Kauikeaouli was Hawai‘i’s longest-reigning monarch, ruling as Kamehameha III from 1825 – 1854. Born to Keōpūolani and Kamehameha I, he carried the highest kapu, the most sacred of the ali‘i. While his name has been translated as “placed in the dark clouds,” both “uli” and “ao” are powerful concepts with deeper meanings, vaulting the combined term into a name appropriate for the future king.
This exhibit is named “Ke Ao Uli” excerpted from his name, to recognize the King’s pivotal rule during this period. Translated as the time of darkness or dark clouds, the phrase is associated with Kāne, and culturally reminiscent of times of change or transcendence. It reminds us of the great uncertainty that swept the islands during his rule as Kauikeaouli led Hawai‘i’s transformation from kingdom to constitutional monarchy. This was an epic undertaking.
From 1825 – 1841, a span of 26 years, Kauikeaouli surmounted a series of cultural, social and governmental changes that monarchies in Europe had taken 150 years to navigate.1 During this period, the King and his ali‘i sought to balance the urgent need for change against the imperative to retain Hawai‘i’s sovereignty. For insight and guidance, they turned to trusted allies, the American missionaries.
On July 11, 1842, Levi Chamberlain, business agent for the Mission, bundled four of his children and two others into his horse-drawn wagon and set out from the Mission compound in Honolulu across the treeless plain to Kapunahou.
On this anniversary marking the 200th year of the missionaries’ departure from New England and arrival in Hawai‘i, we acknowledge the pivotal impact the missionaries had on Hawai‘i, its people and what the nation would become.
1 “It had taken a century and a half for European monarchs who ruled by divine right and brute force to be replaced by constitutional democracies and the rule of law.” Lepore, Jill, “In Every Dark Hour,” TheNew Yorker, Feb. 3, 2020, p. 20.