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Crew Blog | Todd Yamashita: Molokai Makahiki

Mahalo to Matt Yamashita of Quazifilms Media for producing this video. To see more of Matt’s work, visit

Written by Todd Yamashita
On the island of Molokai, cultural traditions remain steadfast including athletic games that celebrate the Fall season when the land and sea in Hawaiʻi reach their most productive point. Known as Makahiki, the season of peace and fertility, these celebrations attract athletes and spectators from far and near.

Ka Molokai Makahiki celebrated its 35th consecutive year last month and included a visit from Polynesian Voyaging Society canoe Hikianalia and her contingency of ʻOhana Waʻa crewmembers from Molokai, Maui and Oʻahu. Participants included local crewmembers in-training and veterans of the Worldwide Voyage.

On the evening before the bulk of the games were played, the hui of crewmembers presented videos highlights from the Worldwide Voyage to the Friendly Isle community. The audience also received an update about Molokai crewmember Lohiau Paoa who had just reached Brazil the night before half a world away aboard Hōkūleʻa.

20160130_080208At daybreak the following morning, a procession of hundreds of island youth and scores of visitors were welcomed by traditional ʻoli and hula performed by cultural officiants. A rainbow hovered in the distance through it all – for many, a hoʻailona or natural affirmation of the ceremony. It felt as if time had been peeled away allowing a glimpse into the past – a time when the spiritual link between people and nature was powerful enough to command peace across the land.

The sublime and contemplative mood of the morning’s rituals soon transitioned to action and engagement as the games began. Emcee Hanohano Naehu, whose advocacy of Hawaiian culture and environment is equally balanced with humor and hijinks, had the crowd roaring. Crescendos of cheers echoed across town as elementary school kids vied against their rival schools in ‘ulu maika (Hawaiian bowling), haka moa (standing chicken fight), uma (arm wrestling), ‘o‘o ihe (spear throwing), kukini (running) and hukihuki (tug-of-war).

Adults were not to be left out from the friendly competition: Hikianalia crewmembers challenged local competitors and off-island teams, which included members of the Coast Guard who attend the event annually. While many of us had not trained specifically for Makahiki, it was our female crewmembers who rose to the challenge competing in almost every event. Molokai ʻOhana Waʻa crewmembers claimed victory when ’76 Hōkūleʻa crewmember Penny Martin led the team to win the coveted hukihuki (tug-of-war) event. It was a fitting highlight to a day marked by friendship and tradition.

As our crewmembers explore the planet for examples of mālama honua, we are also finding examples in our own backyards. Makahiki as it is celebrated on Molokai is an event that is as much about fellowship with our friends and neighbors, as it is about the quality of our collective relationship with nature. The celebration of ancient traditions on Molokai is no accident. For many generations, this headstrong community has been actively linking the past with the present, forging methodically forward in ways that compliment and honor its unique nature.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society would like to sincerely thank Ka Molokai Makahiki director Shirley Rawlins, the event committee, the Crivello family and the Molokai community for their tireless work and for including Hikianalia crewmembers in this amazing event.

Crossing North

After a 20-month sojourn in oceans south of the equator, Hōkūleʻa has returned to the northern hemisphere in the blue waters of the Atlantic. Please, help celebrate our crew by supporting their journey.

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