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Launch of Mo‘okiha o Pi‘ilani voyaging canoe awe-inspiring

By Staff | Jul 17, 2014

A large crowd gathered at Mala Wharf to celebrate the launch of the Mo‘okiha o Pi‘ilani voyaging canoe on Friday afternoon. PHOTO BY CHRIS TURNER/RIMFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY.

LAHAINA – The birthing of Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani was powerful, awe-inspiring and healing.

Ceremonies held last Friday in Mala were well-attended and a blessed experience for all who witnessed the delivery of Lahaina’s 62-foot wa’a kaulua into the fleet of Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoes journeying the oceans of our planet.

With turbulent seas and rogue waves encountered during her long passage, it was a long and arduous trek from conception to birth – by some accounts over 20 years.

Many hands were a part of her crossing into the water world.

Kumu Roselle (Keli’ ihonipua Lindsey) Bailey and Uncle Charlie Lindsey were there at the beginning.

“I represent the family. My father, Edward ‘Ned’ Robert Naleieha Lindsey (Senior) gave the name Hui o Wa’a Kaulua (Assembly of the Double-Hulled Canoe),” Kumu Roselle recalled.

The nonprofit hui was founded in 1975 to support the construction of the Mo’olele, a 42-foot canoe that has served as a floating classroom for the community over the years.

“At the start, it was Keola Sequeira and his two Japanese friends who built Mo’olele,” Kumu Roselle explained.

“Keola lived on the fringe of Mokuhinia and the auwai that surrounded it. He played with the mo’o and let the mo’o go in the auwai; and it would swim to the other side.”

Uncle Charlie shared his mana’o as well.

“I was a past president of the club. I go back in history with the Hui o Wa’a Kaulua with Keola Sequeira, who with his dream made the Hui o Wa’a Kaulua, Mo’olele and Mo’okiha all from his backyard, where things started, where the mo’o swam over the water and would always come back to land.”

“The name ‘Mo’okiha’ is very auspicious, indeed,” Kumu Roselle observed, “and I am glad to see the turbulence is over Now it’s good sailing; the tide is rising.”

The ceremonies were emceed by cultural advisor Kamalapua Kanuha.

It was a solemn and exultant event, equal parts laughter, prayer and protocol, with a dash of joyful tears.

The Royal Order of Kamehameha, Ahahui Kaahumanu and Na Kupuna O Maui participated in the opening procession.

Elected officials provided their heartfelt testimony, including Mayor Alan Arakawa, State Senators Roz Baker and David Ige and State Rep. Angus McKelvey.

Leadership of the hui has changed over the years, but all are volunteers. Its current president is Kimokeo Kapahulehua, and Lyons Naone is second in charge.

The esteemed crew was placed center stage, led by Kapena Timi Gilliom and Palani Wright.

Three kalai wa’a (master canoe carvers) from across the Pacific came in honor of the occasion, Kamalapua said. There was Uncle Hekenukumai (Hector Busby) from the North Island of Aoteara, New Zealand; Uncle Freddie from Tahiti; and Uncle Ray Bumatai from the Big Island.

There was plenty of gifting during the rites of passage.

Uncle Sam Ka’ai gifted the crew with a pu (conch shell).

Interrupting his Worldwide Voyage aboard the Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson “flew direct to Maui” with a gift for the Mo’okiha, Kamalapua commented.

Spiritual advisors were present, ensuring strict protocol was observed during the sacred cultural rituals, including Olohe Keeaumoku Kapu and Kumu Hula Kelii Taua.

The voices of the sons and daughters of Hawaii blanketed Mo’okiha with song, chant and prayer, rising as the end stages of labor neared.

And just as the piko (umbilical cord) was cut by Kapu, a wind came rushing down the coast. It was like the final push of the mother, releasing its child into the world.