Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific
Edited by K. R. Howe
UH Press; 360 pages; $59
Reviewed by Christine Thomas Special to the Honolulu Advertiser
Much the same way crewmembers work together to sail a voyaging canoe, fourteen authors worked with Massey University professor and editor K. R. Howe to form the five-pound tome “Vaka Moana,” a compilation of scholarly but accessible essays on the epic history of Pacific settlement. Swollen with 400 color and black and white illustrations, including beautiful photographs, artifacts, maps, and charts, each storyteller’s personalized prose conveys the most current knowledge about voyaging past and present.
Pacific voyagers left the sight of land thousands of years before any other explorers, and settled the last places on Earth. Thus the authors appropriately cover a broad range of topics—human evolution, Polynesian traditions, voyaging (including a subsection on Nainoa Thompson), life and trade after exploration, and Western ideas about origins—amounting to a piercing encyclopedic examination of our Pacific ancestors’ daring journey, and mirroring the prominence of indigenous nationalism today.
As the book notes, “Pacific people know their stories. But the world does not.” This complete and thorough work aims to change that, and any misperceptions about the world’s first maritime people. It’s sure to become a staple on local shelves, as much as “Shoal of Time” or the “Loyal to the Land” series.