The effort to recognize the immense contribution of the late master navigator and mariner, Pius "Mau" Piailug, to the re-emergence of oceanic wayfinding through non-instrument navigation, although well-intentioned, misses the mark ("Piailug was giant in voyaging rebirth," Off The News, July 14).
For anyone who had the privilege to know Mau, and for the fortunate few who had the opportunity to study under him, it is clear why your commentary is off-base: "What’s so ironic is that Hawaii could have lost the connection to its indigenous maritime past without the gift of a master navigator who was not even native Hawaiian."
Mau Piailug, in his teaching opportunities among the many voyaging organizations here and throughout the Pacific, never identified himself or his students as being different or belonging to the labels that are imposed by the many experts who feel the need to define people by geographical boundaries.
For the pupils he generously shared his time with, Mau viewed and treated us as an oceanic ohana, defined not by an ocean that separated us, but rather an ocean that joined us around common traditions and a passion for an island lifestyle.
While best known for his navigational ability to wayfind, and an even greater skill as the consummate mariner, Mau was also a teacher dedicated to sharing unselfishly.
His lessons revolved around the central social theme that knowledge had no value unless you pass it on, and that navigation/ wayfinding gained its value not simply from one’s abilities as a master seafarer, but in the ability of the practitioner to transfer that skill into becoming a leader and steward within his or her community.
I paraphrase some thoughts shared with the voyaging community from Mau’s nephew, Thomas Raffipiy, when he last visited with Mau:
"On a cool summer evening in 2005 on Satawal, as Mau and I visited on the beach of Nemaenong (one of our family villages), watching the sun set in the west, Uncle Mau shared this charge with me:
‘I have laid the stick that connects people together. Now it is up to you, your generation and the generations to come, to build upon that stick a bridge that will ensure the free sharing of information and teaching between the two peoples until the day we become united again as a single people, as we were once before; before men separated us with their imaginary political boundaries of today’s Polynesia and Micronesia.’"
Addressing the many men and women who have directly benefited from Mau Piailug’s unselfish sharing, generous spirit and eloquent and thought-provoking counsel, I ask that they keep his memory alive as an example of the difference that one incredible individual can make to the betterment of society and communities that value a life of friendship.
Honor him by recognizing the common human kinship that makes us all a global ohana, a standard that Mau strived to live his life by.