In 1990, as a result of a decline in koa, Sealaska, a corporation owned by the Tlingit, Haida and Tshimshian tribes of Southeast Alaska, gifted two 200-foot Sitka spruce logs to Hawai‘i to help construct Polynesian Voyaging Society’s wa‘a Hawai‘iloa.
The kind gesture was commemorated soon after with a ceremony and planting of koa seedlings on Kamehameha Schools lands in Keauhou-Ka‘ū on Hawai‘i Island – further sparking an extensive reforestation program by KS.
Fast forward to May 27, 2019, KS and the PVS hosted Sealaska leaders on a day trip to Hawaiʻi Island to revisit the native forest where almost 30 years earlier, Native Hawaiian and Alaskan leaders gathered in ceremony to honor the gift that has forever connected both communities.
“We planted seedlings back in 1990 at a site we are visiting today. The purpose of this is to say we honor that act, and we celebrate the past, and as we are celebrating and remembering we are planting new seeds for the future,” said KS executive cultural office Randie Fong.
Fong participated in the 1990 ceremony along with Anthony and Byron Mallott of Sealaska, Alaskan Tlingit tribe elder Judson Brown, Pinky and Nainoa Thompson, Herb Kāne, and canoe builders Wright Bowman Sr. and Wright Bowman Jr.
The revisit to the native forest kicked off the three-day Ho‘oilina: Empowering Our Traditions of Exploration Conference hosted by ʻAha Moananuiākea – a Pacific consortium sponsored by Kamehameha Schools that includes PVS, Bishop Museum, and the University of Hawai‘i.
Held on May 28-30, the conference brought together leaders in education, government, and culture representing the Native Hawaiian and Alaskan communities to explore navigation and wayfinding traditions, share native language, discuss solutions to protect the Pacific Ocean, and look at ways to heal our indigenous communities in body, mind and spirit.
This conference also helped to establish meaningful relationships and unite both communities as PVS prepares for Hōkūleʻa’s Moananuiākea Voyage (circumnavigation of the Pacific) that is scheduled to launch from Alaska in 2021 to promote social, cultural, and environmental revitalization throughout the Pacific.
“Continuing to build relationships with Hawaiians and other indigenous people is important to Sealaska,” Sealaska President and CEO (Anthony) Mallott said. “The Hawaiian and Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people have a deep connection as ocean and canoe people, who are deeply tied to their environment. Good relationships between indigenous people who have common histories can help advance common goals.”