Photo: Voyaging Canoe Makali‘i

A hui of Native Hawaiians left Kewalo earlier this summer, for a two-week cultural research voyage into Papahānaumokuākea, supported in part by OHA.

Thirteen members of the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation (EKF) departed aboard the Searcher, a research and education vessel. Among the expedition were esteemed Native Hawaiian researchers Dr. Pua Kanaka‘ole Kanāhele and Kalei Nu‘uhiwa, who together have spent more than a decade studying the traditions, cultural sites and manamana (exponential spiritual power and upright stones) of Mokumanamana and Nïhoa, the two most easternly islands of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Photo: Voyaging Canoe Makali‘i
Makali‘i sets sail for Mokumanamana with a crew of expert wayfinders. – Photos: Jason Patterson

EKF met up in Papahānaumokuākea with members of Nā Kalai Wa‘a, who departed from Honolulu aboard the traditional voyaging canoe Makali‘i. Together the two groups conducted research on the manamana and their alignments to various celestial features, such as stars, planets and the Milky Way.

“OHA was proud to kōkua the efforts of Nā Kalai Wa‘a and Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation in creating the next generation of Hawaiian wayfinders and furthering our cultural understanding and connections to Papahānaumokuākea,” said Kamana‘opono Crabbe, former OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana. “The ‘ike they returned with will have a profound impact on the cultural foundation of our Lāhui moving forward.”

Photo: Voyagers on Mokumanamana

The Nā Kalai Wa‘a voyagers lent their wayfinding expertise to assist EKF with better understanding the alignments of cultural sites on Mokumanamana to stars and other celestial phenomenon during the Summer Solstice on June 21. Traditions indicate that the Summer Solstice holds significant mana (spiritual power) and therefore is a critical day for ceremonies.

The voyage, called Hānaunaola, was the capstone of a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans. The grant helped Nā Kalai Wa‘a grow and preserve their own food, with the goal of provisioning all 14 voyagers for the full length of the voyage. The voyage brings new meaning to the phrase “he waa, he moku, he moku, he waa” – a canoe, an island, an island a canoe. Educator ānuenue Punua put it succinctly in a social media post:

Photo: Voyagers on Mokumanamana
Voyagers explore the island after successfully taking the rare path to Mokumanamana.
– Photos: Brad Wong

“My ‘ohana wa‘a is sailing to our kūpuna islands provisioned entirely by our communities from Moku o Keawe & ‘ohana throughout the pae ‘āina. No Costco run, no canned goods, no foods that came off of a container.”

“If we can provision a canoe, we can provision our homes just the same. This is ‘āina Momona.”

The sail was the first time in 200 years that the route from the heiau Ko‘a Holomoana in Mahukona to Mokumanamana was used to train new wayfinders and voyagers. This voyaging route was a traditional test for apprentice navigators.

“As a co-trustee of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with the specific kuleana of advocating for Native Hawaiian interests in the co-management of the area, OHA is honored to have a part in supporting our beneficiaries with fiscal support as well as in working through the permitting and other requirements to enter the monument,” said Keola Lindsey, OHA Chief Advocate.

“Our goal is to assure that our people have the ability to access the area to conduct activities that perpetuate our cultural and traditional connections to these Kūpuna Islands.”

Established by presidential proclamation in 2006, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area in the United States, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. The monument is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of northwestern Hawaiian Island ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations.

Four co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, State of Hawai‘i and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs – protect this special place. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was inscribed as the first mixed (natural and cultural) UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States in July 2010. For more information, please visit

OHA is proud to kōkua the efforts of Nā Kalai Wa‘a and Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation in creating the next generation of Hawaiian wayfinders and furthering our cultural understanding and connections to Papahānaumokuaākea.”
— Kamana‘opono Crabbe, former OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana

Photo: Mokumanamana