A Hawaiian canoe on a four-year journey to explore Indigenous culture by way of the Pacific Ocean has arrived in Victoria, where crews are resting before departing again.
The Moananuiākea Voyage began in June when the Hōkūle’a canoe departed Juneau, Alaska, stopping in various communities like Old Massatt on Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert, later cruising down the coast to Vancouver Island’s Port Hardy, Campbell River and Victoria, where it arrived Tuesday.
That’s when a crowd gathered in Victoria to catch a glimpse of the Hawaiian canoe and its crew in a special welcoming ceremony helmed by the Songhees First Nation.
About 400 crew in various legs are taking part in the expedition to explore an estimated 43,000 nautical miles and visit 36 countries, nearly 100 Indigenous territories and more than 300 ports — including the Inner Harbour.
“[Victoria is] a beautiful place. We’ve never been here before, and we wanted to honour the people of the land. We’re really stoked we’re here,” Bruce Blankenfeld, captain for Leg 4 of the journey, told CHEK News.
Moananuiākea, another word for the Pacific, is “a global educational campaign” to amplify the importance of oceans and Indigenous knowledge, says the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS).
“Trying to look back as we go forward”
Blankenfeld says they’re in B.C.’s capital until Aug. 24.
He says the voyage’s purpose is to highlight the importance of the Pacific while also visiting with Indigenous people and learning about their culture.
“Connecting with Indigenous cultures as we go on these long journeys, and finding those pearls of wisdom within Indigenous cultures,” said Blankenfeld.
“This area here up in the Pacific Northwest, the people have been here for over 10,000 years. It’s 10,000 years of co-existing with the ecosystem here. Then it was pristine, and just in the last 100 years … everything has declined.
“It’s trying to look back as we go forward.”
According to Blankenfeld, “a healthy ocean will give us life,” and he’s applauding people who work to conserve the Pacific, as well as forests and shorelines because it benefits everyone.
“In this age now of global warming and so much else going on, so many people are doing such great work all around the world on conservation, taking care of forests and shorelines and other areas,” he said.
While crews have experienced some rough waters “here and there,” it’s been mostly smooth sailing so far “because we have the luxury of watching the water,” said Blankenfeld.
“Safety is paramount.”
Several more years to go
Next up, Hōkūle’a, which translates to “Star of Gladness” in Hawaiian, is heading south.
The canoe, first launched in 1975, was designed by artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kāne, a founding member of the PVS. It measures 62 feet by 20 feet, is powered by sail and is now on its 15th major voyage.
“The voyaging canoe is built for that purpose — to journey and to explore,” explained Blankenfeld.
After visiting Suquamish, Seattle and Tacoma, where a new crew will board, Hōkūle’a will sail the west coast of the U.S. to Mexico, Central America and South America, then to places like Polynesia, Aotearoa and Palau with a final stop in Japan.
The voyage should wrap up in 2026.
“It’s going to be a learning journey for everyone, daily, for the next four years,” added Blankenfeld, encouraging people to follow the journey online here.
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