Cook Islander Dorice Reid
They learned how it was that our ancestors had this enormous respect for the environment. For instance, in the olden days, our ancestors would never cut a tree down to make a canoe without praying, without their karakia, praying for authority to take the life of that tree. Today, we just blatantly go and cut a tree down, and we donít think about the fact that it has a life.

Building a Canoe

If you want to build a canoe, first plant a garden.
Ni-Vanuatu saying

Building a large sailing canoe can take more than a year. It can only begin if the right trees have been planted and are ready to use. A spiritual expert often performs a ritual GLOSSARY ritual - ceremony to ask the spirits for permission to cut down a tree. The experts might be paid with valuables like weaving and food as well as shown great respect. Another expert guides the canoe builders. In Satawal, heís called a senap (master canoe builder). Young children watch, and older boys help out.

Before Europeans arrived in the Pacific, people used things from the world around them to build canoes - like stone or shell axes to cut the trees and shape the canoe parts. There were no steel tools and certainly no chainsaws like today! A canoe builder knows which trees are good for different canoe parts. The wood for hulls must be strong and long-lasting but not too heavy. Other canoe parts - like the outrigger GLOSSARY outrigger - side float and the sleeping platform on Satawalese canoes - are made from softer woods. Some of the wood used for the sleeping platform is brought by ocean currents GLOSSARY currents - the directional flow of the sea from unknown places. If a community doesnít have building materials or a canoe builder, they may trade for canoes from other islands.

After the canoe is tested, thereís a ceremony to celebrate. In Satawal, they throw food all over the canoe. When theyíre finished, they feast!