of Kamehameha. Tammy Yee, by the way, is a fine illustrator who has done many Hawaiian-themed children's books including The Tsunami Quilt, Island Style Alphabet, Baby Honu (sea turtle) Saves the Day, Leliani's Hula, Iki the Littlest Opihi (it's a mollusk/shell thingie), and Goldie and the Three Geckos. We own the latter two books. Anyway, Kamehameha:
June 11 is King Kamehameha Day in Hawai'i. This official holiday was established in 1871 by King Kamehameha V to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha I.
Legend surrounds the birth and death of Hawai'i's greatest warrior-king. Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great or Pai'ea Kamehameha, was born in North Kohala on the island of Hawai'i, sometime between 1748 and 1761.
Kamehameha grew up to be the great leader as the priests had foretold. The young warrior was present when his uncle Kalani'opu'u boarded Captain James Cook's ship, the HMS Discovery in 1779. Bright, ambitious and resourceful, he used foreign weapons and skills to his advantage. In 1790 he and his warriors confiscated a small schooner, the Fair American, that was captured in retaliation for an earlier skirmish with another American vessel. The lone survivor of the Fair American was an Englishman named Isaac Davis. Davis, along with another prisoner named John Young, eventually became a trusted advisor to Kamehameha, teaching him the use of the muskets and cannon aboard the small ship.
Kamehameha soon amassed a formidable army and a huge fleet of war canoes. By 1810, the islands of Hawai'i, Maui, O'ahu and Kaua'i were under his rule, and the Hawaiian Kingdom was established.
With unification came peace and prosperity. Kamehameha the great warrior became known as a great statesman. Among his accomplishments were the establishment of trade with foreign countries and the development of the sandalwood industry. He was also known as a just ruler, introducing the Law of the Splintered Paddle, which protected the weak from the strong and insured that every man, woman and child had the right to "lie down to sleep by the roadside without fear of harm." In 1816 he introduced the Hawaiian flag, with its Union Jack in the upper corner and 8 stripes representing the eight main Hawaiian islands.