Larry L. Medina
Kaleo, a HonCC student, was out at the edge of Magic Island, at a particular spot she said her ancestors told her to stand to welcome the Hokule’a home. She was very nervous, she said, and had trouble sleeping the last few days leading up to the event. While she noted that there were much more to the injustices that the Hawaiian people had endured that nearly erased their culture from history, it was imperative to teach the keiki (children) their history, and that there was much more work to be done by people to shed light into its dark past. As if practicing what she just stated, she gave the honor of welcoming the Hokule’a to a child nearby, giving him a conch shell through which to bellow in to annouce the arrival of that humble yet great Pacific voyaging canoe. And as if to solidify her loyalty to the next generation, she took the ti leaf haku she was wearing and adorned it on the child’s head. Kaleo and others like her are what lies at the heart of the Hawaiian culture, and what will lead them into a proud future.
This past weekend, Kaleo, along with tens of thousands of local residents, tourists, and curiosity-seekers lined the shore of Waikiki and converged in and around the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, to welcome home the Hokule’a, a traditional Hawaiian wa’a (canoe) and symbol of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, after a three-year epic worldwide tour of goodwill and sharing the aloha of the Hawaiian Islands. The Hokule’a serves as that connection which Kaleo wishes to establish with and pass on to the next generation.
Mālama Honua, the name of the three-year round-the-world voyage, reflected the purpose of Hokule’a’s mission, which was to “join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable movement.” Raising awareness of the fragility of Polynesia the islands it is comprised of, including the Hawaiian islands, the varied cultures and its limited natural resources, drove home the responsibilities of humanity to care for the Earth, or “mālama honua.”
Throughout her voyage, Hokule’a’s crew sailed over 40,000 nautical miles, using traditional, ancient Hawaiian navigational skills to dock at 150 ports around the world. Crews were rotated out at each port-of-call, resulting in 250 crew who took the Hokule’a on its journey. In keeping with voyage’s message of caring for the earth, the crew also sought to learn how other peoples and cultures were caring for the earth in their respective locales.
Being a replica of a traditional double-hull wa’a, made of modern materials, she is rated for long-distance, open-ocean travel like the wa’a of old. The Hokule’a is navigated by a crew of 12-13 using traditional Hawaiian navigation techniques, using celestial and solar observation and reckoning, observing the ocean swells, the winds, even what kind and where birds are sighted. Launched in 1975, the Hokule’a not only revitalized traditional voyaging in Hawai’i, but throughout Polynesia as well. Additionally, the Hokule’a sparked new interest in the Hawaiian culture and language. Impressively, the creation of the Hokule’a inspired other groups and island nations to build new ocean-going wa’a as well.
When it was decided the Hokule’a would be built, in the early 1970’s, Polynesian ocean-voyaging had not occurred in 600 years. The Polynesian Voyaging Society was founded in 1973 to revive it.
On the morning of the Hokule’a homecoming, June 17th, she was preceded by seven other wa’a (including one from the Marshall Islands, and another from Tahiti). Each voyaging canoe was greeted with traditional oli (chants), pule (prayer) and lei. At around 9:45a, a surge of onlookers crammed the embankment of the Ala Wai harbor channel, straining to see the Hokule’a’s arrival.
Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the Hokule’a and who was on the canoe as it arrived, affirmed the crowd’s aloha. “Thank you, Hawai’i. Thank you for the moment. I am very humbled to tell you right now that Hokule’a is home.”
Shyia, recently graduated from HonCC, attended the ho’olaulea on Magic Island that followed the arrival of the Hokule’a.
“I brought my clan out here to see this,” she said, gesturing to her children. “This is history, we’re witnesses.”