The Canoes Are Coming: Te Mana o Te Moana

A couple days ago I went to breakfast at ‘Imiloa with my friends Wallace Ishibashi, of the Big Island Labor Alliance and the Royal Order of Kamehameha, and Clyde Hayashi,of Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust.

Kalepa Baybayan, ‘Imiloa’s Navigator-In-Residence, stopped by to tell us about the progress of the canoes coming up from the South Pacific on the voyage called Te Mana o Te Moana (“The Spirit of the Sea”).

From the website:

The Goal

We’re sailing across the Pacific to renew our ties to the sea and its life-sustaining strength.  The ocean is the origin of life, and it continues to give us air to breathe, fish to eat, and nourishes our soul as well. As threatened as the ocean is now, however, it soon can no longer provide us with these essential life services.

Sailing together, we seek the wisdom of our ancestors and the knowledge of scientists to keep the Pacific healthy and give our grandchildren a future.

We have chosen a motto for the whole project, which reflects the spiritual thinking in Polynesian culture about the sea, which has the same life-force running through its water as runs through our bodies, and how to treat this precious resource to not disturb Tangaroa, the God of the Sea. The following saying is a poetic way to say “be respectful and gentle”:

“Move your paddle silently through the water”

Later, I had a meeting with Patrick Kahawaiola’a and Mapuana Waipa, the president and vice president respectively of the Keaukaha Community Association, and our conversation went to the schedule for the arrival of the canoes. Patrick folks are going to arrange the ceremony.

As of Thursday, the canoes passed the equator and were in the doldrums. You can follow their progress. The first place they will arrive in Hawai‘i is Hilo harbor.

I was tickled that Mapuana was so pumped up about there being women in the crews. I thought to myself: I bet they sent equal amounts of men and woman when the first people came to Hawai‘i many years ago. How could it have worked any other way?

Here’s the most recent blog entry, straight from the vaka/va‘a/wa‘a (“canoe” in various Polynesian languages):

Day 55. This is our home. This va’a (canoe), simple with inspiration from our Polynesian ancestors, its smooth wooden platform connecting two sturdy hulls lying below- this is our island… this is our world. I heard someone say recently “our canoe is our island, and our island our canoe,” as such the lessons and practices inherent on one are reflective in the other. Gaualofa, this island which has sheltered us, transported us and looked after us all so soundly, has been able to do so only as a result of care and consideration from everyone involved. We are constantly reminded to look after her should we expect to be looked after in turn. On this va’a, all are aware of the finite nature of the resources w… READ THE REST

Learn more about the voyage here.