Favorable winds brought the first visitors to Hawaii in wood canoes. When they returned to stay, they followed the stars. Young sailors and older guides have now followed that ancient path to the Hawaii islands in double-hulled canoes. They commemorate not only their ancestors but also the bold Hawaiians who reclaimed their cultural heritage with the first Pacific crossing in 1975 aboard the Hokulea from Hawaii to the islands of Polynesia.
The canoes from Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, New Aotearoa, New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands are sailing together in a voyage titled “Te Mana O Te Moana.” They left the Marquesas on June 2 and arrived in Hilo on June 16. They have been welcomed on the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and now Oahu this weekend. They will stay on Oahu for an oceans conference at the East-West Center before sailing to Kauai in July. The plan is to continue on to California after stopping in Hawaii. Look at a map of the Pacific Ocean at this point, please, to get an idea of the magnitude of the undertaking. These large canoes are really tiny splinters of wood floating across vast expanses of water, powered by enthusiasm and guided by the past.
The gathering this weekend was emotional for many on both sides of the ocean. The Oahu welcome in Kaneohe Bay was at the same cove where the Hokulea set sail decades ago. There was singing, dancing, food and much laughter. The intrepid island crews paid tribute to the sail that inspired them and the heritage that guided them. It was wonderful to be welcome as an observer and con-celebrant. The more we learn about one another, the more we honor the waters that unite and pide us and the common culture that inpiduates each island. Hawaii is such a special place!