The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Preparing and Starting Out
Many Pacific peoples think of a vaka as the mother of the crew and a wayfinder as the father. Before leaving, wayfinders must make sure that:
• the canoe is working well
• there is enough food and water
• the time to go is right.
Lots of people in the community help with these preparations.
Wayfinders know s many sea paths. In the days before a voyage, they study the one leading star in the path, and the partner stars that follow it by rising or setting in the same wind positions. They know each star on the path, what weather there will be, and what alternative GLOSSARY alternative - other routes to take if currents or winds will push the vaka off course.
Satawalese wayfinders must follow taboos GLOSSARY taboos - restrictions before trips, like avoiding sexual contact or only eating food made especially for them. They also performs certain rituals GLOSSARY rituals - ceremonies to protect the vaka from dangers. Some wayfinders are said to have spiritual powers to control natural forces like the weather.
Remove an ancient curse
Maori master canoe builder, Hekenukumai Busby (New Zealand)
“While we were preparing for the 1995 Voyage of Rediscovery, Te Aurere was invited to sail to Raiatea to remove an ancient curse placed on a marae, centuries ago by one of our ancestors. Re-establishing connections is important and removing the curse of our ancestors would be a way forward leaving past deeds behind. Our elder Te Ao Peehi led the ceremony. I will never forget that day because it felt as if we were surrounded by all our ancestors.”