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Monday, March 13, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Hokulea navigator Nainoa Thompson is greeted by Rapa Nui Huke
Atan Karol during ceremonies welcoming the Hokulea at Kualoa
beach park yesterday.

Hokule‘a ... not yet done

'Now it's about our young people,
and it's about education,'
its navigator says

Island peoples pay tribute to voyagers

By Leila Fujimori


Art The voyage to Rapa Nui has formally come to an end, but the mission of Hokule'a continues. Today, the thousands who turned out to welcome home the canoe yesterday are gone, replaced by 150 fourth-graders on a field trip who were to board Hokule'a.

In a speech during the formal ceremonies at Kualoa Regional Park yesterday, master navigator Nainoa Thompson said that in the 25 years since Hokule'a's launching, the canoe has helped to educate a generation about Hawaiian culture.

"In 1976 it was just trying to see if we could make it," he said, referring to Hokule'a's first voyage. "Now it's about our young people, and it's about education."

Hokule'a's birth in 1975 contributed to the rebirth of the Hawaiian culture and rekindled pride within Hawaiians, Thompson said.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Kawai Hoe, right, helps Leighton Tseu of the Royal
Order of Kamehameha I to place a stone brought as
an offering to the heiau at Kualoa.

Thompson and the Polynesian Voyaging Society have encouraged young people to gain voyaging experience.

"I want children to be great explorers, to deal with their fears," Thompson said. And if their beliefs are strong enough, they should go, he added.

"It's not just a canoe; it's a symbol of our rich heritage," said Kauwila Hanchett, 20, who paddled a canoe that shuttled to the beach guests from Hokule'a and the other canoes.

"When I was out on the canoe, I closed my eyes, and I was a thousand years in the past," said the Windward Community College student.

Ben Finney, co-founder of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, suggested the next voyage could be from Rapa Nui to Chile to prove a theory that the sweet potato originated in South America.

"That would be an easy trip because the canoe's got so much mana," Thompson said. "If the intent outweighs the risk, she would get there. But that would not have been said 25 years ago."

Finney dreamed up the idea of sailing a Polynesian canoe to Tahiti in 1966, "laying to rest the insulting theory that Hawaiians were only castaways blown out here by accident."

"Now Nainoa can retire and there are people who can pick it up," he said. "It's got a good chance of being self-sustaining."

The ceremonies yesterday emphasized how far the canoe has come since the first voyage to Tahiti. Its return from Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, meant the canoe has traveled to all points of the Polynesian Triangle.

Chanting and blowing of conch shells marked Hokule'a's arrival at 9 a.m. at Hakipuu, at the far end of the park, yesterday. The canoes Mo'olele, Makali'i and Hawai'iloa followed, carrying members of previous Hokule'a crews and other honored guests.

Proper protocol to receive the canoes included a solemn 'awa ceremony and sharing of food with honored guests before an ahu, or altar.

Mau Piailug, the Micronesian navigator who taught Thompson and other Hawaiian navigators the traditional method of using the stars to steer the canoe, was among those at yesterday's ceremonies. He said those who travel on the Hokule'a need to pass on what they have learned.

"Never hold it. Better to share. I don't like if lost again. Share to young people."

Island peoples
pay tribute
to voyagers

Visitors bring gifts and
tons of aloha to the
huge Hawaii party

By Susan Kreifels


They spoke eloquently of kings and gods, of celestial wonders and revelations. They pointed to the mountains and seas as they sang praises and offered gifts.

They did it in many languages. But all understood.

Because yesterday celebrated not only Hawaiians, but all the people of the Pacific. And they rejoiced in the bond that made them one.

Islanders from New Zealand to Rapa Nui came yesterday to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Hokule'a -- a quarter century proving the feats of the ancient Polynesian navigators who populated every inhabitable island in the vast Pacific.

The Hokule'a helped Polynesians "remember the family ties which bind us from one place to other places in this Pacific Ocean," said Tua Pittman of the Cook Islands, who became a traditional navigator himself after sailing the Hokule'a. "I come here as a friend, as a brother."

Hawaii's three traditional canoes triggered a renaissance of Polynesian cultures, creating a stronger sense of identity and direction among Pacific island people.

"The Hokule'a made me the man I am today," Pittman said. And that man has "a soul that feels it is part of Hawaii."

Hawaii's voyaging canoes -- the Hokule'a, Hawai'iloa and Makali'i -- have been greeted with outpourings of affection from Pacific islanders who share the same "canoe ancestors." The ancient navigators were the only deep-sea sailors in the world for at least 2,000 years, starting their explorations of the Pacific in the second millennium B.C. The first sail to Tahiti in 1976 drew 17,000 islanders, more than half Tahiti's population.

Yesterday's celebration drew native people of Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, Rapa Nui and Alaska.

Wearing feathers and shells, T-shirts and baseball caps, they thanked the Hawaiians who had sailed thousands of miles to visit, relying only on the the stars and maps in their minds.

Hector Busby, a Maori from New Zealand, said if it weren't for Hokule'a navigator Nainoa Thompson's trip there in 1983, his people would never have built their own voyaging canoe."It changed my life," he said. "We thought we would never get the art of navigating by the elements back. Thanks to Mau (Piailug, who taught Hawaiians traditional navigation) and Nainoa, we are well on the way."

The Hokule'a has made six voyages since it was first launched on March 8, 1975, at Hakipu'u in the Kualoa Regional Park, site of yesterday's celebration.

Nikko Haoa, an elder from Rapa Nui, appreciates the difficulty of those voyages. The tiny Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is the most remote island in the Polynesian Triangle. The Hokule'a arrived there in October, the final destination of the century. Thompson "was the first one who came close to my island," Haoa said through his interpreter, daughter Kihi Haoa. "I believe in the Hokule'a."

Explorer Thor Heyerdahl believed the ancestors of Rapa Nui and the rest of the Pacific islands floated from South America with the easterly tradewinds. But researchers in Hawaii believed the ancestors spread from Southeast Asia using seasonal westerly winds to discover new islands and easterly winds to take them back. The Hokule'a helped prove the Hawaii theory.

Master Navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal in Micronesia traveled here 25 years ago to teach Hawaiians the ancestral navigational skills. Last year the canoe Makali'i sailed Piailug back to Satawal to honor him. "We make a big family," Piailug said yesterday about the bonds star navigation rebuilt.

It includes native Alaskans, who gave two logs to Hawaiians to build the voyaging canoe Hawai'iloa. "There is this powerful community among the Pacific that was latent," Byron Mallott of the Tlingit tribe said yesterday. "We gave you wood, you gave us a dream."

Samoans presented two stones to native Hawaiians yesterday that U.S. Congressman Faleomavaega Eni of American Samoa carried with him on the plane.

Hokule'a to Rapa Nui
Jun. 7, 1999
Rapa Nui, the Loneliest Island
Jun. 14, 1999

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