He Waka Eke Noa

Sept. 21, 2018, 10:16 a.m.

By reading the sea, the stars & the skies, Polynesian ancestors navigated their way around the oceans on waka hourua (Polynesian double hulled voyaging canoes) populating the many islands of the Pacific. However, due to the rapid effects of colonisation, this practice of wayfinding and ocean voyaging was nearly lost.

Two master navigators and waka legends who are instrumental in the revival of traditional navigation and ocean voyaging on these double hulled canoe Sir Hekenukumai Pūhipi of Te Hiku o Te Ika and Nainoa Thompson of Hawaii pay tribute to their teacher, Mau Piailug, and those ancient voyagers that navigated the vast open-ocean of Polynesia.

“According to the writings of the author Elsdon Best he says that the traditional practices had been lost, and in his opinion it was not possible for it to be revitalised” says Sir Hekenukumai and goes on to say,

“But Mau Piailug proved him wrong, He (Mau) taught us how to read the stars and sail the waka on the ocean”.

Mau Piailug was a Micronesian master navigator from the Carolinian island of Satawal, best known as a teacher of traditional, non-instrument wayfinding methods for open-ocean voyaging and for navigating the Hōkūle’a during the legendary Inaugural Voyage in 1976 from Hawaii to Tahiti.

Nainoa talks about two thousand years ago when waka arrived in Hawaii, he says “there were Polynesian navigators and voyagers thousands of years ago travelling across the ocean when no other culture was doing the same, in its time”

Mau passed on his traditional knowledge of navigation to people of other cultures in the hope that this knowledge would be preserved and practiced. Sir Hekenukumai and Nainoa along with many others throughout Polynesia continue to do the same and teach the next generation of open-ocean voyagers.

Nainoa expresses this further when he discusses the significance of relationships, family & connections in regards to ocean voyaging and says “it’s about building the ability to come together in a unified way to create change for our children…we are way more powerful together than we are apart”

Sir Hekenukumai highlights this connection further, not just to present-day relationships and family, but also to our past,

“It is because of waka that our ancestors arrived here, which is why we are all here today”.

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