Hundreds of people had gathered on the University of Alaska Southeast Campus on Thursday, June 15 to wish the crew of the Hōkūleʻa farewell as they embark on a remarkable journey over the next four years. The event marked the Global Launch Ceremony for Moananuiākea, a voyage that will circumnavigate the Pacific using traditional methods of wayfinding as they visit 36 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 indigenous territories and 345 ports.
The ceremony, held in Juneau on the traditional lands of the Áak’w Kwáan and Taku Kwáan, honored members of the Hawaii delegation with dances and traditional ceremonies recognizing our visitors and bestowing blessings for a safe journey ahead. Indigenous leaders from Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand and various Pacific Island nations gathered, acknowledging our shared heritage and collective responsibility to protect our precious oceans. The global launch was the culmination of a week of cultural exchange, which began with a traditional Tlingit welcoming ceremony on Saturday, June 10.
The relationship between Sealaska and the Polynesian Voyage Society (PVS) goes back more than 30 years, when PVS CEO and chief navigator Nainoa Thompson connected with Sealaska’s board chair Judson Brown and President and CEO Byron Mallott. The three, along with Sealaska forest manager Ernie Hillman, became united in a steadfast friendship rooted in their respective missions to serve their people and keep their cultures alive. Through cultural exchange, Sealaska provided the logs that later became the twin hulls of the Hōkūleʻa.
The goal of the Moananuiākea voyage is to serve as inspiration to the next generation of navigators and bring greater awareness to the changing oceans and impacts of climate change, goals that are aligned with Sealaska’s values and vision for our shared future.
“This platform allows us to say things that need to be said,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “We’ve been dancing around the subject of climate change and not saying it straight out.”
“What this voyage means is that we need something new [to combat the impacts of climate change], because what we’ve been doing the past 50 years is not working,” said Mallott. “We’re going to bring unity, we’re going to bring love, we’re going to bring care and we’re going to bring ancestral wisdom and our Indigenous stewardship to get us back on track.”
The Hōkūleʻa is a double-hulled, wind-powered traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe and has been anchored at Statter Harbor near Juneau in preparation for its 47-month journey ahead. The journey will include several stops at communities throughout Southeast Alaska over the next two months, with scheduled stops in Angoon, Kake, Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Saxman, Metlakatla and Hydaburg.
An Alaska planning team is supporting PVS to facilitate the Alaska leg of the journey, working closely with community leaders across Southeast to host and welcome the Hōkūleʻa and its crew from across the Pacific. The Alaska team includes representatives from First Alaskans Institute, Tlingit & Haida and Sealaska.
The Moananuiākea Voyage Global Launch Ceremony livestream was produced by KTOO courtesy of Sealaska and the Alaska Planning Team. A recording of the event can be found here.
Learn more about the voyage and the history of Sealaska’s relationship with PVS at MySealaska.com/Moananuiakea.