While scholars debate the year, either 1778 or 1780; we know that Captain Cook first drifted into Kauaʻi’s history on Jan 19, 1778. En route from Tahiti, northwest to the continent of North America, he had a keen eye to find the fabled Northwest Passage. From that moment in time, destiny and the currents familiar to Polynesian seafarers drove the ships Discovery & Resolution, bearing a “new” world, to collide with the highly developed and ancient Hawaiian civilization.
Into this time and place Kaumualiʻi was born and raised to become the Aliʻi Ai Moku of Kauaʻi. Even within that isolated, stone age setting of the Hawaiian Archipelago, Kauai was unique unto itself. Surrounded by treacherous channels and thousands of miles of open seas, Kauai stood near other islands, yet isolated. Whether due to prophecy or geographic isolation, Kauai with its rich natural resources was not to be con-quered by Kamehameha or other island chiefs. The island essentially lived: Kauaʻi I Ka Maliē/ Kauaʻi in Peace & Calm.
Kaumualii was born into this peace and raised by his mother, Chiefess Kamakahelei, while his father, Kaʻeokulani, brother of Kahekili of Mauʻi was often away fighting battles against Kamehameha I. Kaumualiʻiʻs birth at the royal birthstones of Holoholoku in Wailua celebrated the highest sacred lineage of three islands: Kauaʻi, Maui and Oʻahu.
From youth, Kaumualiʻi, possessed a remarkable intelligence, curiosity and memory. He easily learned extensive genealogical chants, and developed a deep reverence and connection to his native akua and religion. He was guided to understand and appreciate the island’s natural resources, as well as the highly developed skills of his people. The deep affection between Kaumuali’i and his people is well-documented; ruling his kingdom with peace & aloha learned from his mother.
He was also stimulated by the many new ideas and cultures that ships from around the world brought to his shores. Vancouver, who developed a friendship with him during visits, described the teen Kaumuali’i as “…highly intelligent, curious and handsome”. His prodigious memory & intellect enabled him to learn to read & write English, as well as the use of many tools and implements, especially related to navigation, measurement and astronomy. These skills enabled him to develop friendships and good trade relationships with diverse countries sailing into Waimea Bay, interested in provisions, repairs, respite and for some, darker intentions.
Meanwhile, Kamehameha I made several unsuccessful attempts to conquer Kauaʻi and unite it with the rest of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. When direct attacks were thwarted by weather, disease and/or destiny, a more peaceful alliance was sought. Finally in 1810, after years of sporadic negotiations through intermediaries, Kaumualiʻi traveled to Honolulu and made a peace treaty with Kamehameha, though conniving chiefs plotted more devious outcomes. However, he would continue to rule Kauaʻi, though officially as a tributary King until his death. This spared Kauaʻi people untimely death and ruthless slaughter that would surely have resulted from war with Kamehameha, as it had for many of the other islands and people. And so peace continued to reign for a time with Kaumualiʻi –Kauaʻi I ka Maliē. Though political, social & cultural upheaval and intrigue brought challenges that would threaten the King’s vision of peace and prosperity for his island and people.
When the statue is installed it will be a reminder of our unique island history and our beloved King, who then, as now, will welcome visitors with open arms to share and exchange cultures. Aloha It’s Kauai’s Spirit!September 1, 2020
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