Updated: September 29, 2023
Hundreds lined the shore of Auke Bay Saturday to welcome voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa under the leadership of Captain and Pwo Navigator Bruce Blankenfeld.
Hōkūleʻa approached the traditional lands of the A’aakw Kwaan to the sounds of chanting, singing and drumming at about 2:30 p.m. (AK Time) with 14 crew members aboard, including two from Juneau and two from 90 miles north in Haines, where Hokuleʻa departed at 4 a.m.
Alaska hosts sent traditional canoes called yaakws to escort Hōkūleʻa to her mooring, where she tied up.
Protocol began as Alaska Native hosts of the Wooshkeetaan and Yaxteitaan clans called out, asking crew members to identify themselves. Crew responded and requested permission to come ashore. Permission was granted.
Crew members of Hōkūleʻa and her escort boat Kolea then joined a Hawaiʻi delegation of more than 80, which included three of the remaining four original crew members of Hōkūleʻa’s maiden voyage to Tahiti in 1976 – John Kruse, Pwo Navigator Shorty Bertelmann and Billy Richards – as well as Pwo Navigators from Cook Islands Tua Pitman and Peia Patai, Pwo Navigator from Aotearoa Jack Thatcher, US Congressman Ed Case and US Congresswoman Mary Peltola. There was a Pu Kani (Sounding of the conch), Hōkūleʻa chants, and the “Hokuleʻa Haʻa” before the delegation proceeded to a stage where the ceremony and speeches began.
Alaska hosts conducted a tribal welcome protocol, followed by dancing and chanting by Kamehameha Schools. Then ʻawa was offered to Auke Bay – Aakʻw kwaan, and to the Nā Pōhaku o Taputapuatea – three stones carried aboard Hōkūleʻa from the sacred voyaging temple in Raʻiatea.
Polynesian Voyaging Society CEO and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson then greeted the gathering and spoke of Hawaiʻiʻs 31-year relationship with Southeast Alaska with gratitude for the compassion and generosity of Alaska Natives Judson Brown, Byron Mallott and Ernie Hillman. The three individuals spearheaded the donation of two spruce trees for the hulls of voyaging canoe Hawaiʻiloa when koa trees large enough and healthy enough could not be found in Hawaiʻi. Thompson spoke of how their leadership turned to friendship then to family and how that small family grew to thousands today.
The ceremony ended with hula by Kamehameha Schools students, a special tribute to the Aakʻw Kwaan, and the Pu Kani.
This arrival marked the completion of the Moananuiākea Voyage “Heritage Sail” to the homelands of Brown, Mallott and Hillman.
While the canoe is in Juneau, the crew and Hawaiʻi delegation of educators and PVS partners will participate in a cultural and educational exchange conference with the Alaska hosts. The crew also will host public dockside canoe tours Sunday, June 11 through Wednesday, June 14, 2 to 6 p.m.
The events were sponsored and organized by the Alaska host committee, which includes representatives from Sealaska Corp., First Alaskans Institute and Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, in partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kamehameha Schools.
The Global Launch of the Moananuiākea: Voyage For Earth circumnavigation of the Pacific will take place on June 15, 2023, 1-5 p.m. Alaska Time (11 a.m.-3 p.m. HST) as Hōkūleʻa prepares to depart Auke Bay to begin her four-year journey.