Hōkūleʻa Given Grand Ceremonial Send-off

Cultural blessings, celebratory dances, and protocol were conducted yesterday at the Global Launch Ceremony to send-off legendary voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa on her four-year Moananuiākea Voyage.  The 10-hour event was originally planned to take place at Auke Bay in Juneau, Alaska, but due to rain and cold temperatures, the ceremony was moved indoors to the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center. Now that the canoe and the crew of this next leg from Juneau to Ketchikan have been blessed, they are waiting for a favorable weather window to make their departure and officially start the circumnavigation of the Pacific.

Hundreds of people including Native Alaskans, Juneau community members, and supporters from Hawaiʻi and other places around the world attended and participated in the celebration.  The ceremony opened with Alaska Native protocol from the Áak’w Kwáan followed by Hawaiʻi Global Launch protocol conducted by a Hawaiʻi delegation.

Polynesian Voyaging Society CEO and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson gave opening remarks about the Voyage and its purpose. One of the goals of Moananuiākea: A Voyage for Earth is to connect nations around the Pacific and the globe to build a collective movement to care for the oceans.  Indigenous Pacific partners Princess Maljevljev of the Paiwan Tribe of Kaviyangan, Pingtung (Indigenous Taiwan), Paramount Chief Tolumaanave of Samoa, and Pwo navigators Max Yarawamai (Micronesia), Tua Pittman (Cook Islands), and Stan Conrad (Aotearoa) shared their well-wishes and commitment to the voyage.

Kamehameha Schools dancers performed a hula to heal the earth, with movements making reference to global warming and rising sea levels. Tributes and gifts of gratitude were presented to the hosting organizations and officials including the Áak’w Kwáan, Sealaska, Tlingit & Haida and First Alaskans Institute.

The Hawaiʻi portion of the Global Launch Ceremony closed with the offering of ʻAwa, a ceremonial drink used throughout the Pacific for events of importance. The first serving of the ʻAwa was offered to the ancestors, beginning with Áak’w Kwáan of Auke Bay.  The drink was symbolically served to Nā Pohaku O Taputapuātea, three stones carried on Hōkūleʻa from the sacred voyaging temple of Raʻiatea in French Polynesia where the canoe sailed to for permission to embark on this voyage.  Hōkūleʻa will carry the stones over her four-years around the Pacific with a promise to return them to Taputapuātea when the journey is completed.  ʻAwa was also symbolically served to the PVS guiding elders who have passed on.  Alaska Natives, voyaging leadership, and others formed a circle and drank ʻAwa together to affirm their commitment to unity and the voyage.

After the ʻAwa ceremony, the Paiwan Tribe princess and her contingency performed a ritual that involved the burning of millet and the presentation of gifts including a necklace and pottery, and the sounding of an ancestral nose flute to bestow blessings for a successful voyage to the Hōkūleʻa and her crew.

Alaska Native hosts conducted closing ceremonial protocols including dances, songs, words from the elders and indigenous tribes of Southeast Alaska and they presented gifts to Pwo Navigators and Voyaging leadership.

The four Alaska Native hosting organizations presented an ocean declaration and asked  that it be carried on Hōkūleʻa around the Pacific in hopes that others will sign on to the commitment to care for our oceans.

Hōkūleʻa has been docked at Statter Harbor in Juneau since the canoe arrived from Haines and received a tribal welcoming at Auke Bay on June 10, 2023.  Once weather conditions improve, the canoe will depart Juneau for Angoon followed by stops and engagements in Kake, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.