Photo: Kamehaililani Waiau, Hiilani Young, Aalii Kelling, Kalehua Kelling, Kanoe Holt
Kamehaililani Waiau, Hiilani Young, Aalii Kelling, Kalehua Kelling, Kanoe Holt. - Photo: Courtesy of Kamehaililani Waiau

At almost every one of the 150 stops that Hōkūleʻa made on the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, dignitaries and community members gathered to greet the waʻa. In ceremonies large and small, crewmembers were welcomed onto distant shores. Over the course of their stay, local community members shared their history, their culture and customs, their particular ocean and environmental issues and projects they have undertaken to increase their sustainability. In turn, crewmembers talked about the purpose of their mālama honua mission and how they are caring for the earth. They gave canoe tours, explained the star compass and how they navigate by traditional methods. While the voyage opened doors for cultural and educational exchange, it wasn’t limited to the crewmembers and the people they met. One of the most long-term impacts may be with the students from Hawaiʻi who traveled to meet the waʻa.

“Pinky [Myron Pinky Thompson] felt that it was important to build relationships in the communities where Hōkūleʻa made landfall, so he asked to bring a group of 10 students to Waitangi, Aotearoa in 1985,” says Dr. Randie Kamuela Fong, executive cultural officer at Kamehameha Schools and Polynesian Voyaging Society cultural engagement group leader. “What he found was that the communities responded so positively to Hawaiian youth and were taken by their ability to express the Hawaiian culture in terms of performance, language, behavior and with a respectful and humble demeanor. While crew members did the difficult work of sailing and caring for the canoes, the students would provide support for ceremonies as well as at school visits for cultural educational exchange.” In November 2014, Kamehameha Schools students traveled back to Waitangi to greet Hōkūleʻa when she arrived there on the Mālama Worldwide Voyage. This marked the first of 11 trips that students from Hawaiʻi took over the next three years to greet the waʻa and participate in cultural and educational exchanges. [see below for places visited]

Dr. Fong and his wife, Jamie Mililani Fong, who is the manager of Kaʻiwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center, located on the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama campus, are at the heart of the student program. Together, they developed the standards that guided the selection process, which ranged from strong performance skills to Hawaiian language knowledge to academic proficiency to proper conduct. For the Mālama Honua voyage, the student delegations were not only from the Kamehameha Schools campuses statewide, they were also from a number of charter and immersion schools, from middle school to high school. Other Hawaiʻi schools sent student contingents as well, including ʻIolani and Hōʻala School students, whose students traveled to Aotearoa, and Castle High School science students who traveled to the Galapagos. Nā Kelamoku, the Youth Leadership Initiative of the Polynesian Voyaging Society that is made up of students from different schools, and who are training to be the next generation of navigators and explorers, traveled to meet Hōkūleʻa in Miami, Florida.

Hōkūleʻa in Miami, Florida. Joy Domingo-Kameenui, now 15 years old, was a Kamehameha- Kapālama eighth grader in 2016 when she was selected to be one of 12 middle school students to travel to Washington, D.C. to greet Hōkūleʻa. She and the other students took part in the welcoming ceremony for Hōkūleʻa’s arrival, performing in front of hundreds of well-wishers who had come to greet the waʻa in Old Town, Alexandria. The students spent the next 12 days in the nation’s capital, visiting Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation and museums. “I got interested in culture and anthropology from the trip and now I plan to do a double major in college in computer science and anthropology,” Joy said.

Aʻaliʻi Kelling, a 16-year-old junior at Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School, which is a Hawaiian language immersion school, traveled to Rapa Nui, Tahiti and Moorea on his huakaʻi to greet Hōkūleʻa earlier this year. “I want to be a marine biologist after meeting with the scientists who were doing ocean and reef work in Rapa Nui. Their scientific work with marine life is from a cultural perspective, and we should be doing the same thing. This trip opened my eyes to what mālama ʻāina truly is. On this trip a lot of kuleana was placed on the haumana to help with ceremonies. We practiced the ʻawa ceremony a lot because we wanted to make sure we would get it right. We knew we were representing our people and our culture, so we wanted to do our best.”

Maka Meleiseā, 18 years old and a 2017 graduate of Kamehameha-Kapālama, met Hōkūleʻa in Tahiti this past April. Her school group traveled on to Raʻiatea, where they spent several days engaging with the community and being part of the ceremony at Taputapuatea, the spiritual center for voyagers of the Pacific to launch and close their voyages. “It was such a humbling experience, we never felt like we left home because of the love from the people and the land. Hōkūleʻa started the Mālama Honua voyage when I entered my freshman year, and I followed it all the way through high school. I was so glad I got to be part of it as I finished my senior year.” Maka will attend the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa in the fall and plans to major in Hawaiian studies and communications.

Hawaiʻi students who have participated in Malama Honua Voyage

Average 12-20 students per trip

  • November, 2014: Waitangi, Aotearoa – Kamehameha Schools (KS) students from all campuses
  • May, 2015: Aurere, Aotearoa – Hālau Kū Māna, Kamaile Academy, Ka Waihona, Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo, Ke Kula Niʻihau o Kekaha and Kanu o ka ʻĀina.
  • May, 2015: Sydney, Australia – Kanu o ka ʻĀina
  • November, 2015: Cape Town, South Africa – KS Kapālama and Hālau Kū Māna
  • May, 2016: Washington, D.C. – KS middle school students from all campuses
  • June, 2016: New York – KS Kapālama, KS Hawaiʻi, KS Maui, Hakipuʻu Learning Center, Hālau Kū Māna, Kamaile Academy, Kanu o ka ʻĀina, Kawaikini, Ke Ea Hawaiʻi, Ke Kula Niʻihau o Kekaha, Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, Kamakau and Kua O Ka Lā.
  • January, 2017: Miami, Florida – Nā Kelamoku – Polynesian Voyaging Society Youth Leadership Group – students from various schools
  • February, 2017: Galapagos Islands – KS Mālama Honua class, Hālau Kū Māna, Castle High School
  • February, 2017: Rapa Nui – KS Kapālama and Kamakau
  • March, 2017: Tahiti and Raʻiātea – KS Kapālama
  • Monica Morris

Indigenous Youth Declaration

May 20, 2014

ʻAha ʻŌpio, held in conjunction with the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education (WIPCE) issues a Declaration of Indigenous Youth that it created at the Kaʻiwakīlomoku Hawaiian Cultural Center on Kamehameha Schools Kapālama campus.


Students place the declaration on Hōkūleʻa at Aurere, Aotearoa. This declaration was one of the dozen declarations from Hawaiʻi, Pacific and the world that Hōkūleʻa carried to the United Nations on World Oceans Day.


Youth declaration presented to UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon in NYC. Students deliver remarks to delegates and diplomats at UN.

June 17-25, 2017

World Youth Congress at UH Mānoa. This Congress was inspired by the Worldwide Voyage and Hōkūleʻa. Youth will be creating a resolution or other artifact that will link to the UN Sustainable Development goals, and the WWV and Hōkūleʻa are sure to have a presence in whatever they produce.