Hōkūleʻa Update| May 17, 2017
Blog by Nāʻālehu Anthony
Aloha nui kākou,
Today marked the start of the last deep-sea leg of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. This 2500-mile trek will take us through the ancient sea road that connects Tahiti and Hawaiʻi. Since 1976, with the first ocean passage of a sailing canoe in many hundreds of years, this ancestral connection was reestablished, and has been growing stronger ever since. The relationship to Tahiti and specifically Tautira is hard to explain without referencing the depth of the bond we have through shared genealogy – we are descendents of those who came from Tahiti to settle Hawai’i many thousands of years ago, these are our brothers and sisters that greet us in Tahiti. And so as we come back in the way of our ancestors, the relationship to Tautira echos and grows across many generations and miles of sea road.
When I first came to Tautira almost 2 decades ago as a young crewmember with Hōkūleʻa, it really felt like I had stepped back in time to some of my own earliest memories. It was like being in the community of Kaʻaʻawa as it had been when I was growing up there as a child. Everyone knew everyone in this small, tight-knit community, and no matter the adversity or challenge, we all worked together as a collective to move forward together – that was the Kaʻaʻawa of my youth, and Tautira of 20 years ago. On that first visit to Tautira, I was immediately adopted into a family that would be responsible for taking care of me while Hōkūleʻa waited for the right weather to begin the journey home. Now, a couple of decades later, the community operates largely the same way. Some of the elders that first found this pilina are now gone, and many of us have kids now whereas we were just kids the first time we went there, but the community remained the same. And yet, it feels different to me than when I first came to Tautira. I couldn’t put my finger on it until just now as I collected my thoughts to write this piece about this special place. I know what is different about this place. It is me. It is us.
We are the ones who have changed. Our communities back home are different now than those same communities that we grew up in just a few decades ago. We don’t know as many of our neighbors, our kids aren’t allowed to go into the houses of their classmates down the street, and alarms and walls went up to ease the fear of what could happen or just happened a few minutes down the road. So now a place like Tautira, where if you come as part of the Worldwide Voyage you are offered safe passage and access to whatever these humble people have to offer in terms of resource because you are family – that is strange to us somehow in this day and age.
Many of you reading this think it’s just crazy to allow complete strangers into your home, sight unseen, and welcome them with everything you have. As I write this, it sounds a little off the wall to me too, except that’s how pilina works. The connection at this depth means that if you came on one of these sacred vessels, then you are family. No questions asked. And that’s exactly what I witnessed these last few days. While we measure Hōkūleʻa coming to this small community as a potential burden to host 34 crewmembers across three vessels, they see it as a rare opportunity to be with family and celebrate.
I could tell you story after story about these families not ever accepting money for anything that they do for us. About how at this home where I am called family, they won’t even let us wash dishes, or wash our own clothes. I could tell you about how the families will make dinner for the almost three dozen of us every night and wait until all of us have eaten before the community will eat. But those are all just pointers and indicators and a shallow kind of transactional interpretation of what is being exchanged between people. And this is not that. This is about an ancient family reunited, and that in the reuniting we have both become whole. No more proof is needed than the look on Mama and Papa Otaʻs face as we departed today. The tears they shed were of pride and of pure aloha because even though our departure marks the beginning of the long wait until these canoes return, it also marks a time where they memory they are experiencing matches their ancestral memory and reconnecting us all as we were thousands of years ago.
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