Pwo navigator to share 30-year voyage of Na Kalai Waʻi at Waimea Town meeting

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Pwo Navigator Chadd Paishon

Just over 28 years ago, nothing short of a miracle occurred at Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island when an amazing hui of community volunteers launched the Makali’i voyaging canoe. 

This coming weekend – weather permitting – that restored canoe will again be launched to begin to prepare for its next voyage. 

At the Waimea Community Association’s hybrid Town Meeting on March 2, Pwo Navigator Chadd Paishon will retell the amazing story of cultural discovery, learning, growth and persistence.

Pwo is a sacred initiation ritual, in which students of traditional navigation in the Caroline Islands in Micronesia become navigators (palu) and are initiated in the associated secrets.


Paishon also will talk about the exciting plans ahead for the Na Kalai Wa’a ‘ohana and the Hawai’i Island community during the meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m. at Tutu’s House, 64-1032 Mamalahoa Highway # 305 in Waimea. All are welcome to attend in person or log onto the Waimea Community Associations’s Facebook page or YouTube channel

As with all Na Kalai Wa’a conversations, it begins with this ‘Olelo Noe’au:  “He wa’a he moku,

he moku he wa’a.”  “The canoe is our island, and the island is our canoe.”

These words were uttered by the late Clay Bertelmann, founder of Nā Kālai Waʻa, “when explaining the unique holistic nature of wa’a practices and how they relate to us individually and as a larger community.  Simply put, what we do on land is like we do on the canoe.  This is the vision of Nā Kālai Waʻa and the foundation of our work with our communities.” 


As explained on the Na Kalai Wa’a website:  “ʻOhana Makaliʻi is made up of everyone who helped to make the dream of Makaliʻi become a reality as well as those who continue to support the education programs and voyaging expeditions of Nā Kālai Waʻa. The ʻohana began humbly on the slopes of Mauna Loa more than 30 years ago searching for a log for Mauloa, the first canoe of Nā Kālai Waʻa, and continued to grow during the building of Makaliʻi, Hokuliʻilii, and Alingano Maisu. Today the ʻohana numbers more than 1,000 people and continues to grow.”

The website explanation continues: “When voyaging, Makaliʻi becomes home to all who sail upon her deck.  She is the maritime parallel to our homes on land. The success of a voyage on Makaliʻi depends on all kuleana, or roles, of crew members on the waʻa.  Crew consists of lawaiʻa (fishermen), mahiʻai (farmers), kahuna pule (priests), kahuna noeʻau (craftsmen), aliʻi (leaders), and makaʻāinana (the people). The canoe is the platform for each individual to practice their cultural lifestyle in a collaborative way. This is what makes Makaliʻi unique; each individual is celebrated for what they contribute to the whole group.  Makaliʻi ʻohana is the village — whether on land or on the canoe.  What is done to thrive on land, is also done to thrive on the canoe.”

Paishon will lead the conversation that will include an update on recent acquisition of 642 acres that include six ahupuaʻa (from south to north) – Kaoma, Hihiu, Mahukona, Kamano, Kou and Kapaʻa Nui – “to ensure that these lands remain an active place of Hawaiian cultural practice.”

It’s an “ambitious effort involving the Kohala community and Na Kalai Wa’a to forever protect Mahukonaʻs many cultural sites, view planes, ecology and ensure the continuation of traditional Hawaiian navigational practices at Mahukona.


Because Na Kala Wa’a is a non-profit dedicated to the maintaining of cultural values and customs through the teaching and applying non instrument navigation and open ocean voyaging protocols, they also will be the town meeting’s spotlight not-for-profit.  Attendees will be urged to support their work with a tax deductible contribution either at the in person meeting or via their website. 

To attend the town meeting virtually, go to the association’s Facebook page or website for a link to YouTube.  The meeting will be recorded to both Facebook and YouTube for on-demand viewing thereafter. 

As always, questions are welcome – ideally in advance – by emailing: [email protected]. Questions may also be submitted in writing in person at the meeting or typed into the chat to be addressed as time permits. 

As usual, Waimea Community Association Town Meetings include a brief public safety update by South Kohala Community Policing Officers, and there also will be a quick virtual visit with State Sen. Tim Richards and State Rep. David Tarnas about the current Legislative session.     

For more info about the meeting or community association, email WCA President James Hustace at [email protected] or go to

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