The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Cook Islands navigator Tua Pittman: It's not just the canoe and the connection between the canoe and our ancestors, but it's the canoe and the connection with our future as well. And I think what we need to do over the next 12 months is what I really wanted to do right from the beginning, when the canoe first came out, and that is to take the canoe to the people. The canoe belongs to the people. The more people that touch the canoe, the more mana (prestige, power) that flows from within them to the canoe, and the more they feel they belong.
The Canoe Is the People honours and explores the knowledge and skills of traditional Pacific navigation. It is designed mostly for Pacific youth but will be of great interest to others as well.
The cultures of the Pacific are diverse. For this reason, the story of navigation has many faces and is told in many ways. This website celebrates the similarities and the differences in these traditions. The main focus is on the island of Satawal in the Caroline Islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, where navigational knowledge is still very much alive. However, the website also gives many examples from other parts of the Pacific.
Learning navigation is a life-long process. That process is rooted in a network of cultural, social, and spiritual factors. For this reason, the website does not aim to teach navigation. Instead, it gives people a taste of the wealth of knowledge that still survives in the great Pacific Ocean. It encourages them to go into their communities to find out more – to rediscover their past and, by doing so, to take part in (and pride in) the voyage of revival.
The Canoe Is the People is the second in a series of online materials created as part of UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) Programme (www.unesco.org/links). The series uses new information and communications technologies to attract the interest and imagination of indigenous young people about their own knowledge systems. It supports the transfer of indigenous knowledge from elders to youth. This website builds on an earlier UNESCO programme called Vaka Moana, aimed at preserving and developing the Pacific culture and heritage, with an emphasis on canoes and voyaging.
Notes on Language
This website uses English as a common language but gives indigenous words where possible. (Note that the spellings of these words vary from place to place in the Pacific.) The English has been kept as simple as possible. The meanings of some words are given in a pop-up glossary. The meanings relate to the ways the words are used in this website. Some words may have different meanings when they are used in other places and ways.