According to a Hawaiian legend, a comet streaked across the sky in 1758, upon the birth of the baby who would become King Kamehameha I. The comet, the legend says, showed that the newborn child would rise to great power. At that time, the Hawaiian islands were divided into small kingdoms. Kamehameha I brought them together for the first time.
Kamehameha was the nephew of a king who ruled the island of Hawaii, the largest island in the group. After his uncle died in 1782, Kamehameha defeated his rivals and gained control. Then, through a series of wars, he conquered the rest of the islands in the chain.
Kamehameha means “the lonely one” in the Hawaiian language. Kamehameha I was also known as Pai’ea, “hard shelled crab,” because of his toughness in battle.
Kamehameha I brought peace and prosperity to his realm. He ended some harsh practices, such as human sacrifice. But he preserved traditional Hawaiian customs, laws, and beliefs. His discendants governed Hawaii until 1872. Today, Kamehameha I is honored in Hawaii each year on June 11. Parades and other events commemorate his important role in the state’s history. It is the only holiday in a U.S. state that honors royalty.