Crew members of the Moananuiākea voyage from the Hōkūle‘a canoe paddle to the shore of Auke Bay as they are welcomed Saturday afternoon by Juneau residents and tribal leaders. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Crew members of the Moananuiākea voyage from the Hōkūle‘a canoe paddle to the shore of Auke Bay as they are welcomed Saturday afternoon by Juneau residents and tribal leaders. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

‘You lift our spirits by coming to our land’: Welcoming ceremony held for Polynesian canoe voyage

The ceremony kicks off celebrations for the grand send-off of a four-year-long global expedition.

This story has been updated to note changes to the time and location of Thursday’s voyage launch ceremony.

Hundreds gathered despite cloudy skies and occasional rain to welcome the Hōkūle‘a, a double-hulled and wind-powered traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, which arrived with its crew in Juneau on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony between multiple Indigenous tribes.

Saturday’s event marked the beginning of celebrations for the grand send-off of the four-year-long global canoe voyage launching in Juneau and set to circumnavigate 43,000 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean. The nearly four-hour gathering was livestreamed and is available free at the website of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which is organizing the voyage.

The crew and canoe will soon leave as members prepare for its grand launch scheduled Thursday for a 47-month Pacific Ocean voyage — called the Moananuiākea — traveling to unite the hundreds of Indigenous communities that are connected by the Pacific Ocean, and amplify the importance of oceans and Indigenous knowledge.

A media update released Wednesday notes that due to poor weather forecast for Thursday the “crew is monitoring the weather to determine the best day/time for the canoe to depart Juneau.” The launch ceremony Thursday was also moved indoors due to the weather and is scheduled from 1-4 p.m. at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center.

Crew members offered public dockside canoe tours at the Auke Bay recreation area beach from 2-6 p.m. daily through Wednesday. The crew and other visiting delegates are also scheduled to participate in cultural and education exchange events with their Alaska hosts that started with Saturday’s gathering.

“It makes us happy to see your faces today,” said K’ aatl’ soon gaet James Jack. Sr., from the Wooshkeetaan clan and Eagle Shark House of Hoonah. “You lift our spirits by coming to our land. All of us Wooshkeetaan want to thank you for coming to our land, and visiting us and bringing your culture and your ancestors with you.”

Jack was one of the many speakers of the multi-hour ceremony. The hundreds who attended included Juneau residents, tribal officials, and congressional delegates from Alaska and Hawaii.

“We do not stand here alone — our ancestors are standing here with us as well and greeting your ancestors,” he said.

A crowd gathers at the shore of Auke Bay as the Hōkūle‘a, a double-hulled and wind-powered traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, arrives in Juneau on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A crowd gathers at the shore of Auke Bay as the Hōkūle‘a, a double-hulled and wind-powered traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, arrives in Juneau on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Kaasei Naomi Michaelson shared similar sentiments to the crowd and crew as they walked the shore.

“We’re making our ancestors very happy today,” she said.

Nainoa Thompson, Pwo navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who has captained and navigated the Hokuleʻa on more than a dozen voyages, addressed those gathered following a cultural ceremony by Indigenous visitors from Hawaii.

“This so-called project is bigger than us,” he said. “It’s not about us. It’s about a larger family, the biggest country in the world — the Pacific people who share the ocean.”

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Fran Houston, cultural Leader of the A’akw Kwáan, speaks to the crew members of the <strong>Moananuiākea</strong> voyage from the<strong> </strong><strong>Hōkūle‘a</strong> after they arrived on the shore of Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire Fran Houston, cultural Leader of the A’akw Kwáan, speaks to the crew members of the Moananuiākea voyage from the Hōkūle‘a after they arrived on the shore of Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony.

Thompson emphasized the sharing of longtime knowledge and resources among the region’s Indigenous communities, and how that played a critical role for the Hōkūle‘a in everything from cutting the trees for its wood to guiding it to shore safely on Saturday.

“I want to thank your pilots, the fishermen,” he said. “Those were the old, old understanding of the greatest language on the Earth. It’s the language of the ocean. Those that have come in and supported us, because we know enough to get really hurt over here. And so we went to your communities, and your pilots and those who had the local knowledge to keep us safe. But in the end we’re here safe and in the end we’re always constantly learning.”

Know & Go

What: Moananuiākea voyage launch ceremony.

Where: University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center, 12300 Mendenhall Loop Road.

When: 1-4 p.m. Thursday, June 15.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Spectators watch as crew members of the Moananuiākea voyage from the Hōkūle‘a arrived on the shore of Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Spectators watch as crew members of the Moananuiākea voyage from the Hōkūle‘a arrived on the shore of Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A cultural ceremony by Indigenous visitors from Hawaii is performed during the welcoming of the Hōkūle‘a at Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A cultural ceremony by Indigenous visitors from Hawaii is performed during the welcoming of the Hōkūle‘a at Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A crowd of hundreds don raincoats as they listen to the welcoming ceremony of the Moananuiākea voyage and Hōkūle‘a which arrived at Auke Bay Saturday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A crowd of hundreds don raincoats as they listen to the welcoming ceremony of the Moananuiākea voyage and Hōkūle‘a which arrived at Auke Bay Saturday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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