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Launched in August 2021, the Micronesia pages on Kaʻiwakīloumoku’s website educate our Kamehameha Schools ‘ohana and the broader Hawaiian community about the people, history, and culture of Micronesia, and ‘Aha Moananuiākea’s formal partnership with this significant region of the Pacific.

‘Aha Moananuiākea partnership with Micronesia featured on Kaʻiwakīloumoku website

Sept. 28, 2021

Contributed by Communication Group Staff

In this Kūkahekahe, we recognize the beauty and brilliance of Micronesia and her people, and celebrate the Assembly of Micronesian navigators as ʻAha Moananuiākea Consortium partners with the launch of a new Micronesia section of the Kaiwakīloumoku website!  In this resource for community members, kumu, and haumāna, learn more about the dynamic ancestral homeland of the late pwo navigator Pius Mau Piailug, and the proud and diverse Micronesian communities that have relocated here in Hawaiʻi and around ther world.

Micronesia encompasses about 2,100 islands and atolls that are spread over an expanse of ocean that is more than two million square miles in the Northwestern Pacific. Its geography is a combination of coral atolls and high volcanic islands, bordered by Palau and the Mariana Islands in the west, and by the islands of the Marshalls and Kiribati in the east. Home to some of the most biologically diverse marine environments in the Pacific, Micronesia comprises seven different regions: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Micronesia and its peoples are characterized by millennia of profound intelligence and ingenuity. Papa Mau Piailug of Satawal shared the wayfinding wisdom of his ancestors which enabled the Hōkūleʻa to successfully sail to Tahiti in 1976, proving that ancestral, non-instrument navigation works. Not only did this rewrite the history books, it fueled cultural revitalization and pride in Hawaiʻi and throughout the Pacific. Today,  Polynesian pwo navigators proudly  trace their voyaging knowledge to Satawal through Mau, who acknowledged his own navigational lineage  from the island of Poluwat in the Federated States of Micronesia.

The waters of the Moananuiākea unite Micronesians and Hawaiians, and our shared histories and ancestry form a foundation for strong relationships between our peoples. Yet, Micronesians continue to deal with the horrific legacy of past nuclear testing by the United States which has destroyed islands and lives.  Further, recent events have highlighted the racism, mistreatment,and socio-economic difficulties that Micronesian communities continue to face here in Hawaiʻi.

As Hawaiians, our kuleana is to recognize our shared heritage with Micronesians and honor the gift that Papa Mau has given us. The work of ʻAha Moananuiākea for the past few years has sought to strengthen this pilina. In February 2020, representatives of ʻAha Moananuiākea from Kamehameha attended the Pacific People’s Forum sponsored by the NGO Nia Tero. The purpose of the forum was to gather Satawal navigators and leaders from across Micronesia to discuss a shared vision for the health of the Pacific Ocean and the future of their Micronesian home. A virtual gathering of the pwo navigators and key partners in June 2020 refined the discussions shared at the summit, including the possible formation of a school of navigation and ways to respectfully carry voyaging traditions and knowledges associated with Satawal to other communities, including Hawaiʻi. In March 2021, representatives of ʻAha Moananuiākea, including Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong, led ceremonies to acknowledge the assembly of Micronesian Pwo as a Pacific Legacy of Distinction. In May 2021, Micronesian representatives participated in the Hoʻokele Honua Virtual Summit. Navigator and nephew of Papa Mau, Thomas Raffipy of Satawal, a long-time Hawaiʻi Island resident and former KS Hawaiʻi parent, affirmed the sentiments of the assembly of navigators, saying:

“It’s our profound responsibility to carry on Mau’s legacy. The Pacific-wide voyage [of Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia in 2022] will make its way to our Micronesian islands, and the world will see our pristine waters, beautiful rainforests, and unspoiled heavens. However, western influences are spreading through our islands, and we fear cultural erosion. There is mass migration from smaller islands to bigger islands due to sea level rise. And, we are concerned about the prejudice faced by Micronesian communities in Hawaiʻi. These are issues that can be solved through unity.” When Hōkūleʻa comes to Micronesia, the Polynesian Pwo can trace their lineage back to the Micronesian Pwo and their heritage in Pulawat. At the same time, we can call the world’s attention to some of the challenges we face, including cultural erosion, mass migration from small islands to bigger islands, and climate change. In Hawaiʻi, Micronesian communities are facing prejudice. Yet through this voyage, people will see our islands, where people are still living the old ways and living off the land.”

We close this article with part of a beautiful poem shared at the summit in February 2020. Yolanda Joab Mori of Chuuk, founder and Director of Island PRIDE Micronesia, as well as Program Coordinator for Blue Prosperity Micronesia, spoke of hope for a different future for Micronesians in her poem, “Chasing Sunsets:”

I’m chasing sunsets but I can’t catch them because I am the sunrise.
The emerging light breaking the dark
the promise of a new day,
The hope that binds me and you together like the ocean,
like the salt water that baptized all of us.
Teach me to be a bridge between what was and what can be.
To take back the narrative with a vengeance.
Speak life into our stories,
Spill ink all over what’s been erased
To flood my children with the pride of a thousand generations,
of warriors and healers,
of navigators and star gazers,
of magic and power,
of heritage and history
of our peoples in all their indigenous glory.

E ka ʻohana Kamehameha, click here to watch the Pacific Conversations episode “PACIFIC INGENUITY: Papa Mau Piailug and the Pwo Navigators of Micronesia.”

Traditional wayfinding practices are passed down from generation to generation in Micronesia. Here, renowned master navigator Pius Mau Piailug (out of the frame, holding stick at upper left) instructs a group of young boys using a star compass.

Thousands of small islands and atolls comprise Micronesia. These are uninhabited volcanic islands of the Ngerukewid Islands National Wildlife Preserve, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rock Islands Southern Lagoon.

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