13 Mar 2018

CNMI govt starts program to build traditional canoes

4:11 pm on 13 March 2018

The CNMI's Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has launched its own traditional canoe program but says it's not competing with a private sector-driven programme to build 500 traditional canoes by 2030.

New CNMI Canoe House

New CNMI Canoe House Photo: RNZI/Mark Rabago

The Department Secretary, Robert Hunter, said the Seafaring Traditions Program wants to perpetuate the Chamorro and Carolinian traditional skills of open-ocean seafaring, canoe building, and celestial navigation.

He added that the new programme aims to work in unison with the 500 Sails organisation to make sure this important aspect of the CNMI's culture continues.

The Seafaring Traditions Program is focused on ensuring traditional skills are not lost.

These include canoe building and canoe house making and all of the skills that this entails, from rope-making to weaving to carving to tool-building, and the traditional methods of celestial navigation.

The program initially is building a canoe house that is capable of housing two 40-foot sakmans or traditional canoes.

Once built, they will move on to constructing the canoes themselves, which they plan to sail to the 2020 Festival of the Pacific Arts in Hawaii.

The 500 Sails organisation aims to reclaim the maritime tradition in the Marianas by getting 500 traditional Chamorro and Carolinians proas on the water in the Marianas again.

By matching the number of proas seen on the water in 1565, 500 Sails believes it will have restored the Marianas' maritime traditions.

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