Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Busby will forever be celebrated as the father of Aotearoa’s voyaging community and the builder of the double-hulled canoe Te Aurere, which revived traditional navigation for Aotearoa in the same way Hōkūle‘a did for Hawai‘i, the Pacific and the world.
Renowned Māori canoe-builder and master navigator Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Busby has passed away. He will forever be celebrated as the father of Aotearoa’s voyaging community and the builder of the double-hulled canoe Te Aurere, which revived traditional navigation for Aotearoa in the same way Hōkūle‘a did for Hawai‘i, the Pacific and the world.
Uncle Hec – as he was affectionately known – was a guiding elder for the Kamehameha Schools ʻAha Moananuiākea Pacific Consortium, a group of organizations committed to cultural, social, and environmental engagement in the Pacific, the ancestral oceanic home of the Hawaiian people. Consortium members include the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Bishop Museum, and the University of Hawaiʻi System.
Upon hearing the news, Kamehameha Schools Executive Culture Officer Dr. Randie Fong and wife Jamie Fong – manager of the KS Ka‘iwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center – left Hawai‘i for Aotearoa to meet up with Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson and other members of the Pacific voyaging community, to support Busby’s whānau (‘ohana).
“As Jamie and I slowly entered Te Uri o Hina Marae in the dark of night, we could hear the ritual weeping of the elder women inviting us in to see our beloved Papa Hekenukumai lying in state,” Fong said. “Dozens of photos of departed elders covered the wall above him, from one end to the other, with one conspicuous image looking down with aloha – former KS Trustee Myron Pinky Thompson, Nainoa’s dad and the founder of Kaʻiwakīloumoku.
“For some 35 years, Uncle Hector embraced the Hawaiian tribe, Ngāti Ruawāhia, the extended family of Hōkūleʻa and Kamehameha Schools. KS students and staff were a part of the ceremonies when the Hōkūleʻa crew made its historical landfall in Waitangi in 1985 and have been caring for this precious cultural heritage ever since.
“Today, through a KS cultural partnership, his whare wānanga, Kupe Waka Centre at Aurere, has become as a sister center of our own Ka‘iwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center. Indigenous educational exchanges are increasing, and there is greater attention given to climate and the environment, especially our Pacific Ocean. With such engagements between Hawaiians, Māori, and other Polynesian and Pacific peoples on the rise, Uncle Hec now joins the brotherhood of Papa Mau Piailug and Pinky Thompson who serve as our ancestral guides as we navigate in this new and profound Pacific Era.”
Messages of aloha flooded social media upon news of Busby’s passing. Among them was a post by KS Cultural Specialist Lāiana Kanoa-Wong: “One of the world’s greatest navigators has returned with our ancestors to be a guiding star amongst the heavens. Love U ‘Anakala Hec. May your legacy live on forever.”
Members of the Polynesian voyaging community gathered at the blessing of the whare wānanga (house of learning) – Whetū Mārama – part of Busby’s Kupe Wake Centre in Aurere, Aotearoa. The center is a sister center of Kamehameha’s own Ka‘iwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center. See the video above for highlights.
The late Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Busby (seated) at the opening reception of the Ho‘okele Honua Summit at Ka‘iwakīloumoku in April 2018. The summit was a gathering of some of the greatest navigators of the Pacific. Event attendees included (l-r): KS Trustee Lance Wilhelm, Nia Tero CEO Peter Seligmann, Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Busby, Gina Harding, Nia Tero Chief Program Officer Chris Filardi, KS CEO Jack Wong, Nia Tero Board Members Myrna Cunningham Kain and Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, former KS Trustee and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson, and KS Executive Culture Officer Dr. Randie Fong.