Myron Bennett "Pinky" Thompson (1924-2001) - A Life of Service

Articles on Thompson

A Life of Service by Sam Low

Advertiser article by Mike Gordon

Starbulletin article by Treena Shapiro

PVS Newsletter Summer 1998

PVS Newsletter 1996

PVS Newsletter 1997

Malama Hawaii / Ka`ana, Molokai

Aloha, Wrighto

Aricles by Nainoa Thompson

Finding a Way 
Hawaiiloa
Voyage of Rediscovery
The Wayfinder

Articles by Sam Low

The Old Men of Tautira
Tautira: Hokulea's Home
Sacred Forest I

One Species or a Million

Articles by Ben Finney

Polynesia's Past I
Polynesia's Past III
Polynesia's Past IV

One Species or a Million

In search of the Ancient Voyaging Canoe

Aotearoa to Samoa 1976

Canoe Swamping 1978

The Seekers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Articles

The Old Men of Tautira

Source: Sam Low
January 27--Meeting at the Mayor's Office

You could imagine a meeting like this occurring in a thatch-roofed canoe house hundreds of years ago with the visitors' double-hull voyaging canoe drawn up on the beach outside next to those of their hosts. In this case, the meeting is in the white washed conference room of Tautira's mayor -- Sane Matehau -- and the date is January 27th, the year 2000. But the feeling is ancient -- timeless -- a sharing of stories by friends from distant islands, a bonding together of a wide-spread `ohana. Outside the conference room the setting sun colors the clouds that gather over nearby mountain peaks and a cool wind washes ashore over the reef. Insde, seated in a circle, are all the crew members of Hokule`a and her escort Kamahele (Alex and Elisa are missing, visiting their family in Mo'orea) and representatives of Tautira's community including Kahu from the Protestant, Catholic and Mormon churches. Sane has called the gathering together to celebrate the 25 year old union of Tautira's people with the people of Hawai`i.

The first to speak was Tutaha Salmon, a native of Tautira and governor of a large district including Tautira and 3 other towns. "It is an honor whenever Hokule`a sails to Tahiti she lands here in Tautira," Tutaha tells us. "How many times have you come? I cannot count them. But what's important is that you are now our family -- our brothers and sisters."

Following a protocol that is ancient, Tutaha then spoke of his elders -- those who began the enfolding story of Hokule`a's relationship with Tautira. It began with "the old men", he explains, a team of villagers who literally paddled their way into the history books not only in Polynesia but throughout the world.

"Our dream of cultural exchange was born twenty-five years ago," Tutaha explains. "In those days the man I remember first is Puaniho, he has now passed on but he led us and showed us the way. He was a quiet man, but powerful. Then there was Mate Hoatua the steersman on the canoe from Haleolono to Waikiki. He never changed. He steered the whole way. You also have Henere tevae Nanua Vahirua who paddled the canoe. In those days we called them "the old men" because their minimum age was 50 years. This is our time to remember them, "Tutaha says, "and to tie that rope tight to the mast."

"The old men" were the six man canoe team of Tautira's Maire Nui canoe club who first traveled in 1975 to Hawai`i to compete in the Moloka`i race.

Following protocol, Pinky Thompson next rose to speak in response to Tutaha's welcome.

"I want you to know that we feel at home," Pinky says, addressing Tutaha and Tautira's elders, "ever since you took a strange looking Hawaiian youth into your homes 25 years ago, my son Nainoa. You recognized immediately that he was a stranger in a land that was strange to him and you malama-ed [took care of] him."

Nainoa first came to Tautira as a member of Hokule`a's crew, a story told elsewheee on this PVS internet site. He recognized immediately that the "old men" of Maire nui paddled differently then any team in Hawai`i. "There were so smooth," Nainoa recalls, "their movements were fluid, no lost energy and tehir canoe seemed to leap forward -- faster than anything I had every experienced. He wanted to learn from them. In '77 he got the chance. In that year's Moloka`i race, Maire Nui won the Koa division easily. During that race Nainoa's team from Hui Nalu lined up next to "the old men." "They were twice our age," Nainoa recalled, "and we were a pretty strong crew but they left us in their wake, paddling easily." In that same year Nainoa traveled to Marina del Rey to serve on a motor boat escorting Maire Nui in the Race to Newport Beach, California. "They finished the race, took a shower, and were drinking a beer before the second place canoe arrived, Nainoa recalls. They beat them by an hour and 4 minutes."

In 1978, Nainoa invited Maire Nui to stay in Niu Valley when they came to Hawai`i for the next Moloka`i race and again in 1979 when they won for the third consecutive time in the Koa division and retired the famous cup from the shelves at the Outrigger canoe club to an exhibit case at Sane Matehau's home in Tautira. Over the years the visits by the Maire Nui club to Hawai`i and by the Hawaiians to Tahiti became part of a larger but informal cultural exchange program. Puaniho built a Koa canoe for Hui Nalu and later another famous Tautira canoe builder flew to Kona to build six Koa canoes -- helping to inspire a renewal of interest in traditional canoe building that thrives today.

Over the years Nainoa, Bruce, Pinky and their Hui Nalu colleagues studied the Tahitian way of paddling and became champions themselves for a time.

Pinky remembered those moments in his presentation at the Mayor's office: "You helped us to become champion paddlers in Hawai`i, but you did much more that that. Over the last 25 years you have helped us to return pride to our Polynesian people by restoring our native craft of canoe building and paddling."

Later Nainoa added to his father's words: "The old men" taught us what it means to be champs. It's not about outside appearance, it's about what happens inside of us. They didn't talk much because they knew that the mana comes from within. They did not think of themselves representing just a club -- they represented all their people.