The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Long ago, Palau had only two islands – Peleliu and Angaur. One day, a woman named Latmikaik had a baby boy. She called him Chuab. The morning after, Chuab was already crawling. He learned to walk the next day. He grew very fast and ate huge meals. Sometimes, he ate pigs and even young children!
The village people were very worried and asked Latmikaik what to do. The mother sadly told them that they should kill Chuab. The people started to collect wood for a fire. Latmikaik tearfully told Chuab that they were preparing special food for him. The people asked Chuab to stand on the wood so that they could pay respect to him. Without him noticing, they started a huge fire.
Chuab fell down and died. Because Chuab was so huge, parts of his body stayed out of the water. They became the many different islands of Palau. Chuab’s mother asked the villagers to cover his body with mats. But there were not enough mats, so they had to use branches. This is why Palau is half forest and half plains. The people of Palau come from the worms that grew from Chuab's body.
In other versions of this story, Chuab is called Uab.
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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