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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: Come celebrate Hōkūleʻa visiting Hilo this month

UH Hilo will be hosting a day-long event for Hōkūleʻa, the crew, and the local community on Saturday, April 21.

By Marcia Sakai.

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

The Hōkūleʻa is visiting Hawai‘i Island for a two-month stay that started in March. This is the voyaging canoe’s first visit to our island since embarking from Hilo in May 2014 for the three-year Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

Hōkūleʻa and crew will be stopping at several ports on the island starting with Miloliʻi, then Kailua-Kona, Hilo, and Kawaihae before heading back to O‘ahu in May. The Hawaiʻi Island visit is an official stop on the “Hōkūleʻa Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail” trip throughout the islands as a way for the crew to say thank you for all the support shown by the people of Hawai‘i during the worldwide voyage.

The importance of Hōkūleʻa and the worldwide voyage is significant. The Hawaiian name for the voyage, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our Earth.” The purpose of the trip was to share with the world the understanding that our island chain teaches us that our natural world is in need of our stewardship if we are to survive together.

The University of Hawai‘i was the higher education partner in the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, with over 50 people from all 10 campuses directly involved, providing the manpower and resources to execute the voyage. Countless UH students, faculty, staff and alumni served during the three-year voyage in myriad ways, as volunteers, navigators, captains and scientific researchers.

We’re proud to be part of the worldwide voyage through the many people from the UH Hilo ‘ohana who participated. Master navigator Kālepa Baybayan, a UH Hilo alumnus and navigator in residence at ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, has been part of the Polynesian voyaging renaissance since 1975 at the age of 19, and served on the worldwide voyage as both crew and captain on various legs of the journey such as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, U.S. East Coast. Notably, he captained the Hōkūleʻa’s historic sail to Washington D.C.

Others from our ‘ohana, too, far too many to name here—Heinani Enos, a lecturer with Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, and Kaleo Pilago who at the time of his participation was a student development specialist at the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center. All sailed on the voyage and then spent time with stakeholders from across the UH System to discuss next steps forward.

Celebrating Hōkūleʻa

UH Hilo shares in the vision of Mālama Honua—as an indigenous serving institution, we take our kuleana, our responsibility, to protect cultural and environmental resources for our children’s future, very seriously.

The voyage sought to engage all the world’s people to bridge traditional and new technologies to live sustainably. This is also a high priority of the UH System and UH Hilo in particular, and we share with Hōkūleʻa, the crew, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the connection and understanding of the important work being done here in the islands to care for Earth and our unique culture.

At each stop on our island this month, the crew of the Hōkūleʻa, including many from UH Hilo, will be giving presentations and talk story sessions, canoe tours, volunteer stewardship opportunities and other family-friendly events, all free to the public. The Polynesian Voyaging Society will also be hosting thousands of public and private school students with canoe visits and educational activities that highlight wayfinding and voyaging through the perspectives of math, science, conservation and culture.

In celebration of this shared vision for a sustainable future, UH Hilo will be hosting a day-long event for Hōkūleʻa, the crew, and the local community on Saturday, April 21. We anticipate a large turnout and hope to share with our local communities the importance of the Mālama Honua Voyage as well as the many related educational programs at UH Hilo. There will be exhibitions and informational displays and lots of hands-on activities and fun takeaways for the keiki.

There are a number of other events planned around the Hōkūleʻa visit to our island. One of these is a field trip of 200 students from Kaumana Elementary School who will visit the UH Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center in Keaukaha as part of a day-long educational event. The center will be giving the students and their teachers tours of the aquaculture research and educational facility, inspiring keiki to pursue science and dedicate their lives to the preservation of the ocean and our island home.

I hope you’ll join us on April 21 to welcome and celebrate the Hōkūleʻa and crew, as we honor them as cultural treasures and worldwide ambassadors of our island home.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

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