Known as the “Law of the Splintered Paddle”, Kanawai Mamalahoe is the precept that innocents during the time of war were to be kept safe and that human rights should be upheld for all people.
It is said that once King Kamehameha was at war and was chasing two fishermen, probably with the intent to slay them. However, his foot was caught in the reef and one of the fishermen beat Kamehameha over the head with a paddle. The paddle splintered and Kamehameha survived.
Years later the same fisherman was brought before King Kamehameha. Where the King could have had the man killed for many reasons, he instead let the man go, because the man had only been defending himself, his family and his home.
E nā kānaka,
E mālama ‘oukou i ke akua
A e mālama ho‘i ke kanaka nui a me kanaka iki;
E hele ka ‘elemakule, ka luahine, a me ke kama
A moe i ke ala
‘A‘ohe mea nāna e ho‘opilikia.
Hewa nō, make.
O my people,
Honor thy god;
respect alike [the rights of] men great and humble;
See to it that our aged, our women, and our children
Lie down to sleep by the roadside
Without fear of harm.
Disobey, and die.