Canoe arrival highlights native wisdom, friendship



MOUNT DESERT — Wabanaki and Penobscot youth and adults launched several birch bark canoes in Hall Quarry just before 9 a.m. Saturday to formally welcome Hōkūleʻa, a traditional Polynesian sailing canoe.

The 62-foot long canoe, or “va’a,” was built in 1975. It was the first such vessel built in Hawaii in over 400 years, Capt. Bruce Blankenfield said.

“We know when we see you in your canoes we see your ancestors with you as well,” Blankenfield said. It’s so good to share aloha, not just by email and phone, but to greet each other face to face and share a breath.

“We came here to these shores that you guys have been stewarding for 10,000 years. We want to learn what’s going on in your communities to protect the land. Our grandchildren deserve to live in a place that is nourishing for their bodies and minds and spirits.”

“We thank you for bringing this power to us,” Dean Francis said in introducing the round dance which closed the welcome ceremony. “It’s awesome to see that you’re training your young people.”

Wabanaki and Penobscot tribal members paddled down Somes Sound Saturday to welcome Hōkūleʻa, a traditional Polynesian sailing canoe. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Wabanaki and Penobscot tribal members paddled down Somes Sound Saturday to welcome Hōkūleʻa, a traditional Polynesian sailing canoe. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Also in the spirit of stewardship, Hōkūleʻa’s visit here is part of the Acadia National Park Centennial celebration and a larger effort to link Acadia to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which share centennials in 2016.

The crew hosted the public for tours of the vessel and made public presentations at JW Boat and the Abbe Museum. Groups from various summer camps and sailing schools also visited the boat and talked with the crew.

The public presentations focused on the educational work of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the group that built the canoe and organizes its voyages.

The current worldwide voyage has a theme of “Malama Honua,” or “to care for our Earth.”

“There’s an old Hawaiian saying,” one of the navigators told the group at the Abbe Museum. “The canoe is the island, and the island is the canoe.”

See more photos of the visit in an online gallery and follow the Hōkūleʻa on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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