naha stone

Artwork by Dietrich Varez showing King Kamehameha the Great lifting the Naha Stone. 
Dietrich Varez, DietrichVarez.com

Remember the Naha Stone

King Kamehameha the Great, who conquered the Hawaiian Islands, was believed to have overturned this famous rock.

On the front lawn of Hilo Public Library rests the Naha Stone, a wide, 7,000-pound chunk of volcanic rock. Legend says that whoever could overturn the stone would be granted the power to unify all of Hawaii. King Kamehameha the Great, who eventually conquered the Hawaiian Islands, was believed to have overturned it.

Recently, I came across a 1915 article published in the Hawaiian-language newspaper Hoku o Hawaii that added an additional detail to the story. 

The lifting of the Naha Stone, it read, “became something to always encourage Kamehameha thereafter, and during heated battles on the battlefields to come, the moving and overturning of the Naha Stone was always in the fore of Kamehameha’s memories, and it was something that always bolstered his thoughts thereafter.”

naha stone
Today, the Naha Stone sits outside of Hilo Public Library.
Photo: Spencer Kealamakia

I love the idea of Kamehameha the Great needing to tell himself in times of doubt, “Remember when you lifted the Naha Stone? You got this.” Why wouldn’t the conquest of the Hawaiian Islands make a man second guess himself from time to time?

The next time I visited the stone, I stood in front of that wide mass, and I could only think of the great conqueror-unifier of Hawaii, unsure but pushing forward anyway.  

Additional Information: 

This article originally appeared in our November/December print issue, "The Localʻs Guide."
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