We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches lives.

Learn More

Nainoa Thompson:
Navigating Currents on Land As Well as at Sea



Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS Hawaii

There are at least a couple of surprises about Nainoa Thompson’s appearance on Long Story Short, coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 pm.

Nainoa chose the place for the interview, and it’s not within sight of the ocean. It’s his family property, upland in Niu Valley, with green fields, spreading kiawe trees and his mom Laura’s friendly chickens.

And the master navigator and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society isn’t speaking about the ocean, except as a connector to cultures and communities. No, this conversation is about a different kind of wayfinding: on land, in political and diplomatic currents, at far-flung ports of call.

\For his work in bringing together nations on the Hokulea’s ongoing Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, the East-West Center has named Thompson its 2015 Asia-Pacific Community Builder.

Just as he has spent decades observing the skies and seas, Nainoa has been involved for many
years with the East-West Center, sharing with and getting to know students from 30 countries. When it came time to prepare for the five-year global voyage, he tapped the Center’s deep knowledge.


“It was through them that we had the ability to build the kind of relationships we needed, whether governmental or community, or cultural, educational and environmental, or even port logistics,” he said.

Whatever the protocol, he says, the key is knowing how to show respect for others and their home.

He said the exchanges on land “allow us the opportunity to believe that we’re more alike than we’re different, that diversity is a strength, and that diversity is a treasure if it is built on … respect.”

And, with a nod to the greenery of the surrounding valley, Nainoa comments that Hawaii is not just a nice place. He believes other nations can see that Hokuleʻa crewmembers are from a seat of power. Because, he says, our “amazingly beautiful” cultural mix has created a fabric that is based not on race, but on values.

I hope you’re able to see this episode! Long Story Short also is available online at www.PBSHawaii.org

A hui hou (until next time),

Leslie signature