Blog | Archie Kalepa: Retracing Ancestral Connections
Tahaa is a very special place in Tahiti and all Polynesian because a great navigator named Hilo was born here. He may have been one of the Polynesians, if not the first, to navigate to Hawai’i and back to Tahiti.
While we were in Tahaa the elders took us to the place where Hilo was born and lived during his youth; they told us stories about him and his mana. The canoes and crews have paid their respects to Tahaa and its people, as a rite of passage.
Like so many of the places we visited in these beautiful islands of Tahiti, we just stayed one night on Tahaa, then sailed to Bora Bora the next day to get supplies and resupply our water.
Our next stop was a small island called Maupiti about twenty-six miles from Bora Bora. There is only one small pass through the reef to the island, and because there is only one, it can be somewhat difficult to get in and out, because the water entering and leaving the lagoon can only flow through this one pass, causing a strong current. So local knowledge is important when coming to the island or leaving.
Maupiti has a historical connection to Hawai’i and the Hawaiians: it is said that Chief Liholiho came to Maupiti and had a daughter (more research for our people). We visited a heiau and placed a navigation rock there. It was pretty awesome as the entire village guided all the crew members to this place of worship.
After spending a few nights on Maupiti, we became connected to the people of this little island. Even the mayor of Maupiti spent a night on the canoe and called the whole village to do their stone fishing (kind of like the hukilau in the old days of Hawai’i).
That day was a sight to see; the entire village, young and old, got involved, from throwing the stones in the water to pulling the coconut leaves hukilau style. Watching from the side, I realized how blessed a community it is. We didn’t catch many fish but the fishing had a bigger meaning, showing that the whole community can work together. It was hard leaving this beautiful island of Maupiti but we had to continue the Mālama Honua journey, just as we were reminded of what Malama Mālama means.
Kālepa Baybayan, our captain and pwo navigator is in my eyes very wise and smart, very tactical in decision-making and speaks very clearly to others; he is my first cousin and it has been a great pleasure sailing under him, and very reassuring in the last few days, as we experienced bad weather. He was of the calmest mind, constantly watching the weather and letting us all know we are sailing in good hands, not by words, but by his actions. He is someone I would trust with my life on this little canoe in this great big ocean.
We have since come upon calmer seas as we approach Rarotonga.