WHAT MAKES A CANOE, HAWAIIAN?

 

 

Traditional construction and cultural practices associated with the Hawaiian canoe are grounded in age old beliefs shaped by the delicately balanced "life cycle" of an island environment. 

 

ASPECTS OF THE HAWAIIAN WORLD VIEW

Herb Kawainui Kane

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The Hawaiian Culture and the Hawaiian Canoe have evolved over time, adjusting to changing environmental, social and political conditions.

EVOLUTION OF THE HAWAIIAN CANOE

 

Herb Kawainui Kane

Herb Kawainui Kane

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The introduction of new economic drivers to the islands after western contact caused a decline in the native natural resources used to construct the canoe.  The shift to western materials in canoe construction further eroded traditional construction techniques and operational practices. 

OTHER FORCES AFFECTING THE HAWAIIAN CANOE

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With recreational canoe racing becoming  the focused use for the outrigger Canoe, the construction and operational practices of the modern canoe are no longer based on sustaining life but designed to achieve victory in athletic events.  This has further eroded the traditional cultural practices associated with the Hawaiian Canoe.

QUEST FOR SPEED

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Within recent years there has been an explosion of innovation in canoe design and construction.  Much like surfing, outrigger canoe paddling has become less connected to its Hawaiian roots. So the question arises, how much innovation and “modernization” can occur before a “canoe” is no longer  "traditional" or....“Hawaiian” ?

SO WHAT MAKES A CANOE HAWAIIAN?

While shape will always play a significant role in defining the "Hawaiian Canoe", what might be more significant is the mental attitude of the people that paddle and sail these water craft.

 

If the Hawaiian canoe is to remain Hawaiian, its history,  traditional cultural values and operational practices must be present in the minds, hearts and hands of those that carry on the Hawaiian Canoe tradition.  Without these traditional elements, the "Hawaiian" canoe becomes something else.

Sam Ka'ai

Keeping It Traditional