Hōkūleʻa Honors the Piscataway People

Hōkūleʻa captain and pwo (master) navigator Kālepa Baybayan of the Polynesian Voyaging Society led his crew ashore on Piscataway lands today. The delegation from Hawaii followed Hawaiian cultural protocol to ask permission of the Native Americans to enter their lands as the original stewards of the land in the Washington D.C. area. They were welcomed to Piscataway with joy and warmth in celebration of the Mālama Honua mission of the Worldwide Voyage.


“It’s incredibly important that we engage with the indigenous peoples of any community we visit. It’s a different perspective. [The Piscataway people] have been here for thousands of years, and so when you meet them and learn about their communities, you engage in a very deep way about the spirit and nature of the people who settled these lands,” said Kālepa Baybayan.


As the legendary Polynesian voyaging canoe approached from the distance, the Native American community gathered at the dock, waiting for her historic arrival to their land. Chief Billy Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation and Chairman Francis Gray of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe gave the signal that allowed the Hawaiian crew to disembark and join them ashore, then led them to a private sacred ceremony between the ancient cultures.


The Hawaii delegation entered the ceremonial circle with traditional genealogy chants. Chief Tayac and Chairman Gray then addressed the Hawaiians and offered honor songs, followed by gifts and cultural exchange. The Hawaii delegation presented oli (song) and hula (dance). Pwo navigator Kālepa Baybayan formally requested permission of the tribe to enter Piscataway land, reflecting on the mission of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage and acknowledging his respect for their Native American hosts. Also participating in the ceremony were representatives of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, Baltimore American Indian Center, Accokeek Foundation, Alice Ferguson Foundation, and the National Park Service.


Following the ceremony, the crew welcomed the community aboard Hōkūleʻa for warm and joyous cultural exchange, and the celebration continued throughout the day. The day’s private ceremonies will be followed tomorrow by a public welcoming celebration at Waterfront Park in Old Town Alexandria.

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