Hawaiian religion is based on a system called "kapu" which means "forbidden." It was comprised of various laws and most violations were punished only by death. Hawaiians believed in stringent enforcement for even a single violation was needed because the gods would punish the whole community with natural disasters if they didn't strictly punish the violator. One of the kapu laws was that men and women could not eat together. In fact, it was kapu for women to eat bananas and coconuts just as men were forbidden to eat certain fish. The kapu system originated some time around 1300 and was isntituted by the ali'i. Ali'i means chiefly class. So in other words, the royalty of Hawai'i convinced the rest of the Hawaiians that they were sacred and that everyone had to follow the laws they instituted or the entire people would be punished by the gods. Gee, how many times have we heard that story?
King Kamehameha I (also known as Kamehameha the Great) conquered the islands and formed the Hawaiian nation in 1810. Some believe that he was the promised king, the one whose birth would be announced by a comet. (sound familiar?) History tells us that Halley's comet was visible in Hawai'i in 1758 and Hawaiian history says Kamehameha was born in November of that year. Although, some historians say he was born some twenty years earlier. But that's not the point. The point is, the Hawaiian people thought this was the great king who was going to unify the islands (he did) and establish a kindgom (he did), and so they had much respect for him and esteemed him greatly. That is why no one even though to suggest ending the kapu system while he was alive.
Captain Cook had arrived on the Big Island in 1778 unaware of the kapu laws and accidently violated many of them. When the island was not devastated by tsnumi, earthquake or other natural disaster, many Hawaiians figured out that the gods were not enforcing the kapu laws. Some historians even suggest that the Hawaiian people started to doubt the gods existed at all. Fast forward some forty years....
In 1819, Kamehameha the Great died and very shortly after that, his favorite wife Ka'ahumanu and her "sister-wife" Keopuolani convinced King Kamehameha II (son of the Great and Keopuolani) to abolish kapu. Their suggestion was for him to eat publicly with them. And he did. So the message was sent throughout the land that kapu was hereby abolished. Not long after this famous dinner, Kamehameha II had the heiaus (temples) and idols demolished.
But, as with anything, there were those who were upset about the end of kapu. Kekuaokalani who was Kamehameha II's cousin and heir to the throne should Kamehameha die, objected strongly to the abolition. His cohorts encouraged himt o "seek the throne" or in other words, have the king assasinated.Though he refused to order an assasination, he started a battle.
The battle occured near Kailua-Kona when Kamehameha II's forces went to intercept Kekuao's forces. In battle, Kekuao was wounded. His wife ran out and fell at his side, begging for their lives to be spared. Instead, Kamehameha's forces executed both of them and kapu also died that day.
About four months later, the first Christian missionaries landed on Hawai'i. Now if that isn't a God-thing, I don't know what is. I'll tell you more about these first missionaries next Friday.
Sadly, this historic site is in the middle of a resort area as you can tell from the photo.