Waikiki shoreline in Honolulu

Did you know that three U.S. states were formally independent countries before becoming annexed by the United States? Vermont, Texas and Hawaii were once independently functioning as countries, and were recognized by the U.S. as such, before joining the rest of the country.

On June 11th, Hawaiians will celebrate Kamehameha Day, a public holiday, around the state. The purpose of this day is to celebrate Kamehameha the Great, the monarch who united the islands of Hawaii in the 1800’s to establish the kingdom of Hawaii.

Aside from being regarded as a leader who united a country, Kamehameha the Great’s contributions stretch far beyond that. He will also be remembered for┬áthe Kanawai Mamalahoe, which translates to the “Law of Splintered People.” These laws were created to protect human rights for non-combatants during skirmishes. It is said that during battle, Kamehemeha got his foot stuck in a rock and was attacked by two fishermen scared of the man. One of the fishermen struck Kamehameha in the head with an oar, which splintered over his head. After the attack, he was left for dead but survived. Years later, the fishermen were brought before the leader for punishment and Kamehameha let them go. On top of letting the two walk free, he also offered them land because he felt as if he should not have attacked innocent people in the first place.

Kamehameha the Great delivered a memorable quote while declaring the new law: “Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety.”

Kamehameha Day was first established in 1871 by Kamehameha V as a day to honor his grandfather, although it was first observed officially one year later. Celebrations in the late 19th century included carnivals, fairs, foot and horse races and velocipede races as well.

When Hawaii reached statehood in 1959, one of the first holidays proclaimed by the Hawaiian governor and legislature was Kamehameha Day. To this day, Hawaii’s special day is celebrated with lavish events that date back to ancient Hawaii times.

Modern day events such as the Kamehameha Hula Competition brings hula groups from all over the world to compete during the two-day event, floral parades are held all over the state and the day concludes with a draping ceremony where the Kamehameha Statue is draped with lei’s. A duplicate statue at the United States Capitol is also draped in lei.

Written by The Discover Our America Team