Malama Kumu: DC

May 14, 2016

Today, we set off in an Uber, excited to go see Hōkūleʻa. We practiced the protocol ʻoli on the way to the park, which left our driver slightly taken aback. When we arrived in Piscataway Park, I was immediately charmed by the beauty of the area. Everything was green. It reminded me of the Koʻolau Mountains after a fresh rain shower. As more people arrived, we began congregating on the pier. When Hōkūleʻa came into view, I thought, "Wow, I'm standing on a pier in Maryland watching a Polynesian voyaging canoe on the Potomac River." The canoe and her crew were greeted by the sound of the pū (conch shell), a couple chants by Kaiwikuamo'o, and also, the rythmic drumming and chanting from the Piscataway tribe of the area. It was incredible to be surround by such a diverse group of people. There was Kaiwikuamo'o, a halau from Silverspring, Maryland (Halau Nohona Hawaiʻi), a hālau from DC (Mokihana), and representatives from regional Native American tribes. It was so cool that all of these different groups came together to greet and celebrate Hōkūleʻa and the Mālama Honua mission.

After the crew disembarked the canoe, the group proceeded to an open area in front of a tobacco drying barn. I later learned that the area in which the ceremony took place is actually sacred to the Piscataway tribe. There, we got to hear the chiefs and commisioners of the hosting tribes speak. The chief of the Piscatway tribe shared with us that Hōkūleʻa was the second ship to ever land on their shores. He shared how he is hopeful that the voyage of Hōkūleʻa can inspire positive change for all indegenous people. This really stuck with me because it brought to light all of the similarities that Hawaiians and Native Americans share. The chief then went on to talking about his people's deep connection to the earth mother. This goes perfectly with the Mālama Honua mission, taking care of the land. Because we live on an island, it is extremely important to take care of our ʻāina. This value seems to be a huge part of Native American culture as well.

After some speaking and protocols, gifts of tobacco, feathers, song and dance were shared. One chief remarked on how the memory of the gift is more important than the tangible item. He shared the idea that after receiving a gift, it is one's responsibility to remember with their eyes. Throughout the whole ceremony, I was wishing I had a camera to document the experience because I didn't want to forget anything. The chief's comment made me stop and think about really just soaking in everything that was going on around me. I tried to really look at the scenery, the people and the feeling. I noticed the wind pick up a little as the crew presented the chiefs with a kahili. That was a very surreal moment because I thought about how a kahili (usually used to signify aliʻi) was being given to a chief thousands of miles away from Hawaiʻi. However, at the same time that chief isn't very different from any Hawaiian aliʻi.

After the gift giving was done, we all engaged in a dance of friendship. We formed concentric circles by holding hands and dancing to the beat of a drum. This was another special moment of fellowship and togetherness. After the ceremony, there was a potluck generously provided by the Hawai‘i families living in the area. We ate delicious food, talked story and relaxed. A few kids from Halau Nohona Hawaiʻi brought an ʻukulele and were jamming. I felt like I was at a family get-together back home. The feeling was very comforting. It's amazing that Hōkūleʻa was able to bring all these people together to not only share our cultures, but also, to enjoy the newfound friendship.