Continuing its Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a made a stop at the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake in Canada last week to meet with Mohawk leaders and to acknowledge the indigenous community’s influence on language immersion efforts in Hawaii.
Joining the Hokule‘a crew were Kauanoe Kamana and other founding board members of Aha Punana Leo, the Native Hawaiian nonprofit organization that first established Hawaiian language immersion schools in Hawaii in the 1980s.
Kamana addressed both groups in Hawaiian. An English translation of Kamana’s remarks provided by the Polynesian Voyaging Society read in part: “The connection between our work in language revitalization and the pursuits of our wa‘a (canoe) Hokule‘a have to do with the fact that we set out with our work, prepared and with a strong resolve to succeed as best as we can. But we don’t know what the result will be until we actually arrive.”
Mohawk community member Dorothy Lazore helped establish the Mohawk language immersion program in Kahnawake that served as a model for Aha Punana Leo and helped to lobby the Hawaii Board of Education on behalf of the proposed program in its earliest days.
The two groups met Wednesday at the Kanonsonnionwe Long House and exchanged gifts and songs in their native languages. Kalepa Baybayan, captain of the current leg of Hokule‘a’s journey, presented Kanentokon Hemlock, bear clan chief of the Kanonsonnionwe Long House, with a traditional Hawaiian kahili.
“As you were telling us just how we helped you and how we were an inspiration for your people, and how our teachers went out to help you to revitalize what could have been lost in one generation or in two — it’s interesting because you inspire us,” Hemlock said. “We look to you. We follow your inspiration, too, in all the work you have been doing in your land.”
The Hokule‘a passed through the 34th lock of the St. Lawrence river near Montreal to reach Kahnawake, the first marina within a native reserve at which the canoe has docked.
On Sunday, the Hokule‘a traveled along the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain in Chambly Fort, Quebec, en route to Westport, N.Y.