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Pu'ukohola Heiau, located on the northwestern coast of the Island of Hawaii, represents one of the last major sacred structures built in Hawaii before traditional life was forever changed by outside influences.
Kamehameha constructed the temple in 1790-1791, he had been successful in conquering Maui, Lanai and Molokai. At this time he had not yet claimed full possession to his home island of Hawaii. His cousin Keoua Kuahu'ula remained his chief rival. While Kamehameha was on Molokai he learned that his cousin was invading his territory on the Island of Hawaii. His aunt was sent to consult the prophet Kapoukahi, for guidance as what could be done to overcome Kamehameha's rival, Kuahu'ula, the prophet told her that Kamehameha would conquer all of the islands if he built a heiau dedicated to the family war god, Kuka'ilimoku atop Pu'ukohola, at Kawaihae.
According to the prophecy, rigid guidelines in the construction of the temple needed to be employed to please Ku, the war god. Kapoukahi served as the royal architect to ensure the guidelines were followed to perfection. For nearly a year Kamehameha toiled alongside thousands of men as they worked on the huge stone structure. The heiau was to be built of water-worn lava rock, it is believed the stones were transported from the seaside valley of Pololu. A human chain, of about 20 miles long was formed and the rocks were transported hand to hand to the top of Pu'ukohola.
When other rival chiefs learned of the ongoing construction, they decided to attack Kamehameha while his warriors were occupied building the temple. The invasion could be successful in either of two ways: it would eliminate Kamehameha and the threat of his army to rival chiefs, or interfere with the specific rituals required to build the temple, displeasing the god Ku. The chiefs of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai reconquered their islands then joined forces with the chiefs of Kauai and Oahu. They sailed to attack Kamehameha, who in turn counterattacked, routed the invading armies and resumed work on the temple.
The heiau was completed during the summer of 1791. Kamehameha invited his cousin Keoua Kuahu'ula to the dedication ceremonies. Kuahu'ula knew he would be facing is demise, yet came willingly. There was a scuffle when Keoua arrived, he was slain with almost all of his companions. The body of Keoua was carried up to the top of the temple and offered as a sacrifice to Ku.
Keoua Kuahu'ula's death ended all opposition on the island of Hawaii, and the prophecy began to come true. By 1810, Kamehameha the Great, through conquest and treaties was the King of all Hawaii.