As many Hawaiians today celebrate a man who receives credit for unifying the islands through diplomacy and warfare, some Kaua‘i residents want nothing more than to enjoy the day off with friends and family.
King Kamehameha I Day, the only United States public holiday that honors a monarch, is about respect, according to a Lihu‘e father.
“It means going back to the old roots of living here — respect of the island, respect of the king,” Al Carreira said. “This is something we believe in as born natives.”
It’s also a tradition Carreira said he hopes to pass on to his teenage son, Makoa.
Kamehameha Day was established in 1871 when Kamehameha V decreed June 11 be set aside to honor his grandfather. Statues of King Kamehameha I — perhaps most notably an 8-foot bronze and gold statue in front of the Ali‘iolani Hale, across the street from ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu — are adorned with leis each year in his honor.
Jimmy Torio, a lifelong Kaua‘i resident and Anahola community activist, said the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i near the end of the 19th century leaves Kamehameha Day “unfulfilled.”
“Although we treasure the fact that we celebrate this holiday… it’s still an unfulfilled society for many Hawaiians. We didn’t get our storybook ending,” he said. “We’ve never had a direction that we were able to understand as a governing nation … and Hawai‘i was never able to see how it would have been able to sustain itself under a monarchy.”
State Rep. Mina Morita said it’s important to remember the lessons the ali‘i from the Big Island left as a legacy.
“People have to recognize Kamehameha for his leadership rather than just another holiday. He was an extraordinary leader, not only in uniting the islands, but in the whole transition of Hawai‘i as an isolated kingdom into its relationship with westerners,” she said.
The former king, who ruled from 1795 to 1819, should be honored for being a “skillful diplomat” who dealt with the westernization of Hawai‘i, Morita added.
As a legislator, the representative said, Kamehameha’s impact on human rights law is “interesting as well as important.”
Kamehameha in 1797 established the Law of the Splintered Paddle, reportedly based on a true incident in his life, to protect children, women and elderly from violent assault. The law, “Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety,” is enshrined in the state constitution, Article 9, Section 10.
The holiday represents a piece of heritage for Hawaiians to preserve, according to Jim Ehia Sr., of Anahola, and Lihu‘e resident Keokolo.
“(Kamehameha Day) is something the government can’t take away from us,” Ehia said.
Other Kauaians — like Eastside residents Mike, Taylor, Rhonda and Arlene — said the holiday means a day off work to spend with friends and relatives.
The annual Kamehameha Day Parade is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., Saturday, at Vidinha Stadium on Hoolako Street. A Ho‘olaule‘a at the historic County Building follows the floral parade, featuring entertainment, arts, crafts and food booths with island favorites.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.