Ho‘ona‘auao: Education
Nainoa Thompson: A Challenge to Learn
Ten Themes of Learning
Key Elements of Education
Crew Training
Resources: Classroom Curriculum and Activities
Resources: Online Content
Resources: Online Photos, Graphics, and Maps
Resources: Songs and Chants of the Canoes
Resources: Films and Videos

Ho‘ona‘auao: Education

A Challenge to Learn

Nainoa Thompson

When we voyage, and I mean voyage anywhere, not just in canoes, but in our minds, new doors of knowledge will open, and that’s what this voyage is all’s about taking on a challenge to learn. If we inspire even one of our children to do the same, then we will have succeeded.” – Nainoa Thompson, September 20, 1999, the day of departure for the challenge of navigating from Mangareva to Rapa Nui, the remotest, most difficult island to navigate to in Polynesia).

In the last few days, I have just tried to get quiet, calm and to study – that is how I prepare. I am thinking all the time about home, about the voyage, the weather, the crew, about what we have to do to make this work.

Sailing toward the rising sun to Rapanui. Photo by Sam Low

I think about home a lot because that’s why we do this. We love our homes, we love our people, we love our culture and our history, and we want to strengthen them – this is our opportunity, our chance to do something to support all those who care about these things. I want to thank all the people who gave so much to allow this voyage to take place, but who are not here now. They allowed us to take the risk, to do all of this.

I want to thank all the families and children involved for giving us the chance to go. This voyage is about people – it’s about all our people.

When I think back on my life, it’s clear that I had no way of knowing that I would be here now doing what I am doing. When I began studying in school and gaining knowledge, sometimes I doubted the importance of that effort. But it's the knowledge that I gained with the help of so many teachers that is allowing me to do what we are about to do. So I just hope that all our children will keep on pursuing knowledge because none of us know where we are going, but at some point in our lives, that knowledge will allow us to jump off into the unknown, to take on new challenges, and that’s what I consider before every one of these voyage...the challenge. Learning is all about taking on a challenge, no matter what the outcome may be. When we accept the challenge we open ourselves to new insight and knowledge.

When we voyage, and I mean voyage anywhere, not just in canoes, but in our mind, new doors of knowledge will open. and that’s what this voyage is all’s about taking on a challenge to learn. If we inspire even one of our children to do the same, then we will have succeeded.

From a speech at a Polynesian Union Conference, in 1997:

Consider our children spend 33,000 days in our educational system until the time that they graduate. But our part-Hawaiians, less than 50% graduate from high school. We want to step in there. We want to bring education to the children. We want to get to those children who really want to learn and be motivated about the things that are so important ... like the ocean.

Then I think they will be excited to want to learn. We want to integrate the work to improve literacy through academics, and integrate that with some very special and rare experiences that connect the relevancy between learning and achievement. To have children do things that they want to do, to challenge themselves. And challenge they must. If they're truly going to have powerful learning experiences, it must come from inside of them challenge inside of them. What we want to do is provide that challenge through the canoes, through learning about the ocean.

We want to touch our children in a way, much deeper than the system does now. We want them to touch a part of their ancestry, and we want them to have the hope to look for a bright future.

And we must, as an obligation, make sure that they understand the interconnectedness, the interrelatedness between themselves and the natural world. Our western thinking is that we can dominate and consume our natural environment. We know that isn't working. One of our greatest problems in our world, is our population and human demand on finite limited resources. In Hawai'i, we live on small islands. What a great classroom for us to understand the issues of sustainability and understand that we don't dominate the world, we're only part of it. And for our world to be of a high quality, so does the environment in which we live in.

Hawaii is a small, very special place that, if change is to take place, it will take everybody working together. I believe that the foundation is already there. It’s been there for 3,000 years. All we are doing, in my opinion, is that we’re uncovering and peeling off the layers of abuse of the last 200 years. To get us back to a clean, free place will take the work of many. I just want to end by saying that I’m very honored and very privileged to be here. Recognize that our part in voyaging is just a small fraction of the total work. To be able to come and share ideas with you, which is the intent of this conference, is a real honor for me. Aloha to. you all and good luck in all your work.