This school year, Papa wa'a (via Kumu Anu), won a $15,000 scholarship with a student travel company called Smithsonian Student Travel. This company runs educational tours across the continent, and the scholarship paid for airfare, lodgings, ground transportation, meals, and admissions prices to anywhere the company travels. Kumu Anu decided to go to the farthest place they travel, which is Washington DC and New York City. Students from papa wa'a could apply for this amazing opportunity if: 1) they had a 3.0 or higher GPA, 2) they had never been assigned malama kuleana or suspension, and 3) they could write an essay describing why they should be chosen to go on the trip. The names on each essay were deleted and the essays were given to two Halau Ku Mana staff and two external readers. AFter much deliberation, four students were chosen: Leiana-Marie Alejado, Malie Cabinatan, Tehani Hekekia-Mossman, and Kamali'i McShane-Padilla.
As part of our experience in Washington DC, we visited the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. As you enter the building, two things stand out. Firstly, the look of the museum is a beautiful representation of native cultural values. Each element of the design represents meaningful beliefs and practices of many different native peoples. Secondly, the first exhibit you encounter as you enter the museum...a wa'a! The single-hulled koa canoe was built by the friends of Hokule'a and Hawai'i Loa.
In Papa Wa'a we are always taught, WA'A ARE NOT BOATS! BOATS DON'T HAVE MO'OKU'AUHAU! Clearly, this wa'a is a descendant in the growing genealogy born from Hokule'a. We felt it appropriate to bring some of Hawai'i to her, in the form of oli. We set aside any hilahila from the potential staring that might occur and lined up in front her, ihu to ihu..."Moko moko! Pa!" Our voices reverberated through the open air museum, bringing onlookers from every floor to see what was happening. As we chanted, emotions flooded our bodies and an occasional cracking in someones voice indicated the holding back of tears. After Hokule'a, Makali'i, and Kanehunamoku were called forth in our oli, we presented a lei la'i to this Washington DC wa'a.
Some onlookers stopped to ask us about our protocol, so we were able to share knowledge with people who had never before heard of these things that we think of as basic knowledge. But more importantly, we brought a little bit of Hawai'i to our DC sister wa'a.
For our first day in Washington D.C. we went to the National Mall. Our first visit was to the National Museum of American History. We began our visit to this museum with an exhibit called "Changing America" that highlighted the African-American struggle for freedom and equality in America. Half of the exhibit focused on the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the other half on the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington in 1963.
When we walked into the exhibit I was reminded of everything I learned about in 8th grade and all the activities we did around the Civil War. It was unbelievable to actually see replicas of the whips and chains that were used on the slaves and read about what it was like to live that way. We got to look at a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and read the words of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, declaring that all enslaved individuals "henceforward shall be free". However, I also learned at this exhibit that the ongoing battle for equal right among races didn't end when the Civil War ended, but that it still goes on to this day.
The second half of the exhibit looked more closely at the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King made his famous "I have a dream" speech. We saw pictures of the hundreds of thousands of people that gathered to speak up for equal rights on this day. Later we got to visit the place where Dr. King actually stood when he made that speech (see Lincoln Memorial Blog).
At the end of this section it showed other movements for equal rights that followed the Civil Rights Movement. This was my favorite part of the exhibit. It was amazing how the Civil Rights Movement empowered other groups to stand up and fight for what they believed in. Although they didn't have any thing displayed our kumu talked about how the Civil Rights Movement also gave way to Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970ʻs out of which Hōkūle'a was born. Like the March on Washington, Hōkūlea was a way to send a powerful message. For generations, the Hawaiian people were disconnected, with little sense of cultural identity or pride. Hokule'a was part of a turning point that unified and empowered our people to once again be proud of our culture, and send that message around the world.
Today was the first day I got to meet part of Kanehunamoku’s family. I got the opportunity to set foot on two significant canoes and see another. We visited Hawai’i Loa, Hikianalia and Hokule’a.
Our papa wa’a class got to go back into 1st quarter and relive dry dock but with Hawai’i Loa. This was a wonderful experience because we got to add in our own mana into a wa’a with a long history starting from it’s construction. Every wa’a is connected whether it be by genealogy or it’s type of built. So being able to work on her and help her crew with dry dock was a very important and special moment. The crew or builders that was there also played a big role in the building of Kane and we need to give back. The warehouse that we did dry dock in also was the warehouse Kane’s hulls were made in. This was all a connection between the two wa’as which made our whole environment full of mana.
Next we went to see Hikianalia. This part was really fun and cool because we could see her and compare Kane and Hiki. Compared to Kane she was much much bigger. She had certain things that was similar and other parts that I’ve never seen before. The unique thing about Hiki is that she had propellers. I’ve never seen a wa’a with propellers at the bottom but it was pretty cool. Hiki has a modern twist to her which make her unique in her own way.
Like they say save the best for last. Before we had to return to campus all of us got to go on the beginning of modern wa’as. Hokule’a was also bigger than Kane so it was much more spacious. When I stepped foot on top of her I felt like I was hit with something. I’ve heard so much stories of how powerful Hokule’a is and I actually got to feel some of her powerfulness. The cool thing about her is she has seats and names for nearly everything. Hokule’a is the start of all modern wa’a so being on top of her was very special.
This was one of the best PBI days ever. Today our class was apart of history but not just to have our names written into a textbook but actual history. We are now known to all three wa’as because we added in our mana for a bigger cause. What we did might have been small but everything counts. A wa’a can touch your heart in times of need and knowing that you had something to do with it’s journey is how you become apart of history.
This week, Papa Wa’a went to Aunty Kaha’s house. We got to do some sailing along with reviewing what we have learned from our previous project days. A couple of things we learned this week was the Beaufort wind scale, which allows two seamen to be able to communicate quickly and easily with each other about the sailing conditions. We also got to learn the parts of the Danforth sand anchor, and different points of sail.
Learning all these things will be helpful to me on the wa’a because it will make me prepared to carry out any task I am given, and to be able to do it safely and effectively. These skills can also help me in everyday life by training me to be more observant and aware of my surroundings, for myself, as well as my family's safety in the environment. For example, when I become better at the Beaufort wind scale, I might be able to tell when a hurricane or storm is coming before watching the news or listening to the radio , and that could be helpful in order to prepare myself and my family with supplies and a safe and secure shelter to stay in.
All these things we’ve learned today we could use as modern survival skills just as our kupuna used to do, instead of being informed by the media. It is all a part of the way to be self reliant and prepared.
Prior to the launching of Kanehunamoku, there was a lot of work that went into the canoe. That's where our class, the wa'a project of Halau Ku Mana, came into play. The sanding process was probably the longest process we had to do. We took months to help sand the many different parts going through the varnishing process. The night of the launch was very inspirational because it was an experience to be by Kane's side when she got ready to meet Kanaloa again. All the things we did first semester in dry dock, fixing her up and getting her makaukau to sail, led up to this moment, "We're almost there!"
During the awa ceremony, seating was arranged in a certain way for the people participating. There was an introduction by Uncle Maka, who mixed the 'awa. He made us comfortable, then started off the ceremony. The first 'awa went to the ocean and Kanehunamoku. As people received their 'awa, they were given a chance to speak. People gave thanks with chants and ha'i olelo, shared their personal feelings, then either drank the 'awa or gave it back to the 'aina.
Finally, the wa'a was ready to touch the ocean again. Kumu Kawika led the protocol to bless her, and all hands were needed to lift her over the wall and into the waters of Ka'alaea. Finally hearing her touch the water, in the light of the full moon, after all our hard work...AMAZING!
While training for the wa'a, I was able to find that perseverance is an important skill to have in life. If there were areas where you had a hard time in, there were always the kumu to help you get it pa'a. There were the kumu and crew members to always practice everything from knots, to olis and hakas, down to saving lives.
Working on everything I knew and learned in wa'a helped me to make my weaknesses my strengths, and my strengths even stronger.
Working on my knowledge of the wa'a helped me to "Kulia i ka Nu'u" - Strive for my Highest Potential.
Kulia Naipo - Kanaka of Halau Ku Mana Papa Wa'a