The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Satawalese navigator Jerome Rakilur
The first thing I learned from my uncle was the names of the stars, paafu. The same person also taught me areuum and amaas. Amaas is knowing the star in front of the canoe and the star behind it. Areuum is knowing the stars in front and behind the tam (outrigger). Ofanuw is the knowledge about stars associated with an island destination. Then I started learning ururun mor – when each star rises and sets. If I just know how to sail but I don’t know when each star will rise, I will die in the ocean.
Steering by the Stars
Nga tangata i wheturangitia … our ancestors, the people who have become stars.
The stars are usually a navigator’s main guide. With learning and experience, he comes to know the night sky so well that he can steer accurately when only one or two stars can be seen. A navigator knows the exact positions and times that particular stars rise and set around the horizon GLOSSARY horizon - the line where the earth and sky seem to meet . Westerners talk about the star compass to describe how navigators in different islands visualise star positions in this way. In Satawal, the rising and setting stars are called ururun mor.
A navigator also knows the star paths GLOSSARY star paths - the sequence of stars to follow from one island to another – the ururun mor to follow from one island to another. In Satawal, this knowledge is called ofanuw and is repeated in long chants GLOSSARY chants - songs . He also knows the zenith stars GLOSSARY zenith stars - a star that appears to pass directly over an island and all positions west and east of it , which pass directly above particular islands.