The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
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.
Preparing and Starting Out
Throughout the Pacific, a canoe is thought of as the mother of the crew and the navigator as their father. Before leaving, the navigator 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.
The navigator knows many sea paths. In the days before a voyage, he goes over the one he will follow. He knows each star on the path, what weather he might find, and alternative GLOSSARY alternative - other routes to take if currents or winds push his canoe off course.
In many parts of the Pacific, like Satawal, the navigator has to follow taboos GLOSSARY taboos - restrictions before trips, like avoiding sexual contact or only eating food made especially for him. He also performs certain rituals GLOSSARY rituals - ceremonies to protect the canoe from dangers. Some navigators are said to have spiritual powers to control natural forces like the weather.