Photos by Stephen Shender
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Kamehameha the Great was quickest among his people to understand the implications of Capt. James Cook's "discovery" of the Hawaiian Islands in 1778-79. He would later be quickest to exploit haole advisers and weaponry in a relentless drive to unite the Hawaiian archipelago.
By 1810, Kamehameha had subjugated the last of his rivals and founded the Kingdom of Hawaii. Yet even as he united the Islands under his rule and ended centuries of inter- and intra-island warfare, Kamehameha set the stage for the dissolution of his people’s age-old culture after his death in 1819.