The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Long ago, the islands of Ulithi didn’t exist. A woman called Felta lived on Yap with her two brothers, who treated her very badly. Because of this, she decided to leave. When she reached the sea, she could go no further. She filled a coconut shell with sand, said some enchanted words, and threw the sand in the sea. It formed a sand bar. She walked on it until she reached the end. She threw more sand and created more sand bars. She did this again and again until she came to where Ulithi is today.
She made Mogmog her home because it had lots of turtles. There, she had a son. She taught him many skills, like building canoes. She sent him to Yap to bring coconuts back since there were none on Mogmog at the time. Today, Ulithi is covered in coconut trees.
Lots of stories tell about the beginning of places and people. Like the archaeological account, many stories talk about flooding or lost lands … or islands being fished up from the sea. Others talk about canoe voyages from faraway places. Still others tell about people using spiritual powers to create new lands.
In Aotearoa GLOSSARY Aotearoa - New Zealand (New Zealand) alone, a range of stories are told. As in many Polynesian islands, there’s the story of the boy Maui. From his canoe (Te Waka a Maui, the South Island), Maui fished up the North Island (Te Ika a Maui). There’s the story of the navigator Kupe, who landed on the northwest shores. There are the stories of the canoes that navigated here from the island homeland of Hawaiki. And there’s the story of Paikea, who arrived on the east coast of the North Island on the back of a whale.
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