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Pacific voyaging organisations forge new path of collaboration

Monday 17 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Features

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Pacific voyaging organisations forge new path of collaboration
Cook Islands master navigators Peia Patai and Tua Pittman. MELINA ETCHES/24061611

A gathering of all the voyaging organisations from Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, including around 10 Pwo navigators, was held last week before master navigator Peia Patai and Vaka Marumaru Atua left Hawai’i for Rarotonga on Saturday.

Patai said it was the first meeting of its kind, adding “we have meeting with our brothers in Satawal (Federated States of Micronesia) so the connections between us now is no longer separated”.

“I think this is what Papa Mau (Pius “Mau” Piailug, master navigator from Satawal, Yap State, Micronesia) always wanted for us to be united,” he added.

“You’ve really got to understand that they (Satawal) are the ones who passed on that knowledge to us, we all learnt from it. And most importantly, the old master navigators from Satawal are here.”

Patai said that now all together in one agreement, they were united.

“In the past we were separated into Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, now we have decided to all work together as a team,” he said.

“We really got to understand and learn that working as a team is very, very important – what we teach on the canoe – to always work together, and being divided will never work.”

Patai is the founder and chair of Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation. Other board trustees are Tua Pittman, Cecile Marten and Tairea.

He identified a lack of interest among young people in learning voyaging skills and knowledge as one of the challenges.

“I think for us first is to appreciate what we have has taught us a big lesson to work together and understand and really appreciate our culture. Then we start to teach. That’s the key of moving forward – teaching.

“Papa Mau always said that the knowledge is not for you to keep, but for you to pass on.”

Prior to departing Hawai’i, Vaka Marumaru Atua has been making preparations for their voyage back to Rarotonga.

Fourteen crew including two women are part of the journey home captained by Patai.

Prior to departing Hawai’i, Patai said sailing home with 14 on board was not an issue. However, they had two spare crew spots and were looking at their partnerships with Hawaiian voyaging organisations.

“I have been bringing crew from Hawai’i to Raro to give them that opportunity to have that ocean experience.”

Patai said Hawai’i has so many young people interested in voyaging.

“That’s something that we want to have. At the moment we are struggling to get our young kids interested, we haven’t done enough, we need to encourage more of our kids.

“We haven’t even touched our northern islands, they’re waiting. I know the interest is there.”

Master navigator Tua Pittman also attended the Pacific Voyaging symposiums at the Hawai’i Convention Center last week.

Pittman said “although we are one of the leaders in voyaging, there is still a lot more to do.”

“The Pa Enua kids jump at the opportunity to learn about voyaging whereas in Rarotonga, it’s right in front of them and they drive past.”

Patai said he and Pittman have been ignoring the young people in the Pa Enua for a long time – “we have to take that responsibility”.

Vaka Marumaru Atua will be sailing directly back home to Rarotonga, Patai said this voyage may be quicker “if the wind is good to us”.

Marumaru Atua’s voyage to and from Hawai’i is a collaboration of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation.

Patai selected Te Puna Marama crew from the Pa Enua to sail from Rarotonga to Hawai’i.

“We brought them over as kids, they’re now adults,” said Patai.