Lahaina resident Abraham Ah Hee honored with voyaging pioneers of the Hokule‘a
WEST MAUI – The ancient voice of the canoe culture resonated through the Senate Chambers last week Monday on Oahu in tribute of the 40th Anniversary of the launching of Hokule’a on March 8, 1975, and the fearless wayfarers of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) who dared to sail the dream.
Sen. Gilbert Kahele (District 1, Hilo) opened the ceremonies on the Senate floor by saying, “The successful arrival of Hokule’a in Tahiti in 1976 via traditional, non-instrumental navigation marked a renewal of traditional voyaging and wayfinding, and her safe return home by an equally dedicated crew has inspired generations to be proud of their Pacific heritage and to continue to seek inclusive island wisdom of sustainability, responsibility and mutual respect and caring.”
Accepting the honors at the state capital were 12 original crewmembers from the first voyage to and from Tahiti in 1976, including the last surviving PVS founder, Dr. Ben Finney, PhD; and wayfarers Milton (Shorty) Bertelmann, Buffalo Keaulana, John Kruse, William (Billy) Richards, Charles Nainoa Thompson, Abraham (Snake) Ah Hee, Francis Kainoa Lee, Kimo Lyman, Gordan Pi’ianaia, Penny Rawlins Martin and Dr. Ben Young.
It was the first time all living members of the original crew were together since the trailblazing trek.
“It was a great moment in the Senate. I had the honor of introducing Lahaina’s own Abraham (Snake) Ah Hee,” Sen. Roz Baker (6th District, South and West Maui) told the Lahaina News.
Ah Hee of the Lahainaluna High School Class of 1964 heard about the Hokule’a in 1975, Baker said, and that she would sail to Tahiti. “Shortly thereafter,” Baker noted, “he became a member of the first crew,” selected to sail the Polynesian double-hulled canoe on the voyage home from Tahiti to Hawaii.
The Hawaii House of Representatives honored the occasion as well, extolling the accomplishments of the men and women of the Hokule’a and the vision of the PVS.
Leaving out the whereas language, Resolution 179 partially reads, “Hokule’a continues to bring people together from all walks of life; the winds of her crew’s mentors and ancestors have carried the Hokule’a more than 150,000 nautical miles throughout the Pacific Ocean during the past 40 years.”
And, like all ocean crossings, the winds were not always fair.
Sam Low, author and Harvard PhD graduate of anthropology, captured the definitive story of the Hokule’a in his award-winning book, “Hawaiki Rising.”
It’s a must-read for followers of the physical and spiritual vision of the passage, across the “ancestral sea paths in the wake of the ancestors.”
Nainoa Thompson endorsed Low in the foreword: “The vision of Hokule’a was conceived in 1973, so the publishing of this book marks the 40th anniversary of her creation.
“Sam Low, the author, has sailed with us. He has been a documenter on four voyages, written numerous articles and now, after ten years of work, has finished ‘Hawaiki Rising.’ This book is an important part of our ‘olelo, our history, and it contains the mana of all those who helped create and sail Hokule’a.”
Low is part-Hawaiian, raised on the Mainland. The story of the Hokule’a and its ongoing mission are intertwined with Low’s spirit journey in this life.
“We must always navigate toward a better future; we voyage not for ourselves but for our communities at home; we sail to revere the great achievements of our ancestors and follow in their paths toward justice and opportunity for all; just as aboard the canoe we must marshal our precious resources in order to survive – so must we do that in our daily lives; and that the key to success in any worthy endeavor is vision, preparation, discipline and aloha for each crewmember and – ultimately – for everyone,” he noted.
A review of the book reveals the historical importance of the publication: “As the walls of Troy were falling to the Greeks, Polynesian explorers followed star paths across the world’s greatest ocean to settle one-third of the earth’s surface. It is one of the most amazing stories of navigation and maritime exploration. And it’s never been properly told. Until now.”
Another review reads, “Hawaiki Rising is the saga of an astonishing revival of indigenous culture by voyagers.”
It was honored with a Nautilus Award, Ben Franklin Award, Walter Cronkite Award, Hawaii Book of the Year Award and finalist for a Book of the Year Award in the adult nonfiction category.
The text is used as a teaching tool in schools and universities across the state and on the Mainland.
The journey of the wa’a kaulua is ever-emerging, as the voyage of the Hokule’a extends beyond the Pacific 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports and 26 nations across the planet.
The epic Worldwide Voyage – Malama Honua – began in Hawaii in 2013 and continues through 2017 with an inclusive vision “to engage all of Island Earth; demonstrating how to live sustainably, while sharing Polynesian culture, learning from the past and from each other, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we call home,” House Bill 179 reads.
In an interview with Lahaina News, Low agreed: “Hokule’a’s mission has evolved over the past 40 years from one focused on the revival of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and pride to a more universal one of bringing to the world our ancient knowledge and ability to live in harmony with our environment.
“Our great teacher, Mau Piailug, conveyed to us the understanding that we must always voyage with ‘seram – with the light,’ and that a navigator’s duty is to serve their people.
“He told his students,” Low continued, “to sail from their islands and always return with ‘something of value’ for their community. This is also the essential mission of Malama Honua – to share and to learn from others who are striving to live in balance with their environment and to bring those gifts, that precious knowledge, back home to Hawaii.”
“Join the movement” at hokulea.com.