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Hawaiian Voyagers Return to Reaffirm their Link with Maori

Hawaiian Voyagers Return to Reaffirm their Link with Maori

Young voyagers and students from the islands shine in cultural exchange.

WAITANGI, New Zealand – When intrepid Hōkūlea crewmembers first sailed to Aotearoa (New Zealand) 29 years ago using the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigating, they reopened an ancestral route and rekindled the genealogical connection between Hawaiians and Māori. Yesterday, Hōkūlea has returned, with its sister canoe Hikianalia, carrying with her many of the original crewmembers to reaffirm cultural ties the Māori.

“Every waka (canoe) that touches our waters, every hoe (paddle) that takes a stroke, every waka is a living treasure. It’s an ancestral treasure, it’s a culture treasure, they are living treasures. They help us see our potential.”

Returning crewmembers from the original Aotearoa voyage in 1985 are Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld, Kālepa Baybayan, Billy Richards, Harry Ho, Stanley Conrad, and Buddy McGuire.

With their arrival into Te Tii Bay, the Hawaiian crewmembers were ferried to the shoreline by paddlers of the traditional Maori waka Ngā Toki Matawhaorua, and then carried ashore on the shoulders of hosting Māori tribe members of Ngā Puhi.

The arrival was followed by a pōwhiri ceremony, a traditional Maori welcome consisting of performances, speeches, singing and beginning with a wero, an aggressive challenge to guests using ceremonial weapons. Following the entry of the Hawaiian contingency into Waitangi Marae, speakers honored the memories of Sir James Tau Henare, Tupinea Puriri, and Myron “Pinky” Thompson, all of whom played important roles in the resurgence of Hawaiian and Maori cultures. The top honoree of the event was living legend Hekenukumai Busby, the man largely credited for the rebirth Polynesian voyaging in Aotearoa.

“If I can empress on you anything it’s a deep sense of gratitude… about the thirty years of helping us grow up. You have been older brothers and sisters to us in our need to remember who we are by knowing where we come from,” saidpwo (master) navigator Nainoa Thompson in honoring Busby.

In 1985, when Hōkūle‘a first arrived in Aotearoa, Māori elders in Waitangi proclaimed her as a voyaging canoe carrying Ngāti Ruawāhia, the sixth tribe of Te Tai Tokerau, adding to the five existing tribes in the region that could trace their ancestry back to specific voyaging canoes. Ngāti Ruawāhia is the Māori name for the star Hōkūlea (Arcturus) after which Hawaii’s most historic voyaging canoe is named.

Performed by more than 100 students, family members and crewmembers, yesterday’s ceremony included a special chant Ngāti Ruawāhia composed by Dr. Randie Kamuela Fong of Kamehameha schools, to commemorate the return of the sixth tribe of Te Tai Tokerau to Waitangi. The visiting Hawaiian students also treated gatherers to numerous performances of Hawaiian hulaand mele (music).

A younger generation of navigators is credited for navigating Hawaii’s sister canoes from their last stop in Pago Pago, American Samoa where they departed on Oct. 16. So far the young navigators, under the care accompanying pwo navigators, have sailed approx. 7,000 from Hawaii thus far, in order to reach the northern region of Aotearoa.

“Im proud theres a whole new generation of voyagers who experienced todays event. It was exciting to witness their succession – the passing of these traditions from our generation to the next,” said pwo navigator Kālepa Baybayan.

The current leg of the Worldwide Voyage commemorates Hōkūle'a’s initial voyage to Aotearoa 29 years ago during Hōkūle'a’s Voyage of Rediscovery, which retraced the routes of settlement used by the Polynesian ancestors with traditional wayfinding techniques, utilizing stars, waves, wind and birds as mapping points for direction. When voyagers depart from Aotearoa to Australia in six months from now, it will be the first time either of the canoes will leave the Pacific.

Media Assets:
To read the historical story about Hōkūlea’s first sail to Aotearoa, click here. For a press kit with more information, click here.

For Aotearoa specific posts on our website, click here.

For more information about the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Worldwide Voyage, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, YouTube and Google+.

About the Polynesian Voyaging Society

The Polynesian Voyaging Society was founded in 1973 on a legacy of Pacific Ocean exploration, seeking to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, one other, and their natural and cultural environments.

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