Kumu Crew: Yorktown Arrival

April 24, 2016

In from Starr Johnson ‘98

Today was our last day on the water moving Māmā Hōkūle‘a north up the East Coast. Traveling through the Chesapeake we left Poquoson around 8 a.m. As we approached Yorktown we opened our sails and felt the welcome!

The sun was shining, a boat flying the Hawaiian flag drove near our port, a 6-man outrigger canoe circled around our stern, and the large historic replica schooner "Alliance" sailed to our starboard side and fired a honorary cannon blast. As we came in towards the marina we could see the shoreline filled with people and could hear the Native American women making their calls.

After maneuvering into the narrow entry we gathered for the welcoming ceremony by tying our cream colored kihei and putting on kukui nut lei. After blowing the pū and doing an oli on the dock we were welcomed up the pier by three chiefs and the pier was lined by Native women dressed in full regalia: furs, bells, beads, feathers, and leather beautifully adorned each woman. As we walked through the tribal tunnel they wailed and handed each of us a turkey feather as a gift from their people. It was truly a "chicken skin" moment.

We were gathered and placed on a grassy open space opposite the tribal chiefs and members with hundreds of community members watching from behind a rope. The chiefs and our captain gave speeches to acknowledge each other and all indigenous people. Both sides gave gifts and explained the importance of each. They did their "canoe dance" and we responded with oli and I danced Pua 'A'ali'i as a final mahalo.

After a couple hours of the arrival ceremony we then prepared for four hours of canoe tours: first for the native people then to the general community.

Although we were exhausted we were constantly reinvigorated by the aloha of the people who came to give their aloha to the canoe and crew. From Hawaiians who moved away from home, to the adopted Polynesian children raised in Virginia, to the people who saw the article in the newspaper this week, every person was touched by our arrival and presence.

Following the canoe tours we had an emotional last crew meeting with our captain. Words cannot express how much he has provided and given to every one of us. Although he leaves tomorrow and the Hōkūle‘a will stay in port, we will continue to mālama the wa'a, give canoe tours, community lectures and provide educational interactions.