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February 2007

Hawai`i News

Voyaging Canoes Set Sail

By Rochelle delaCruz

Hokule`a, the canoe that took Hawaiians on their voyage from Hawai`i to
Tahiti without the use of modern instruments. (Photo by NWHIT)

At the end of January, Polynesian voyaging canoes Hōkūle`a and Alingano Maisu set sail for an approximate 20-day journey from Kawaihae on Hawai`i island to Satawal, a small island in Micronesia, home of Mau Piailug, master navigator who helped the Hawaiians revive their ancient tradition of navigation. It was Mau who navigated the Hōkūle`a on her first voyage from Hawai`i to Tahiti in 1976. Since then, the Hōkūle`a and other canoes have traversed the Pacific Ocean without modern equipment, their crews using only the stars, wind and currents to find their way, proof that the ancient Polynesians knew how to skillfully navigate thousands of miles of ocean. (Click here for more photos)

Since that first voyage to Tahiti in 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was formed under the leadership of Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson and canoes have traveled all over the Pacific, as far southwest as Aotearoa (New Zealand) and southeast to Rapa Nui (Easter Island.) Other islanders such as the Tahitians and the Maori have also relearned their traditional navigational skills and are building and sailing their own canoes. One of Mau Piailug’s sons Sesario and other Micronesian navigators are on the Maisu, ensuring the continuation of Mau’s skill and knowledge in their islands.

At the blessing of canoes at Māhukona twelve miles from Kawaihae, Maisu navigator Chadd Paishon reminded all that everyone in and around the Pacific is connected. “As in old days, the Pacific Ocean is our highway…and this journey is to honor the connections among us,” he said.

According to Pua Case, a kumu hula who was asked by Paishon to speak about the navigators` heiau Holomoana at Māhukona, she recounted how it was restored thirteen years ago with the help of kupuna Marie Solomon who came from a family of navigators. The heiau had fallen into disrepair and when navigators asked Kupuna Solomon for help, she was glad to share her knowledge. One of the stories she told was of a family member in training to be a navigator. For the entire day in order to learn about the movements of the sea, he lay in a canoe adrift out in the ocean that was tied to shore with a long cord. He returned to land only when his teachers pulled the canoe in.

All voyages now begin and end at Māhukona, at Holomoana whose impressive stones can best be viewed from the ocean. The canoes then pass Kaho`olawe, another training site for navigators, before heading out into the open seas.

After delivering the Alingano Maisu to Mau, the Hōkūle`a continues to Japan to meet communities with ties to Hawai`i. As the Japanese have embraced much of Hawaiian culture such as hula and `ukulele, undoubtedly the voyaging canoe will be met with great enthusiasm. At Māhukona, there was a Japanese camera crew documenting the canoe blessing, in preparation for its arrival in Japan.

The canoe crews are ten to twelve well-trained and dedicated men and women from all ethnic groups, and the voyages are made possible with the help of the community, many of whom donate supplies.

The voyaging canoes are a source of enormous pride among all from the Hawaiian Islands, as they exemplify the resilience of a people and the sustainability of their traditions.

To follow the canoes on their journey, go to the Polynesian Voyaging Society website at www.pvs.hawaii.org.


Akaka Bill Reintroduced

By NWHIT Staff

Senator Daniel Akaka, re-elected in November to another term, has reintroduced his bill to grant federal recognition to Native Hawaiians. The legislation was blocked for the past six years when Republicans controlled Congress, but it may have a better chance of passing with the new Democratic majority.

Akaka reintroduced the bill on the 114th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom and 14 years after the U.S. apology to Native Hawaiians. In the Senate floor speech provided by his Washington office, Akaka said, “Despite the perceived harmony, it is the generation of my grandchildren that is growing impatient and frustrated with the lack of progress made,” and warned that “a lack of action will only fuel us down a path of a divided Hawaii.”

In the past, the bill had difficulty getting out of committee but this time, it has a better chance of leaving the Senate Indian Affairs Committee now chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota. But even if the bill clears the Senate and is approved by the House, it would still have to be signed by President Bush, who has never voiced support.


The Canoe: An Alaskan and Hawaiian Tradition

By NWHIT Staff

An exhibit opened in January at the Hawai`i Maritime Center that explores the voyaging traditions of Polynesians and the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Produced in cooperation with the Alaskan Native Heritage Center and ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations under the U.S. Department of Education), the exhibit compares and contrasts Hawaiian and Alaskan canoe voyaging traditions and will be on view indefinitely.

The Hawaii Maritime Center is the home of the wa`a Hōkūle`a when it is not voyaging. It is located at Pier 7 in Honolulu Harbor across from the Aloha Tower Market Place. For more information, call (808) 536-6473 or visit www.bishopmuseum.org.


New MTV Reality Show Riles Islanders

By NWHIT Staff

Maui Fever, a new MTV reality show, is drawing criticism from islanders both in and out of Hawai`i. Premiering in the middle of January, the half-naked all-white, over-sexed cast are endlessly frolicking at Ka`anapali Beach on Maui.

Here are excerpts from letters written in protest to Honolulu newspapers:

The cast…portrays Maui as a rich, white surfer community.

The media has once again stolen our identity.

It’s a real embarrassment.

We (young people) do other things besides partying.

State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said that permits cannot be denied unless a project violates state pornography laws but acknowledges that her office was unaware of the show’s details when it was proposed.

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