Moananuiākea Voyage Crew Blog: Cat Fuller

About ten years ago, fellow crew member and Pwo navigator Tua Pittman said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said that wa’a is not just the vehicle we sail but that ‘wa’a is the movement of people.’ As Hōkūle’a departs Juneau to start the next chapter in her story, I find myself reflecting on the voices I heard over the last week. Our Alaska Native hosts talked about spirits reawakening, about reclaiming indigenous place names and boundaries and about the importance of indigenous wisdom in bringing about a more compassionate relationship with our planet. 

While we have pinpointed small Pacific islands as the first to be affected by climate change, it is our northern brothers and sisters who face not only loss of habitat and ecosystem but the subsequent loss of a way of life. Climate change shifts living populations, starting at the bottom of the food chain, plankton, and moving all the way up to humanity. Sealaska President & CEO Anthony Mallot spoke about his brother’s struggle to make a living through fishing, a struggle that is becoming increasingly urgent. 

Saturday evening, the crew took Hōkūle’a out with some of our hosts aboard. We had two elders. Lyle James teaches Tlingit language and culture at the University of Southeast Alaska. He’s been doing this for almost twenty years. In meeting Lyle and in listening to the speakers at the departure ceremony, I am reminded of the 1995 sail to Taputapuātea, when wa’a and ho’okele from Aotearoa, Hawaiʻi, and the Cook Islands met together for the first time on the dock in Ra’iatea. As we met and looked into each others’ eyes, it was clear that we had shared the common experience of an open ocean voyage. All of us had been on the wa’a.

The power of people working together towards a common goal is immense. In meeting our hosts and speaking to people like Lyle, it is clear that we all are on the same wa’a. We sail the same paths with the same island, a sustainable earth, in our sights.