Vision, Mission, and Guiding Values
Polynesian Voyaging Society is a non-profit research and
(adopted November 18, 2002)
Founded on a legacy of Pacific Ocean exploration, the Polynesian
Voyaging Society seeks to perpetuate the art and science of
traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration
through experiential educational programs that inspire students
and their communities to respect and care for themselves and
each other, and their natural and cultural environments.
our special island home, will be a place where the people, land and sea are
cared for, and communities are healthy and safe.
To care for
'Ike: To seek knowledge
To share with each other
Pono: To nurture a deep sense of justice
Maika'i: To live healthily
fulfill its mission, Malama Hawai'i has adopted goals in three
areas: voyaging, education, and community partnerships.
Sustain, perpetuate and expand the traditional
art of Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration by
recruiting and training individuals who can carry on the
Assume a leadership role in ocean policy
matters, and share our voyaging values to enhance stewardship of
our ocean resources.
Support the growing voyaging
ohana and be a responsible steward of the voyaging canoes.
Take an active role in youth personal and leadership
development through our crew training values and experiences.
Build an economically viable organization that can sustain
our programs and enable the organization to fulfill our mission
and realize our vision.
following describes the process that the Polynesian Voyaging
Society has used to carry out successful voyages over the past
18 years. This planning, problem-solving, and decision-making
process is taught in Malama Hawai'i education programs, and is
used in establishing a basis for cooperative efforts in the
and Values -- Before beginning any project there must be a
clear vision of the destination, and a strong commitment to
reaching that destination. Our values steer our actions.
our destination and values are clear, then planning must begin
to determine what information needs to be gathered, what tasks
need to be accomplished, and who will be responsible for these
Community -- In order to succeed at any large project there
must be a community of people who support the vision and are
willing to take responsibility for working toward it.
-- Much preparation is needed for a safe voyage. The kind of
preparation is determined in the planning phase. To prepare for
a voyage we dry-dock the canoe to insure it is seaworthy, train
the crew and navigator, and study the wind and weather patterns
of regions where we plan to sail.
-- There comes a point when we must let go of the lines and
set sail. In every voyage there is risk, but by being well
prepared we do our best to minimize the risk.
-- When we reach our destination, we celebrate our
accomplishments and recognize the hard work of the community of
people that supported the vision. We also take the opportunity
to reflect on what we learned and experienced during the process
of reaching our destination.
-- Through education we share the lessons, experiences, and
achievements of a voyage with students and the larger community,
thus perpetuating what is valuable to us in what we have done.
of the Polynesian Voyaging Society: 1973 - 1998
Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) was established in 1973-by Dr.
Ben Finney, an anthropologist from California, Herb Kane, a
Hawaiian artist; and Tommy Holmes, a man who loved the sea--to
show that the ancient Polynesians could have the purposefully
settle the Polynesian Triangle in double-hulled, voyaging canoes
using non-instrument navigation. The Society's first project was
a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe. On March 8th, 1975
this replica, Hokule'a, the first voyaging canoe to be built in
Hawai'i in more than 600 years, was launched.
May 1st, 1976 Hokule'a left Hawai'i on her
maiden voyage to Tahiti, attempting to retrace this
traditional migratory route. Navigated without instruments by
Micronesian navigator, Mau Piailug, the canoe arrived 33 days
later in Papeete, Tahiti, to a crowd of more than 17,000-over
half of the island had turned out to greet the canoe. What had
begun as a scientific experiment to prove a theory about the
settlement of Polynesia, had touched a deep root of cultural
pride in Polynesian people.
the voyage Mau returned to Micronesia, and with him went the
knowledge of the traditional art of wayfinding. But Mau had
ignited a strong interest in many members of the Voyaging
Society to continue sailing and learning about navigation. In
1978 in response to this interest, Hokule'a again left for
Tahiti. Six hours into the voyage, in the middle of the night,
Hokule'a capsized between O'ahu and Lana'i. In an heroic effort,
Eddie Aikau, one of Hawai'i's most experienced ocean men left on
a surf board to get help for his fellow crew members. He was
never seen again. Eddie's loss was a painful experience, but it
raised the standards of preparation and safety to a new level;
since 1978 not a single crew member has been lost at sea.
that it was unprepared to conduct a long voyage, PVS turned to
Mau and asked him to teach them about sailing and navigation.
Mau agreed, and for the next two years he helped prepare the
members of the Voyaging Society for the enormous task of sailing
and navigating a deep sea voyage. In
1980 a crew from Hawai'i successfully sailed Hokule'a to
Tahiti and back to Hawai'i, but this time the canoe was guided
by one of Mau's students, Nainoa Thompson, the first Hawaiian to
navigate a voyaging canoe in more than 600 years.
1985-87, Hokule'a sailed more than 16,000 miles of
traditional migratory routes from Hawai'i to Tahiti, Rarotonga
(Cook Islands), Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tonga and Samoa-the
Voyage of Rediscovery. This voyage demonstrated that it was
possible to navigate these routes without instruments, and that
contrary to popular theories, it was possible for traditional
voyaging canoes to sail against the prevailing winds, by taking
advantage of seasonal wind shifts. Hokule'a's voyages to date
had demonstrated that the ancient Polynesians could have
intentionally settled the Polynesian Triangle -- an area of 10
million square miles, the largest nation on Earth -- one of the
greatest feats of exploration in human history. But while
scientific research was the impetus for these initial voyages,
the recovery and perpetuation of Polynesian voyaging and
navigation traditions became the main emphasis. The voyages of
Hokule'a inspired pride among Polynesians for their history and
heritage, and sparked a revival of interest in canoe building,
sailing, and navigation.
1990 in recognition of the impact of voyaging on the revival of
Hawaiian culture, the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program,
an organization working to strengthen the Hawaiian community
based on its common history and heritage, contracted PVS to
construct a double-hulled, voyaging canoe made entirely of
natural materials. A
9-month search of the Island of Hawai'i's koa forests resulted
in nothing-not a single koa tree large enough or healthy enough
for the hulls of a voyaging canoe was found. The ancient
Hawaiians built hundreds of voyaging canoes from koa trees, but
in 1990, given the decline of Hawai's native forests, we were
unable to build even one. This taught the Voyaging Society a
powerful lesson: the health of our culture is strongly tied to
the health of our environment. Fortunately for the project,
there was another historical source of wood for canoes-drift
logs from the Pacific Northwest. In an extraordinary act of
kindness, the native people of Southeast Alaska gave two,
400-year old, spruce logs to the Society to build a voyaging
canoe. The effort brought together community groups,
organizations, and countless individuals who contributed more
than 500,000 hours to build and sail the canoe. The
canoe, named Hawai'iloa, was completed under the leadership of
Wright Bowman, Jr. Launched in 1993, Hawai'iloa, represented
a new level of community involvement in voyaging, a new
appreciation for Hawai'i's environment, and the start of a deep
friendship with the native peoples of Southeast Alaska.
1992 Hokule'a made its fourth voyage to the South Pacific,
sailing to Rarotonga for the Sixth Pacific Arts Festival, part
of which celebrated the revival of canoe building and
traditional navigation. New canoes were being built in Aotearoa,
Rarotonga and Tahiti, and with help from PVS, new navigators
were being trained for the next voyage: from the Marquesas
Islands, the ancestral home of the first Hawaiians, to Hawai'i. In
1995 six canoes--Hokule'a, Hawai'iloa, and Makali'i from
Hawai'i, Te 'Aurere from Aotearoa, and Takitumu and Te 'Au Tonga
from Rarotonga--left the Marquesas Islands for Hawai'i. Five of
the six canoes were navigated using only traditional methods,
and all six arrived safely in Hawai'i.
the 1992 and 1995 voyages emphasized education, an important
tool essential to sharing the experiences and values of voyaging
with a larger audience. In addition to training new navigators
and voyagers, PVS reached out to thousands of school children in
the Department of Education through a long-distance education
program. During the voyage students tracked the canoe on
nautical charts, learned about their Pacific world, and used the
canoe and its limited supply of food, water, and space, to
explore issues of survival, sustainability, and teamwork. On the
1992 return voyage PVS educational programs reached as far as
the Space Shuttle, as Shuttle crew member Lacy Veach, a Hawai'i
native, participated in conversations about sustainability and
exploration with the canoe and Hawai'i classrooms. In addition
to these programs, PVS also began navigation and sailing courses
at the University of Hawai'i and Windward Community College.
days of arriving in Hawai'i after the 1995 voyage, Hokule'a
and Hawai'iloa were shipped to Seattle. Hokule'a sailed
south along the West Coast, reaching thousands of people who no
longer lived in Hawai'i, but longed to share in the canoe's
legacy. Hawai'iloa sailed north to thank the native peoples of
Southeast Alaska for their gift of spruce trees. This was an
opportunity for PVS to give back to them, but at each stop the
canoe and crew were overwhelmed with gifts and kindness. These
native people were responding to the fact that, like them, the
Hawaiians were working to recover their native traditions. This
Northwest Voyage taught PVS a great deal about another culture's
efforts to renew its traditions, and about their determination
to care for natural resources, in order to build a healthy
future for their people.
1999, the Voyaging Society closed the Polynesian Triangle by sailing
to the remote island of Rapa Nui.
the wake of her accomplishments, Hokule'a has helped to renew
the pride that Hawaiian people have for their culture and
heritage. In turn this has made a contribution to raising the
self-esteem of Hawaiian people. Recognizing that self-esteem and
health are inextricably linked, a cooperative effor emerged in
1996 between The Queen's Health Systems and the Polynesian
Voyaging Society, called Malama Hawai'i-"Caring for Hawai'i."
Native Hawaiians have the worst health and socioeconomic
indicators of any ethnic group in Hawai'i, and for years Queen's
was been working to improve these statistics. Malama Hawai'i's
first project was the 1996-97 Statewide Sail, a 10-month, 2,000
mile journey, in which more than 25,000 school children and
community members visited or sailed on Hokule'a. The Sail was an
effort to "connect" with Hawaiian communities, in
order to find ways to support efforts to improve their health.
What Malama Hawai'i found was cultural renewal taking place
within these communities. Every community that Hokule'a visited
celebrated its strengths with pride, and did not define itself
by negative statistics. The Statewide Sail helped Malama Hawai'i
to understand that the lives of the next generation of Hawaiians
are already being shaped by this spirit of cultural renewal, and
because of it we believe that in the future they will not be
burdened with the same negative health and socio-economic
statistics of the past.
began in 1973 as a scientific experiment to build a replica of a
traditional voyaging canoe for a one-time sail to Tahiti, became
an important catalyst for a generation of cultural renewal and a
symbol of the richness of Hawaiian culture and of a seafaring
heritage which links together all of the peoples of Polynesia.
No one could have imagined that by the end of the century,
Hokule'a will have sailed more than 100,000 miles reaching every
corner in the Polynesian Triangle, and the West Coast of the
United States. In 1973 there were no Polynesian voyaging canoes;
today there are six with others under construction. In 1973
there was only one deep-sea navigator that PVS knew of; today
there are nine, with several more in training, along with 135
experienced deep-sea sailors in Hawai'i alone-ensuring that the
Hawaiian people will never again lose their traditions of
voyaging and navigation. Over the last 25 years, the family of
the voyaging canoe has grown to more than 525,000 men, women and
children who have participated in PVS programs of education,
training, research and dialogue.