Hokulea’s arrival allows Alaska Natives to practice protocol not seen in more than a century
YAKUTAT, ALASKA (HawaiiNewsNow) - This isolated town welcomed Hokulea to its shores during the voyaging canoe’s “heritage sail,” in preparation for a dangerous, four-year trek in the Pacific.
It was the first time Yakutat has offered a traditional welcome for a canoe in more than 100 years.
Leaving the dock at Yakutat Bay, Polynesian Voyaging Society President and pwo (master) navigator Nainoa Thompson was leading the sail with his trademark calculated intensity.
While everyone was bundled up, he was wearing his trademark rubber slippers.
It was a short sail to a place called Sandy Beach for the welcoming ceremony. Every person on board had a task.
For the crew, navigating through Alaska currents was a new experience.
SPECIAL SECTION: Hokulea Pacific Voyage
“It’s so different the current is very different. The water is very challenging in a way. The weather changes really quickly so we have to adjust,” said Kanako Uchino Dumaran, Hokulea crew member.
The crew unwrapped Hokulea’s giant sails to harness the power of the wind.
On the day of special ceremony, the temperature was 48 with wind chills in the 30s.
Close to shore, members of the Geniex Kwaan clan began a ceremonial protocol by asking who has come ashore.
From shore Yakutat elder Victor Demmert called out: “We ask you, who are you?”
“We are the Hawaiian people who are here,” responded Chris Blake, Hokulea crew member.
Once granted permission. the crew took a traditional canoe to the beach.
Thompson led the way with a traditional paddle.
On land, there was a coming together of Hawaiian and Alaska Natives to celebrate the historical migration and settlement ties between the two cultures during the 1800s.
“I still can’t believe that we are here and all this time that we put into this canoe to be here. It’s worth it. Everything is coming together,” said Dumaran.
Then, there was a gift of blankets, symbolic of the warmth enveloping the crew.
The last canoe arrival to Yakutat’s shores was around 1900 so Hokulea has given these Alaska Natives an opportunity to practice this welcoming ceremony for the first time in more than a century.
“It’s an honor to us and I’m so happy. We’ve been looking forward to this. I’m so happy,” said Demmert.
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