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Construction Process

The building of a canoe was a religious affair as well as an engineering undertaking.  To the Hawaiian, correct behavior on the part of the builders and the cooperation of the spiritual relam, were critical to the successful construction of a canoe.


The process of selecing a log to build a canoe began well before the actual trip into the forest. The Kahuna KalaiWa'a (Canoe builder) would retire to the "Mua" (religious house) to meditate and pray for spiritual guidance in the up coming endevor.  This preperation phase could take days. Only when the Kahuna felt that all was in spiritual and emotional order, would the expedition into the forest begin.


The trip into the forest was a solemn event. Proper prayers and offerings were made and proper respect to the forest and its spiritual essence was strictly observed. Early explores between 1798 and 1823 described Hawaiians going in land some fifeteen to twenty miles from shore to obtain a Koa log suitable for a canoe. 

Once a tree which appeared suitable for a canoe was located, the Kahuna Kalai Wa'a would meditate and sleep at the base of the tree.  The tree possessed a consciousness that the Kahuna had to communicate with.  A tree that was suitable for a 20 to 40 foot canoe ranged between 150 and 200 years old.  To cut down an "elder" such as this required that the tree consent.

The hull was partially hollowed out in the forest.  Haul ropes were attached to the Maku'u and the hull pulled and dragged to the shore line. The hauling could take weeks or even months, depending on how far inland the log was found.

canoe construction.PNG

Once placed in the Halau the canoe was hollowed out to the desired depth and the sides ground down to a smooth finish. The Mo'o and Kupe were added along with the 'iako and ama.

When a Canoe was finished, blessed and launched, it was considered a living member of the owners family. It had a concisouness that made it more than just a boat.

Traditional Tools
canoe const.PNG
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