Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Kamehameha Day!

Today, June 11, is Kamehameha Day, a public holiday in Hawaii. The day was first established as a holiday in 1871 by royal decree of Kamehameha V. Since the following year, 1872, it's been celebrated on the islands with floral parades.

Today in Honolulu, long leis were draped around the arms and neck of the statue of Kamehameha the Great that stands across the street from 'Iolani Palace. The parade went from the palace to Kapi'olani Park.

When I was in Maui recently, the ladies at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel were busy talking about preparations for the parade in Lahaina. They were trying to find enough lokelani, a type of rose, to make a lei for the parade princess. The other women, who, like the princess, would be on horseback in the pä'ü parade (so-called for the 19th-century ladies' riding garb that is customary), would be wearing leis, as well. But because lokelani, the traditional lei flower for Maui, was in short supply, their leis were to be made from another, similar flower.

To illustrate this post, I've chosen a photo from my trip to 'Iao Valley at Wailuku. I visited there en route to the airport to fly home to Portland from Maui. It's the site of the great battle in 1790 between Kamehameha the Great and the Maui chief, Kalaniküpule.

Kamehameha had the advantage, thanks to modern firepower in the form of cannon from ships that had stopped (or sunk) at the Big Island of Hawaii. Kamehameha had two former English sailors in his employ and they operated the cannons. The resulting rout in the 'Iao Valley was known as the Battle of Kepaniwai, the damming of the waters. It was all the bodies of the fallen Maui warriors that clogged the streams.

The smaller rock in the photo, a landmark of the 'Iao Valley, is what is called the 'Iao Needle. It was thought to be the phallus of Kanaloa, the god of the ocean.
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