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Hawaiian canoe to bear name Iosepa

‘Elder brother’ vessel to prepare the way

SHARE Hawaiian canoe to bear name Iosepa

LAIE, Hawaii — To the sound of drums coming from the nearby Polynesian Cultural Center, master carvers Tuione Pulotu and Kawika Eskaran shape and smooth the Fijian dakua wood of the 105-foot, double-hulled Hawaiian canoe that is scheduled for launching Oct. 20. Working under a large tarp in the tropical sun, the two men continue a tradition common to all Polynesian cultures.

In fact, the canoe, which will bear the name, Iosepa, or "Joseph" in the Hawaiian language, will be considered a "floating classroom" for the Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian Language and Cultural Studies at BYU-Hawaii.

"It's been a real blessing," said Brother Bill Wallace, director of the Jonathan Napela Center. "Students have been part of our program. They've chipped and helped shape the hull and helped to work on other things relating to the canoe. It's touched their lives, and I've had many of them tell me it's helped them reshape their own direction."

Brother Wallace said students involved with the canoe project have come to realize that not only is secular education important, but also "how it's equally important to know where you came from and why you're here. The canoe symbolizes the journey we all must take."

Before Iosepa, which refers not only to President Joseph F. Smith, who is beloved in Hawaiian culture, but also to the Prophet Joseph, the tribe of Joseph and the Iosepa community in Utah, begins its own journey, however, another traditional canoe must precede it, Brother Wallace added. This is Camakau (pronounced Tha-ma-kau), a Fijian canoe made of the same wood as "Iosepa" and which has been at the Polynesian Cultural Center for about 20 years. Camakau is in need of repair and, thus, is being renovated by the Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian Language and Cultural Studies. After work is completed, it will be launched before Oct. 20 and will help students learn the art of traditional sailing before embarking on Iosepa.

Because the wood for both vessels comes from the same area, the older canoe is considered the "elder brother" of the newer canoe in Polynesian tradition, Brother Wallace explained. "You always respect your elder. It's important to launch the Camakau before we sail our canoe to keep the history of the canoes in proper order."

"With all due respect to our Fijian cousins and brothers and sisters, we want to make sure they know we appreciate their donations and their gifts. We want to do the right thing."

So far, the right things have been happening. The carving of the new canoe is well ahead of schedule, Brother Wallace said. Before the two hulls are joined, they will be named, according to Hawaiian tradition. The right hull is considered male, while the left is female. The two will then be joined to become Iosepa.

"Because it's a double-hull canoe, we're shaping both the hulls. Finishing work is being done on them right now. The joining of the canoe will probably happen sometime in August, the building of the main deck by the end of August, and we hope to actually have it ready to go out and to test run some time in September."