KAILUA-KONA — Before the sun rises Wednesday morning, before a bustle of tourists line Alii Drive and a cruise ship blocks the horizon, something sacred and special is set to happen in Kailua-Kona.
Wednesday marks the 200th anniversary of the death of King Kamehameha I, who died in the early morning of May 8, 1819, at Ahuena Heiau, a religious temple that served Kamehameha upon his return to Hawaii Island in 1812.
Starting at 4:15 a.m., a community of cultural groups and individuals who want to commemorate Kamehameha I will gather at Hale Halawai and proceed along Alii Drive, ending at Ahuena Heiau for a sunrise ceremony.
The heiau in the present day sits next to Kailua Pier.
The commemoration is being organized by Ahuena Heiau Inc., a group dedicated to preserving, protecting, and maintaining the sacred sight.
“We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization made up of volunteers from the community,” Ahuena Heiau Inc. board chair Tom Hickcox said. “The organization has been around for a long period of time now, and what made us decide to do this is it’s our responsibility as an organization, because Ahuena Heiau is the last heiau used by Kamehameha I and that’s where he passed.”
Some of the groups that will participate will be the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Kaahumanu Society and the Daughters of Hawaii.
“We’re going to have the chant ‘E Ala E’, which is a process in which we greet the morning sun,” Hickcox said. “And after that, we’re going to be presenting hookupu, which are gifts from the individuals in attendance and the groups in attendance to the heiau and to recognize Kamehameha I.”
Kamehameha I, also called Kamehameha the Great, was born in the Kohala region of Hawaii Island, and was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii after he successfully united the islands. His final resting place after his death 200 years ago remains unknown.
For the procession, Alii Drive will be closed from 4:15-5:30 a.m. from Hualalai Road to King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. While the road closure will only last an hour and 15 minutes, Hickcox said the entire event will run two and a half hours.
“It’s our responsibility, kuleana as we call it, as part of this organization that maintains his last heiau,” Hickcox said. “Which is probably one of the most important sights in Hawaii right now, because this is where he ran his government from after uniting all of the islands and bringing the islands together.”
Info: Cultural groups and others wanting to present hookupu are encouraged to call Hickcox at 756-0756.