• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Instagram
OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Tens of thousands celebrated Hōkūle‘a’s historic homecoming at Magic Island on O‘ahu. - Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

A Historic Homecoming

A double rainbow appeared off the end of Magic Island as Namahoe, the first wa‘a to arrive, turned into Ala Moana channel. A a fine mist and light rain followed. Manu-o-kū, or fairy terns, encircled the harbor entrance. These are special birds for navigators because they signal that land is near.

These hō‘ailona started the day that marked the successful completion of Hōkūle‘a’s 42,000 nautical mile voyage around the world. It was a proud and certainly an emotional moment for many, and not only Native Hawaiians and the Hawai‘i community. The homecoming of Hōkūle‘a was streamed live around the world so the global community, all those whose lives Hōkūle‘a touched on her Mālama Honua journey, could share in this momentous occasion. The event received 10 million online hits and 150 news crews from around the world covered it live.

O‘ahu’s canoe paddling community were the first to greet Hōkūle‘a out on the open ocean. – Photo: Kaleena Kwe

Yet, there were those outside Hawai‘i who were so deeply moved by Hōkūle‘a and her journey and mission that they wanted to personally witness the homecoming. They came from around the world to stand on the banks of Magic Island with thousands of others to cheer and to honor the wa‘a as she sailed by. ‘Ohana wa‘a (voyaging canoe family) members from different Pacific Island nations came for the celebration, as did their families and others who have become close friends of Hōkūle‘a’s crewmembers over the years.

Sam Ka‘ai watches as Hōkūle‘a comes home. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Tahitians came in force to the homecoming, comprising the largest group of all the visitors who traveled to Hawai‘i. Tahiti is the nation with the most longstanding history with Hōkūle‘a, starting in 1976, when over half the island’s population came to Papa‘ete Harbor to celebrate the arrival of the first Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoe to travel to Tahiti from Hawai‘i in over 600 years. The community members of Tautira have been the caretakers of Hōkūle‘a since her first voyage, a kuleana that has since been passed down the next generation. On every leg home from the South Pacific, including the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, Hōkūle‘a crew members have stayed with Tautira families while they await favorable conditions for their return sail to Hawai‘i.

Māori from Aotearoa and the Cook Islands and Palauans came as well, representing other Pacific Islands. From Natal, Brazil, one of the Hōkūle‘a’s stops after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, a news crew came to film the event. From the continental Unites States, people from Florida and on up the East Coast to Massachusetts came to celebrate.

Kamana‘opono Crabbe ready to greet Hōkūle‘a’s crew. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

“I was so struck by the indigenous skill and knowledge and wisdom that brought the canoe that far on the journey and would bring it home again.”

— Tutu van Furth, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A Youth Summit, inspired by the worldwide voyage and hosted by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, was held in conjunction with a World Youth Congress at UH Mānoa. The conference brought local youth and students from around the world, ages 5 to 25, to celebrate mālama honua stories and create a collective call to action for the future stewardship of Island Earth. Students from around the world traveled to Hawai‘i to witness the homecoming and participate in the Summit [see the July issue on page 18 sidebar].

Nainoa Thompson, decked in lei waves to the cheering crowd. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Mpho Tutu van Furth from Cape Town was among those who greeted Hōkūle‘a when the wa‘a arrived in South Africa, the midway point of the voyage, and who traveled to Hawai‘i for the homecoming arrival.

“I was surprised seeing the canoe come into Cape Town at how moved I was by the size of the canoe, by the idea of this tiny vessel that has been navigating by the stars for a year and a half to come to us and would be going on another year and a half to get home,” said Tutu van Furth, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “I was so struck by the indigenous skill and knowledge and wisdom that brought the canoe that far on the journey and would bring it home again. I think as much as people here in Hawai‘i have swelled with pride at what has been accomplished on this voyage, I can’t begin to tell you because I don’t really know how far the seeds of pride have been scattered in indigenous communities around the world and the idea of reclaiming the knowledge, wit, the wisdom of the elders. It is that wit and wisdom that we’re going to have to harness in order to continue to have a planet that is livable.”

Lurline Wailana McGregor is a writer, television producer, author of “Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me” and a Hōkūle‘a Mālama Honua crew member.

Sam Kapoi catches an ihe (spear) hurled at him by Kaleo Keli‘ikoa during the Kāli‘i ceremony. It is believed that the Kāli‘i ceremony has not been performed publicly in over 200 years. The Kāli‘i is just one example of a traditional practice Hōkūle‘a has helped to revitalize and reawaken. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Double hull canoes carried crew members from the wa‘a kaulua onto land. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Nainoa Thompson at the arrival of Hōkūle‘a. – Photo: Brandon Miyamoto


• Hōkūle‘a – Approximately 40,300 nautical miles traveled

• Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia will have covered a combined 60,000 nautical miles

• More than 150 ports visited

• 23 countries and territories visited

• Eight UNESCO World Heritage Marine sites visited

• 245 participating crew members

• Over 200 formal and informal educators participated as crew members on the Worldwide Voyage and Statewide Sail

Hōkūle‘a in the East Coast of the U.S. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Hōkūle‘a weighed down with several dozen community members as it crosses under the Ala Wai Bridge. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Servers sit behind ipu filled with ‘awa to serve at the ceremony. – Photo: Kai Markell

Bruce Blankenfeld is presented with a makana of a wind gourd. – Photo: Kai Markell


OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA wins seven National Native Media Awards

Photo: Crowd of protesters in Hawaii

Hundreds protest Aloha Poke Company

Photo: Ka Wai Ola Cover

Transforming the health of our kāne

Ka Wai Ola Cover: Where have all the May days gone?

Where have all the May Days gone?

Photo: Max Holloway Training

West Side Warrior Max Holloway

Send this to a friend