“We are all connected by the ocean. The Hōkūleʻa is symbolic of those ties, and I believe that Hōkūleʻa is the ambassador, not only for Hawaiians, but also to all other indigenous people from the Pacific,” said Claire Hiwahiwa Steele, a project assistant with the Pacific Islands Leadership Program (PIL:P).
“I heard about the Hōkūleʻa back home, cause I’ve had the opportunity maybe three years ago to join members of the Fiji Islands Voyaging Society cause we also have like a waka, which is called the Utunialo. The waka or the canoes such as Hōkūleʻa or the Utunialo, it’s almost like this connection back to the natural environment,” remarked PLIP Fellow Akisi Vakamaiverata Bolabola.
A connection that has become blurred among many generations throughout the Pacific Islands due to colonization that started as early as the 16th century.
According to Akisi, “We get sucked into the need to have fuel and all that because of like transporting and shipping services and all of that 135509 but imagine if that were to come to pass. What are we going to rely on?”
Leaders. And Akisi is among twenty others who are a part of a new rise of leaders involved in the Pacific Islanders Leadership Program.
“It’s a three-month program where the participants are residents at the East-West Center in Honolulu studying leadership, and it is more culturally based so that they can apply it back home to strengthen ties and also to collaborate in economics, political and social issues that are happening in their homelands,” said Claire.
Through this program, these future leaders were given the opportunity to visit Hōkūleʻa in HER homeland, in Hakipuʻu, where she became the vessel to point them in the direction of sustainability, the path they will travel on together.
“It forces us to almost look at alternatives and at the same time, most of us are beginning to explore the traditional ways presented back then. We need to just take the time out, go back to the environment, go back to the sea, go back to the forest and find out how we can better give back to not only to our families, but to our communities, to this kind of innovative mechanisms. There’s so many ways we can learn from what was practiced before, and Hōkūleʻa is a great example,” said Akisi.