The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Voyages and Revival
In parts of the Pacific, especially Micronesia, much wayfinding knowledge has been kept alive. In others, much has been lost.
Now, in a few Pacific cultures where there are still experienced wayfinders alive, there have been determined efforts to train a new generation in what they know of the ancient voyaging arts. People all over the Pacific, have been wanting to, and trying to, revive their voyaging values and practices. There are now many voyaging societies, including those in Hawaii, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Aotearoa GLOSSARY Aotearoa - New Zealand , and the Marshall Islands. People are making more and more voyages in Vaka rediscovering the past and finding the way to the future. New schools are being started to teach wayfinding to young people, and re-establish communications, partnerships and networks between people of faraway islands.
Sometimes, European ways are used – like teaching with books, building vakas with modern tools, navigating with the help of western maps, compasses, and weather reports, and using inboard motors and escort boats GLOSSARY escort boats - modern boats that follow a canoe to tow the Vaka when the wind is not good, or when there is worry over safety. People have different opinions about these things, but everyone agrees that it is a good thing to keep traditional knowledge alive and hand it down to the young wayfinders of the future.
We sit down and look at the old traditions
Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr of Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa (New Zealand Maori Polynesian Canoe Sporting Federation)
“One of the things that we’ve been very interested in is learning the kinds of ways of navigation that Mau Piailug has been teaching everybody. So a few of us have been lucky enough to spend a little bit of time to listen to him and the things that he has to tell us about navigation and all those things. We’re starting to find that there are some young people here in New Zealand who are interested in listening to those kinds of stories and doing those kinds of things too. So, something like the programme that we have here with these young children is we sit down and we spend time and look at the old traditions about canoes and the people who sailed – not just to Aotearoa but other stories from all around the Pacific Ocean.”