I did eventually meet Nainoa Thompson — “the baddest bro in the whole wide world” — in his office at the administrative headquarters of the Kamehameha Schools. This private college-prep institution specializes in native Hawaiian language and cultural education. During my visit, Thompson served as a trustee for the schools.
The name Nainoa Thompson is known to the people of Hawaii. Five years ago, during my trip, I found a Honolulu Advertiser poll of Hawaiian households in which voters ranked Thompson as the most well-regarded Hawaiian public figure. U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka ranked second.
They also know Thompson for developing a system of wayfaring that combines traditional principles of ancient ways and modern scientific knowledge, which is taught in schools throughout the Pacific.
In 1974, Thompson started paddling outrigger canoes at the Hui Nalu Canoe Club, in Waikiki. As Thompson paddled, three other men planned. Hawaiian artist Herb Kane, Californian anthropologist Dr. Ben Finney and skilled waterman Tommy Holmes were designing a performance-replica, double-hulled canoe. They would call it “Hokule’a” meaning the “Star of Gladness,” after the star Arcturus. The group wanted to prove that ancient Polynesians were not aimless drifters who discovered the Hawaiian islands by accident.
When Thompson heard the plan, he felt the fractured elements of himself — his love of the ocean, his heritage, his culture — finally come together as one cohesive piece.
Thirty years later, in his office, photographs of his mentors covered the walls, but there was not enough room and he propped several more against furniture and file cabinets. At that time, he was training 12 young navigators in non-instrument navigation but still considered himself a student navigator, not a master, and continued to live by the advice given to him by master navigator Mau Piailug (who has since passed way).
“Mau told me, ‘Don’t look with your eyes because you cannot see. Look inside,’ and he points to his chest,” said Thompson, that day in his office. “I am only now just beginning to understand what he is saying.”
(He and I chatted, but that’s all I will tell you for now. You’ll have to read the updated published article. So anti-climactic of me! As for Wailing Peacock project details, I’m headed to O’ahu in August for 16 days to meet with the PVS peeps and watch as they prepare Hokule’a for the worldwide voyage. Yipee!)