Reawakened reviewed in Journal of Pacific History


Axel Defngin reviews Reawakened: Traditional Navigators of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa by Jeff Evans:

Sirow. (A Yapese ceremonial apology given before speaking.)

Jeff Evans opens Reawakened with a quote on the late Pius ‘Papa Mau’ Piailug by Native Hawaiian Pwo (master navigator) Nainoa Thompson, and a photo of a Pwo ceremony taken on Satawal in 2007. Reawakened tells the challenges and triumphs of ten master navigators, all of them Piailug’s students, and their recollections of him and his guidance on what it meant to be Pwo. The book’s ten chapters are further sorted by place: five chapters on Native Hawaiian Pwo, three on Māori Pwo, and two on Cook Islander Pwo. Evans’s book is useful for its interpretations of what it means to be Pwo, and for updating readers on the ongoing efforts by Polynesian Pwo in their communities. It includes a timely foreword by the late Pwo Chad Kālepa Baybayan, written months before his passing, and appendices containing the Satawal and Te Kapehu Whetū Māori star compasses (the Hawaiian star compass is absent).

Reawakened can be appreciated for what it does best: telling the stories verbatim of Kanaka Maoli, Māori, and Cook Islander men of varying backgrounds journeying the open seas to reconnect with their ancestral knowledge of wayfinding. Nainoa Thompson, the late Sir Hekenukumai Ngāiwi Busby, Peia Patai, and others take the reader on vivid voyages of their upbringing, the moments they became intimately connected to the ocean and the double-hulled voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa, and the bonds they shared with one another, including Piailug. The pages are filled with striking images, allowing readers to smell, feel, see, and internalize the salty scents of ocean waves crashing aboard the canoe, the sounds of shared laughter, and physical and mental hardships. The book shines its brightest with these stories of Pacific Islanders – strangers in the beginning, and family by the end – coming together to become Pwo, or guiding lights for their communities.


Read the full review here.