Hōkūleʻa Update | Honoring Mohawk Language Leaders

As Hōkūle‘a continues forth on her Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, the crew and founding board members of ʻAha Pūnana Leo—a Native Hawaiian nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the Hawaiian language for future generations in Hawaiʻi—honored a relationship that spans nearly 5,000 miles and 40 years of revolutionaries working together to revitalize and perpetuate the core of indigenous knowledge. Passing through the 34th lock to get to the upper Montreal area of the St. Lawrence river, Hōkūle‘a docked at her first Marina within a Native Reserve—the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.


This gathering was yet another opportunity along this Worldwide Voyage to honor the collaborative work being done in native communities to keep indigenous knowledge alive and relevant to the world around us. Additionally, the crew of Hōkūle‘a, the founding members of ʻAha Pūnana Leo, and the Mohawk community hope to inspire and perpetuate native knowledge and language for generations to come.


Kauanoe Kamanā, founding board member and current president of ʻAha Pūnana Leo, addressed both groups in Hawaiian. “The connection between our work in language revitalization and the pursuits of our waʻa Hōkūleʻa, have to do with the fact that we set out with our work, prepared and with a strong resolve to succeeed as best as we can,” said Kamanā as translated in English. “But, we donʻt know what the result will be until we actually arrive.”


“Your work in the past had huge impact in Hawaiʻi, and the fact that you would allow us to bring our leaders up here, our pioneers, our courageous individuals, Pila Wilson, his wife Kauanoe, Nāmaka,” said Nainoa Thompson, Pwo navigator. “These are the ones that are changing the world and bringing back the language with your help,” Thompson added.

The Mohawk community is home to the immersion program whose leaders helped pave the way for Hawaiʻi’s immersion program in the early ʻ80’s. Dorothy Lazore was instrumental in establishing the Mohawk language immersion program in Kahnawake and spoke before Hawaiʻi’s Board of Education on the day that Hawaiʻi DOE’s immersion program was approved—a program that has become a model nationally and internationally.


“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,” said Kanentokon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Kanonsonnionwe Long House. “It’s interesting because you inspire us.” “We look to you. We follow your inspiration too in all the work you have been doing in your land,” Hemlock shared.


During this monumental visit, crew members of Hōkūle‘a and Mohawk natives gathered at the Kanonsonnionwe Long House as they welcomed each other by exchanging gifts and songs in their native languages. Kālepa Baybayan, captain of Hōkūle‘a’s leg 23 of the Worldwide Voyage, presented Kanentokon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Kanonsonnionwe Long House, with a traditional Hawaiian feather or kahili.

“Working together like this—that is the key to our collective success! It is that kind of mindset, thinking not just about the individual, but thinking about all of us—us as an ʻohana,” said in Hawaiian by Kamanā.

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Hōkūle‘a’s visit to the eastern United States is a historic milestone in her 40 years of voyaging.

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