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Crew Blog | Shawn Kanaʻiaupuni: The Promise of Mālama Honua in New York City

Behind the Worldwide Voyage (WWV) is a Promise to Children signed by educational leaders throughout the state of Hawaiʻi and in each new port that Hōkūleʻa visits across the globe. Launched in 2014 and inspired by the mission of Mālama Honua, the Promise invites signatories to embrace the values of wayfinding and mālama honua to  create, sustain, and navigate a movement dedicated to future generations, imbued with the goodness of Hōkūle‘a and the wisdom born of her legacy.  Since its inception, The Promise to Children has been signed by hundreds of individuals from around the world who support and are dedicated to charting a better sail plan for our Island Earth with our children as the captains and navigators of this effort.  Before Hōkūleʻa left Hawaiʻi’s waters for the longest journey of her lifetime, the visionary leaders of Hawaiʻi’s entire public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, our largest private education institutions, and the network of private schools for a public purpose came together on the deck of Hōkūleʻa to commit to the Promise to Children with the intention of ensuring that Hōkūleʻa returns to a better Hawaiʻi.

The United Nationʻs World Oceans Day in New York City provided an amazing opportunity for a delegation of these leaders to share their Promise on June 8th. Traveling as part of the Promise to Children were David Lassner, President of the University of Hawaiʻi; Andrea Bartlett, Department Chair of UHM Curriculum Studies College of Education; Kathryn Matayoshi, Superintendent of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education; Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, Director of Community Education and Randie Fong Director of Hoʻokahua at Kamehameha Schools; Judy Oliveira Vice-Chancellor of Student Services at UHWO, and many others, including Helen Whippe from Chaminade, Marjorie Mau of the UH School of Medicineʻs Department of Native Hawaiian health, and Gerard Akaka, physician, and Sharlene Tsuda, Director of Community Relations, from Queenʻs Healthcare System.

Not only did the Promise leaders witness the incredible, historic visit of Hōkūleʻa, a traditional Hawaiian sailing canoe, arriving to New York City on the Hudson River, they also met with various schools, students, and organizations during their stay. A first eye-opening visit was to the New York Harbor School on Governors Island. The schoolʻs career pathways tie directly to a vibrant maritime industry along the waterways and rivers of the area. Its students learn to sail, drive ships, and, importantly, the science of restoring natural habitats and animals, including oysters. The schoolʻs challenge is to produce one billion oysters. It considers success the point when oysters are reproducing naturally in the wild and when students are applying their knowledge to protect natural habitats.

The Promise delegation also visited Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies in Brooklyn. The principal and his leadership team were wonderful hosts. They happily shared about their marine-focused STEM program, including the MATE underwater robotics program and award winning science projects to replenish horseshoe crabs native to the New York waters. The school serves a diverse student body, including a large proportion of special education students.

Abraham Furleiter, Gerard Akaka, Ed Wilensky (from left)
Abraham Furleiter, Gerard Akaka, Ed Wilensky (from left)

The group spent the next day at NYU, touring the Wayfinding Exhibit of the Asian Pacific American Institute and learning about the the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education and the graduate program of Environmental Conservation Education. NYU has supported the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, and also promotes teaching and learning aligned with the values of mālama honua and cultural revitalization and resurgence, The day wrapped up with reflections and implications to take home, followed by a beautiful evening presentation by the UH Hilo Imiloa Astronomy Center team with Captain Kalepa Baybayan at the Museum of Natural History Planetarium.

The next day, the United Nations auditorium was filled with supporters from Hawaiʻi and all over the world and Promise leaders joined the many Hawaiian-focused charter school students, educators and others from Hawaiʻi to learn and share their declarations. Following this wonderful day at the United Nations, the Promise leaders set out to Southampton to visit the Shinnecock Reservation. The Shinnecock have an amazing history, including recently achieving federal recognition after thirty years of effort. A group of tribal leaders had hosted Hawaiian students earlier in the week. With our guide and Director of the Youth Council, Weyhan Smith, they joyfully described the wonderful cultural exchange between their youth council and our haumana.

Tribal Leaders at the United Nations.
Tribal Leaders at the United Nations.

Several Tribal Trustees and Administrators met with us to share their stories with the Promise leaders. Some of the stories included work to gain back lands that were once theirs while protecting the 900 acres in their care from developers and those seeking to build their mansions on the beach. We visited the beautiful museum, the community center, and the pow-wow site, learned about their 275 year old Presbytarian history, efforts in the community to heal domestic violence, provide quality early childhood care teaching children their language, and the array of community programs and services offered at the health clinic.

Promise delegation and Shinnecock Tribal Leaders and youth council
Promise delegation and Shinnecock Tribal Leaders and youth council

The last stop was at the beautiful and yet undeveloped Shinnecock beach and burial grounds. We heard a familiar story to our Hawaiian islands as we looked farther down the beaches to the huge mansions lining the waterfront on both sides of the bay. We prayed for their fortitude and success in the continued protection of these lands before we headed back to the Big Apple on our bus. Only three hours in traffic! It was a rich and rewarding day.

Wequai Shendo-Smith, Shinnecock tribe ocean front
Wequai Shendo-Smith, Shinnecock tribe ocean front

The next dayʻs visits included the Isaac Newton Middle School, where Principal Lisa Nelsson and her teachers run a highly reputed school focused on science and math. Later that day, the delegation visited the East Harlem Scholars Academy, hosted by Andrea Wenner and several teachers. We learned about the charter school and after school programs that have been able to achieve significant turnaround with high quality educational opportunities for students, many of whom come from low-income, diverse backgrounds.

The trip wrapped up for those still in the city with a day on Pier 26 with all the Outrigger canoe teams who had arrived to participate in the Liberty Challenge, including a Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia team, one steered by Nainoa Thompson and the other by Archie Kalepa. The day was filled with cultural performances and educational tours of the waʻa.

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The Worldwide voyage is engaging all of Island Earth – highlighting how cultures live sustainably at every port visit, while also sharing Polynesian culture, learning from the past, from each other, and fostering global relationships. This past week in New York was a significant milestone in this journey. As the Promise leaders head home, the rich and varied experiences provide learning, insights and reflective opportunities. Being together stimulated many new ideas and possibilities for the collaborative work necessary to create a better world worthy of our children, one full of hope and new frontiers about how to care for our ʻāina, our kai, our honua, and each other. I mua kākou, e mālama honua.


Help fund the Voyage as we sail the East Coast

Hōkūle‘a’s visit to the eastern United States is a historic milestone in her 40 years of voyaging.

Celebrate with us by pledging your support to the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

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