History Behind Kamehameha Day

Kamehameha the Great

Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810. Kamehameha Day is one of two state holidays honoring past royalty.

Kamehameha Day was first declared by King Kamehameha V on June 11, 1871 to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha the Great, on his birthday.  Kamehameha lived from June 11, 1758 – May 18,1819. The first observance of the holiday with parades and more was the following year. When Hawai’i became a state in 1959, Kamehameha Day was one of the two holidays honoring past royalty that were proclaimed by the governor and state legislature.

In 1997, I led the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Chorale during the annual Kamehameha Day program at our Nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. Kamehameha Schools was established in 1887 by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great. The private school aims to produce industrious men and women of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Fellow alumnus U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and U.S. House of Representative Neil Abercrombie both from Hawai’i participated in the program at the Capitol. Read more about the program here.

Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810. His dynasty lasted through five kings followed by King Kalākaua, King Lunalilo, and then Queen Lili’uokalani who was overthrown in 1893. Hawai’i is the only state of the United States to have had a monarchy and the only state where you can visit a palace where the monarchs once lived.

On May 30, 2018, I am presenting a program on Maui about King Kamehameha as part of my new Hawaiian History and Song Series on State Holidays. Read more about the program here.

Ukulele players can learn to play two Hawaiian songs about King Kamehameha:

  1. Na Ali’i – honors Hawaii’s chiefs. Listen to the audio sample and download the digital lesson files here.
  2. King Kamehameha The Conqueror of the Islands – about the battle on Oahu. Listen to the audio recording and then schedule a private webcam lesson to learn how to play it.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele