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February 2017

Moana and Wayfinding

The movie "Moana" is big at our house. I'm lucky enough to get screeners and Moana was one of them so we've watched it quite a few times. The soundtrack is on heavy rotation in the house and car and Harper often looks askance when I start doing fake hula and maori dancing in the kitchen, though she's getting used to it now.

While the song "You're Welcome" (Sung by Maui) is super fun, my favorite song is "We Know The Way". It's the song about Moana's Polynesian voyaging ancestors teaching her who they were and it makes me cry every time. The first half of the song is sung in Samoan and Tokelauan and the second half in English.

Here is the full video for the song:

Being from Hawai'i, the northern most tip of Polynesia, and growing up when I did, the navigation story point hits deep in my heart.The song tells the story about ancient navigators, wayfinders, who learned to read the elements to find their way across the Pacific and back. This kind of navigation was almost dead but came back to a full life in the 70's when The Polynesian Voyaging Society built a replica canoe called Hokule'a. Master navigator Mau Piailug from an island called Satawal decided to share the ancient knowledge with the Hawaiians, even though he was not Hawaiian and this knowledge was held in secret. Thankfully he did share so that this knowledge would not be lost (there were 5 other master navigators on his island, but Mau was the only one to share).

The Hokule'a set sail in 1976 and made it to Tahiti from Hawai'i and then back, using only ancient navigation techniques. It was a huge touchstone in the life of everyone in Hawai'i at that time. I still get emotional when I read stories about the current voyages that the Hokule'a makes. (She was in Boston last summer!)

With all that in mind, the moment in the video that slays me every time. EVERY TIME is this moment right here:

A bird means land. Land means you found food and water and you navigated correctly. I love the look of relief and pride that the navigator conveys and the acknowledgment of the other crew members. That's powerful stuff, but might not register for a lot of people.

Aue! I just love it.