Crossroads Research

Moananuiākea: Pacific Explorations Revisited, by Uluwehi Hopkins

June 21, 2024, 19:00 CET. Online via MS Teams.

This presentation conveys evidence that Pacific seafarers traveled to the Americas,
facilitating interaction between themselves and the indigenous populations along the west
coast of the Americas. Pacific Oral Histories tell of long-distance voyages and place names
indicate where landings occurred. Yet, despite significant evidence, there is still debate over
the ability of Pacific seafarers to traverse such a great ocean. While there are a number of
motivations for the continuation of such naysaying, one reason the debate is still dredged up
is that many Pacific seafaring histories are still in their original formats. These journeys are
embedded in chants that were not translated into any colonizing language and are encased
in histories that outsiders have judged to be merely legends. All of these have been either
ignored or misinterpreted by those who would diminish the abilities of Pacific voyagers.

Thankfully, a growing number of researchers accept that such seafaring prowess
existed. Yet, among these, there is still doubt that it was the Pacific voyagers who sailed to
the Americas; there are, unfortunately, still too many who believe that only continental
people sailed into the largest ocean on earth and engaged in Pacific-Native American
exchanges. Through an exploration and interpretation of Hawaiian oral histories, Pacific
seafaring legends, etymologies of place names, Pacific navigational practices and
practitioners, accompanied with archaeological, anthropological, and genetic evidence, this
paper shows that Pacific voyagers not only sailed to the Americas but left a lasting legacy in
their wake.

Uluwehi HOPKINS is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) scholar from the island of
Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, where her ancestors have resided for generations. She earned her B.A. and
M.A. in ʻIke Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Studies) from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and her
Ph.D. in the History of Hawaiʻi also from UHM. She focuses on translating and interpreting
Hawaiian moʻolelo (histories) as a means of resurrecting indigenous knowledge systems for
the older generation of Kanaka Maoli who were denied access to their ancestral language
due to colonizing forces. Life experience has also allowed her to participate in modern
Polynesian voyaging efforts and cultural exchanges with other Pacific Islanders as well as
indigenous people in the Americas, and all of these experiences have primarily contributed
to the work she presents for this lecture series.

To register for the talk, please send us an e-mail.

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