Malama Kumu: DC

May 15, 2016

In from Melissa Lian ‘95

Today was our second full day in Washington, DC and also the day of the main public welcome ceremony for Hōkūle'a in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. We headed there in the morning to check out the area. It is very rich in history as it was home to George Washington and Robert E. Lee. They try to keep the town looking as it did in colonial times. We explored the Torpedo Art Factory which was an actual factory where torpedoes were made, but currently houses a number of artists in small studios/stores. The different artists work in a variety of media and you can chat with the artists and browse their work that is for sale. One of the artists even let Andrea try her hand at making paper. The paper was being made from old military scrubs and will be put together to make a replica of a flag that hung in the original torpedo factory. We look forward to returning tomorrow since they will be hosting the Wa’a talks for local educators in their classroom.

Just before noon, we headed to Waterfront Park where a small crowd had already gathered, complete with tents, with a Hawaiian music group and families sitting on mats on the grass. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the scene looked like it could have been a festival in Kapiolani Park, but icy winds that kept the temperature in the high 50s reminded us that we were definitely not in Hawai‘i.

The canoe came up the Potomac River under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge led by a fire boat, shooting streams of water high in the air. You could feel the excitement level of the crowd rise as the canoe approached. Some of the Native Americans from yesterday’s private ceremony were on hand to again welcome the canoe. Many of the same cultural protocols were repeated for the public ceremony with the addition of remarks from some dignitaries including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The Congressional representative from Samoa also spoke about her deep ties with the Hōkūle'a as her father went to school with Myron “Pinky” Thompson, and Mau Piailug stayed in her family’s home on one of his trips to Hawai‘i to teach traditional wayfinding methods. The program continued with hula, Samoan and Maori performances by a number of halau from the surrounding areas. At some point, when I looked around again, I was amazed to find that the crowd was close to 1,000 people.

The dances continued for a few hours, entertaining the long line of people waiting to take canoe tours. As we helped with the line, we were able to talk to a lot of people and hear their stories or connections to the Hōkūle'a. We met some who had driven for hours just to see the canoe and be a part of the day. There were so many who wanted the chance to board the canoe that, unfortunately, we had to turn some people. The lucky ones who made it onboard waited in line over 2 hours in the increasingly cold and windy conditions.

After the last tour, our Punahou group finally had our first chance to tour the canoe. Our personal guide was current crew member, Linda Furuto ‘97 who is also a Professor of Mathematics at UH. She explained how the canoe serves as a compass and the navigator uses markings on the canoe to sight landmarks from each of the two navigator seats, and their hands and fingers to mark off specific amounts of degrees. As she showed us different parts of the canoe, Andrea and I learned the answers to some of the questions that our students had asked about the Hōkūle'a prior to our departure. We look forward to sharing what we have learned and our experiences with our classes when we talk with them via Google Hangouts on Tuesday.