Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

1995 Voyage to Nukuhiva in the Marquesas Islands

Photo Right: Hawai'iloa Sailing Off Honolulu

Scholars believe that early voyages of settlement to Hawai'i, over 1600 years ago, came from the Marquesas Islands. The argument for a Marquesan origin of some of the early settlers is based in part on linguistic and biological evidence. Archaeologist Patrick Kirch writes, "Indeed, the close relationship between the Hawaiian and Marquesan languages as well as between the physical populations constitutes strong and mutually corroborative evidence that the early Hawaiians came from the Marquesas" (Feather Gods and Fishhooks 64).

Adzes, fishhooks, and pendants found at an early settlement site at Ka Lae on the Big Island of Hawai'i resemble those found in the Marquesas, Also, the Marquesas Islands are the best departure point for sailing to Hawai'i from the South Pacific because t hey are closer and farther east (upwind) than the Society Islands or the Cook Islands, two other possible sources of early migrants.

From 1990-1995, the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program funded the construction of a double-hulled canoe named Hawai'iloa and a voyage to retrace in spring 1995 the migration route from the Marquesas Islands to Hawai'i. Th e purpose of the project was to recover and relearn knowledge, skills, and traditions about building voyaging canoes and Hawai'i's voyaging heritage.