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Hōkūleʻa crew pays tribute to victims in deadly Lāhainā wildfire during its stop in Washington State

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The Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes of Washington State conducted a traditional tribal water welcome for Hōkūle‘a, which arrived in Elliott Bay on Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Salt & Air Studios and Sea Life Productions).

The deadly wildfires on Maui were at the forefront of everyone’s minds when the legendary voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa and her crew arrived in Seattle, Washington over the weekend.

More than 2,000 people gathered at Pier 62 Saturday to welcome the crew, who have been sailing since June as part of the global launch of Moananuiākea, the four-year circumnavigation of the Pacific. At about 8:30 a.m., the canoe sailed into Elliott Bay, escorted by several traditional Suquamish canoes, and were greeted on the water by the Muckleshoot’s tribal canoes and dozens of Hawaiian outrigger paddling canoes.

Crew members wore red Hōkūleʻa shirts and red ceremonial kihei for their arrival into the bay. With 115 confirmed killed after a blaze in West Maui reduced old Lāhainā Town to ash, Hōkūleʻa crew also paid tribute to Maui by hanging a special pink feather lei hulu at the top of the mast.

Pink is the official color of Maui.


The crew also placed over Hōkūleʻaʻs canvas, a “Lāhainā Strong” banner created by members of Seattleʻs Native Hawaiian community.

Members of Seattleʻs Native Hawaiian community made a “Lāhainā Strong” banner the voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa, which was placed on the vessel after arriving in Elliott Bay on Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Polynesian Voyaging Society)

“Itʻs hard to be away from home when home needs us the most,” Polynesian Voyaging Society CEO Nainoa Thompson told the gathering in Seattle. “if we could have a silent prayer for Lāhainā, for all that we lost and all that remain, to pray for them and the belief that someday theyʻll be able to go back home and rebuild beautiful lives and beautiful families.”

Before coming to shore, the Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes conducted a traditional tribal water welcome while the city’s fire boat signaled the historic event with a special water works display. After the flotilla of canoes paddled in and Hōkūleʻa docked at Pier 62, a welcoming ceremony continued at the waterfront hosted by the tribal nations, City of Seattle and the area’s Hawaiian community.

The Hōkūleʻa crew signaled the start of Hawaiʻi Protocol with the blowing of the pū, singing, chants and the presentation of gifts. Welcome remarks were shared by Chief Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe; Willard Bill Jr. and Eileen Richardson of the Muckleshoot Tribe and Fred Felleman, senior commissioner of the Port of Seattle.


Respected teacher and beloved matriarch of Seattle’s Hawaiian community, Kumu ʻIwalani Christian performed a special hula Eia Hawaiʻi, which recounts the 12th century voyage of Chief Moʻikeha from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi.

A pink lei Hulu was tied to the mast of the Hōkūle‘a in honor of Maui as the crew on the voyaging canoe arrived in Washington on Aug. 26, 2023. Pink is the island’s official color. (Photo courtesy: Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Hōkūleʻa will remain in Seattle for a four-day engagement, which will include public canoe tours at Bell Harbor Marina, as well as talks and presentations at the Seattle Aquarium, Patagonia, and the Burke Museum. Visit www.hokulea.com for updates on public events.

Weather permitting, Hōkūleʻa is scheduled to depart Seattle for Tacoma on Wednesday and will arrive at noon for a welcome ceremony at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum.

Hōkūleʻa’s Seattle engagement has been organized and hosted by the Suquamish Tribe, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Port of Seattle, Friends of the Waterfront Seattle, Visit Seattle and others. Tacoma planning efforts involve the Puyallup Tribe, the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, and a host of volunteers including Hawaiian and Pacific Islander performers.


Overall, coordination for both cities was provided by the Seattle-Tacoma Community of Kānaka, Hawaiʻi-affiliated groups, the outrigger canoe community and supporters of Hōkūleʻa.

Hōkūleʻa has been sailing from Southeast Alaska since the Polynesian Voyaging Society held its global launch of Moananuiākea, the four-year circumnavigation of the Pacific, in Juneau, Alaska on June 15. The canoe and her crews sailed south through British Columbia engaging with First Nations communities, before arriving in Seattle.

  • The Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes of Washington State conducted a traditional tribal water welcome for Hōkūle‘a, which arrived in Elliott Bay on Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Salt & Air Studios and Sea Life Productions).
  • Dozens of Hawaiian outrigger paddling canoes greeted Hōkūle‘a Washington State’s Elliott Bay on Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Salt & Air Studios and Sea Life Productions)

The Moananuiākea Voyage, led by the society, will cover an estimated 43,000 nautical miles around the Pacific, visiting 36 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 indigenous territories and more than 300 ports.

The goal of the voyage is to ignite a movement of 10 million “planetary navigators” by developing young leaders and engaging communities around the world to take part in navigating earth towards a healthy, thriving future. The voyage itself is a global educational campaign that will amplify the vital importance of oceans and indigenous knowledge through port engagements, education and storytelling shared via a virtual “Third Canoe” called Waʻa Honua, which translates to “a canoe for the earth” (www.waahonua.com).

The Polynesian Voyaging Society and its educational partners are creating stories, and lessons for all ages with the goal of inspiring people to care for and make better choices for the earth. For additional information on PVS and the Moananuiākea Voyage, visit www.hokulea.com or follow @hokuleacrew on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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