HONOLULU (KHON2) – We all make use of our island roadways, but when was the last time you paid attention to their given names? 

Did you know you could learn more about Hawaiʻi’s history if you did?

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Our weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various streets across the islands so we can dig into those names and in turn, learn something new. 

This week, we bring the attention to Hawaiʻi’s first codified laws.

In the ahupuaʻa of Waikapū, which lies in the moku of Pūʻali Komohana on the island of Maui, stands a street that carries the Hawaiian word for “law or rule” as its name. 

We’re talking about Kānāwai St.

Up until the death of King Kamehameha I, Hawaiʻi was guided by the “kapu system”, rules that kept ancient society in balance.

When the first missionaries arrived on Hawaiʻi’s shores in 1820, their influence began to infiltrate all aspects of Hawaiian life.

At that time, Kamehameha II was king, but co-ruled alongside Queen Kaʻahumanu who served as Kuhina Nui or regent.

Despite being a woman born into a chiefly line, Kaʻahumanu was one of the first aliʻi to convert to Christianity.

As she did, her authority began to reflect the guidance of the protestant missionaries which eventually led to Hawaiʻiʻs first codified laws.

In December of 1827, the first five laws were signed by King Kamehameha III and put into law. 

Law 1 states:  We forbid murder.  The one who commits murder here shall die, by being hung. 

Law 2 states: We forbid theft.  The one who steals, shall be put in irons.

Law 3 states: We forbid the selling of rum here.  The one who sells rum, shall be put in irons.

Law 4 states: We forbid prostitution.  The one who is a prostitute, shall be fined in money.

Law 5 states: We forbid gambling.  The one who gambles, shall be imprisoned in irons.

There was a sixth law that was originally written but was then removed. 

It stated: we forbid, moe kolohe, or adultery.  The one who has broken this law would have been imprisoned in irons.

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Did you know? Now you do!