I am deeply honored to be here with you today for the arrival of Hōkūle’a and her crew in Darling Harbor and the Australian National Maritime Museum. She will dock here for a few days before continuing one her 47,000 mile around the world voyage.
One of the reasons Hokule’a’s journey brings her to Australia is so that the crew – as representatives of one of the Pacific region’s youngest indigenous peoples – can build connections with, and pay their respects to, representatives of one of the world’s oldest peoples – 70,000 years and still going strong!
When Hōkūle’a was preparing to set sail from Hawaii forty years ago, the traditional navigation methods – using the stars, waves, wind, and birds – that were needed to sail her across the vast distances of the Pacific had been lost from the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. So before she could set sail on her journey, her builders and crew – the people who dreamed of returning lost traditional knowledge to the Islands – had to embark on another kind of quest. This quest was for a navigator who could restore to the people of Hawaii knowledge that had been lost for six hundred years. That navigator was found far from home, in Micronesia. What he had to teach, along with the success of Hōkūle’a’s voyages, led directly to the amazing voyage we are witnessing today.
In Hawaii, the reconstruction of Hōkūle’a sparked a resurgence of interest in traditional ways – ways that should never be lost or forgotten. As we look ahead to the future, we must also look to our past, to ancient ways. Rather than regard them as outdated, we must respect them for what they offer us – the foundation of human knowledge and the blueprint for the preservation of our species. More people around the world are following the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s lead: from medicine to architecture, researchers are looking to yesterday to improve tomorrow.
Across the globe, we are learning that we ignore traditional knowledge at our peril and that our ancestors had a lot more to offer than just their DNA.
That is part of the message of Hōkūle’a. But the rest of the message is about our future, about our oceans, about our planet.
Hōkūle’a means “Star of Gladness.” This is the Hawaiian name for the bright star we know as Arcturus. For centuries, Arcturus was the guide star for Polynesian navigators crossing the vast Pacific from Tahiti to Hawaii. When the star is at its highest point in the sky, it marks the latitude of the Hawaiian isles.
Today, Hōkūle’a – the voyaging canoe – also serves as a guide and a messenger. She comes to us with a message that is as old as time. Hōkūle’a is here to remind us on its Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage that we must care for our Island Earth.
This is the only planet we have. Today, we stand at a crossroads where small actions can have enormous consequences. We have a choice before us. We are at a critical moment where we all must come together to ensure the future and its bounty for our children and grandchildren.
Hawaii’s poet laureate, Kealoha, writes of seeing hōkūle`a in the morning sky saying:
hōkūle`a, the final remaining star in our sight, still shines
as our beacon
we wrap our wishes into its last visible sparkles:
let us fulfill the promises we made to our future generations
let us build from the blueprint of our united nation[s]
let us come together as one
and so we stand, hand in hand, open hearts to the rising sun
for a new day in Hawai`i nei has just begun
Let us rejoice and share the mission and the message of Hōkūle’a and her crew. Let us make a new day for our children and their children. Let us be responsible stewards of the planet with which we have been entrusted so that we can pass it to them in better condition than when we received it. May God bless this journey and grant this crew safe passage.