On Saturday June 10, navigators, captains and crew of Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage sailing canoes Hōkūleʻa (Hawaiʻi), Hikianalia (Aotearoa) and Faʻafaite (Tahiti) arrived on Kahoʻolawe as part of the final leg of a three year voyage around Island Earth.
Welcomed with oli and hula by Ka Pā Hula O Ka Lei Lehua, led by Kumu Snowbird Puananiopaoakalani Bento, the entire group of more than 40 voyagers waited in the tide until everyone was shuttled from the canoes to take their first step onto the Island in unison. Chants were exchanged in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and Tahitian before the group of 30-plus halau members, restoration volunteers, Protect Kahoʻolawe 'Ohana (PKO) representatives and Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) staff lined up to honi each voyager.
“In 2004, Master Navigator Mau Piailug stated at an awa ceremony at Kealaikahiki (on Kahoʻolawe) that this was an important place for the canoes to return to in the continuing tradition of celestial navigation,” remarks KIRC Executive Director Mike Nāhoʻopiʻi, “welcoming the canoes today signifies the future opportunities for Kahoʻolawe to help perpetuate not only traditional navigation but to promote the use of traditional canoes as a means of connection, as embodied by our new kanu waʻa program.”
In October of 2004, the KIRC, together with the PKO, Grand Master Navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, and the captains and crew members of the eight voyaging canoes of Hawai'i, dedicated an observation platform at Lae'o Kealaikahiki for use as a centerpiece for the education and training of novice and future way finders from the voyaging 'ohana (family) of Hawaiʻi. Led by Lopaka White, the KIRC’s kanu waʻa program (kanu: to plant; wa‘a: canoe) offers an access guide to provide supervision, safety and guidance in Reserve projects while canoe clubs contribute transportation, 500 native plants and a minimal access fee for each seasoned paddler.
“Anytime you can travel to Kahoʻolawe by canoe, regardless of what canoe it is, it moves you,” remarks Lopaka White, who was part of the Hikianalia crew arriving on Kahoʻolawe from the 10-hour voyage from Hawaiʻi Island, “you get a different sense of connection that builds an intimate experience with the place, the canoe, the people you are with and the place you came from because you are never cut off from those spiritual things that happen when you are immersed in the ocean, rain, wind and natural surroundings. You experience what ancient seafarers did.” He continues, “the role reversal of being on the volunteer side exposed me to other styles of leadership. You think more about the skills displayed that make a great leader. Amongst the many lessons learned and experiences throughout the voyage from Big Island to Kahoʻolawe to Molokaʻi to Oʻahu, I can think about new ways to teach.”
The mission of the KIRC is to implement the vision for Kaho‘olawe in which the kino (body) of Kaho‘olawe is restored and nā poe o Hawai‘i (the people of Hawai‘i) care for the land. The organization is managed by a seven-member Commission and a committed staff specializing in ocean, restoration, operations, administration and operations. The mission of the Worldwide Voyage is to chart a new course toward sustainable practices for food, energy and our global environment.