On June 17, 2017, Hōkūleʻa’s Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage came full circle, a tremendous achievement by its navigators, the kūpuna and mentors who paved the way, and the haumāna and ʻōpio inspired to honor ancient wayfinding traditions.

For more than three years, Hōkūleʻa followed the path of our ancestors, using Hawaiian science, Polynesian knowledge, the stars, the heavens, the winds and the currents to spread the message of mālama ʻāina and mālama moana across the globe.

Recent “king tides” offered a glimpse of the threat Hawaiʻi and other Pacific islands face if ocean levels continue to rise, adding a sense of urgency to the Mālama Honua message here at home. As Hōkūleʻa circumnavigated the globe, it raised awareness about the impacts of climate change and emphasized the need to use science and traditional knowledge to protect the earth. The worldwide voyage was only possible because of those who came before, among them Herb Kane, Pinky Thompson, Mau Piailug, Eddie Aikau, Ben Finney and Clay Bertelmann. Because of their vision, Hōkūleʻa’s first homecoming from Tahiti in 1976 became the genesis of the Hawaiian Renaissance, uplifting our people and inspiring us to stand in our homeland with pride, with dignity and with mana. Today, our ʻōlelo makuahine lives, our culture lives, and so, our kūpuna live.

In 1976, there were few master navigators, and none in Polynesia. Mau Piailug, of Micronesia, led that maiden voyage to Tahiti and helped Hawaiians reclaim our voyaging traditions. Nainoa Thompson was 24 at Hōkūleʻa’s first homecoming and 28 when he successfully replicated the original Tahiti voyage as lead navigator. Last month, he empowered a new generation of wayfinders to guide Hōkūleʻa home, with Pomai Bertelmann as captain and Kaʻiulani Murphy as navigator.

Welcoming Hōkūleʻa home was a kākou effort, with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kamehameha Schools in the lead. OHA conducted community workshops where thousands learned the four mele that welcomed the ʻohana waʻa. We also found kiaʻi, or guards, to protect the sacred areas during the arrival.

Hōkūleʻa’s mission aligns perfectly with OHA’s mandate to protect our natural and cultural resources, a priority we’ve put $21 million toward since 2011. One recipient of that funding is the Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy, which teaches youth about traditional voyaging and shows them how their culture can lead to careers in the maritime industry.

Seeing all the keiki, all the haumāna, stand when called on to be recognized at the Homecoming ceremony was a powerful illustration of the pride Hōkūleʻa inspires even in those who were born after its maiden voyage. This is the impact, this is the inspiration, this is the courage of our people through which our culture lives.