When intrepid Hōkūleʻa crewmembers first sailed to Aotearoa (New Zealand) 29 years ago using the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigating, they reopened an ancestral route and rekindled the genealogical connection between Hawaiians and Māori. Yesterday, Hōkūleʻa has returned, with its sister canoe Hikianalia, carrying with her many of the original crewmembers to reaffirm cultural ties the Māori.
“Every waka (canoe) that touches our waters, every hoe (paddle) that takes a stroke, every waka is a living treasure. It’s an ancestral treasure, it’s a culture treasure, they are living treasures. They help us see our potential.”
Returning crewmembers from the original Aotearoa voyage in 1985 are Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld, Kālepa Baybayan, Billy Richards, Harry Ho, Stanley Conrad, and Buddy McGuire.
With their arrival into Te Tii Bay, the Hawaiian crewmembers were ferried to the shoreline by paddlers of the traditional Maori waka Ngā Toki Matawhaorua, and then carried ashore on the shoulders of hosting Māori tribe members of Ngā Puhi.
The arrival was followed by a pōwhiri ceremony, a traditional Maori welcome consisting of performances, speeches, singing and beginning with a wero, an aggressive challenge to guests using ceremonial weapons. Following the entry of the Hawaiian contingency into Waitangi Marae, speakers honored the memories of Sir James Tau Henare, Tupinea Puriri, and Myron “Pinky” Thompson, all of whom played important roles in the resurgence of Hawaiian and Maori cultures. The top honoree of the event was living legend Hekenukumai Busby, the man largely credited for the rebirth Polynesian voyaging in Aotearoa.