01.06.2016 - UNESCO Office in Apia

First Canoe Summit held at the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Guam


The First Canoe Summit held on 26 May in Hagatna, Guam, during the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FESPAC)*, calls for strengthening the network for the safeguarding and promotion of the traditional wayfinding systems in the Pacific.

The Summit was held with the aims to encourage the sharing of knowledge and skills related to traditional seafaring in the Pacific among practitioners, to identify opportunities and challenges facing traditional seafaring in the region, and to discuss regional and international cooperation for its safeguarding and transmission. It was organised by the Canoe Summit Organising Committee composed of Anthropological Institute of Nanzan University, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (NRICP) in Tokyo, and the Traditional Arts Committee and Tatasi (Seafaring) Committee of the 12th FESPAC with the support of UNESCO. The Summit brought together the renowned master navigators, such as Tua Pittman from Cook Islands, Hoturoa Kerr from Aotearoa (NZ), and Sesario Sewralur, son of the grand master navigator Mau Piailug from Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), among others. The Summit was also attended by leading academics, museum experts, visual anthropologists, officials and other stakeholders involved in this area.


Dr Sandra Morisson and Dr Timoti Vailoti of the University of Waikato presented the UNESCO project, the Canoe is the People: Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific, sharing progress in the translation of the Canoe is the People educational kits into the Maori language. Copies of the educational kits were then presented to the heads of navigation societies. Also invited by UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Programme, Tua Pittman, a master navigator with the Cook Islands Voyaging Society talked about his life-time commitment to a Pan-Pacific movement to revive traditional voyaging in the Pacific. “Cost, materials and migration are some of the challenges facing the traditional navigation community in the Pacific.” said Tua.


Dr. Vicente Diaz, co-founder of the Guam Traditional Seafaring Society and currently teaching Global and Comparative Indigenous Studies at the University of Minnesota, summarized the discussions, reiterating the importance of linking the safeguarding of this intangible cultural treasure to the livelihoods of practitioners. He also noted the multiple aspects of the traditional navigation systems, including not only celestial navigation skills and canoe building, but also food preparation, the Pwo title-giving ceremony, associated rituals and the participation of women. The participants underlined the importance of ensuring that the network created at the Summit remains active as a platform for information exchange and the empowerment of navigators and voyaging societies.


* 27 Pacific island countries and territories participated at this year's Festival of the Pacific Arts and Culture, included American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Easter Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands (2024 Host), French Polynesia, Guam (2016 Host), Hawaii (2020 Host), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

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