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Kapuahi- "Sacred Fire" in the days of Covid19

Updated: Mar 3

April 19th, 2020...


One month into this pandemic business I am finally coming up for air from the flow of new days (blissful and peaceful and reflective despite) to give some attention to an announcement we were supposed to make just a few weeks ago and prior to our 1st Annual San Juan Islands Canoe Festival & blessing for our new sailing wa'a that was due to arrive on April 1st...


We were going to announce the contents of this revised website- the launching of a new commercial eco-tour operation based out of Friday Harbor, the acquisition of 1 new sailing canoe and in progress to obtain a 2nd and finally the Re-dreaming of our visions for community programs for youth and adults. A new endeavor, literally dreamt on ancestral planes spanning 20 plus years for me, a very deeply personal and deeply spiritual journey (across space & time no doubt) with mindful intentions to perpetuate the sacred; a means to financially sustain our goals for passing down wisdom and knowledge to our future stewards, our children into 7 generations.


And then Creator sends us humans down a little taste- of our own self-inflicted medicine.


For me personally, I have been tracking where we are and have come to be with this global pandemic for decades, in retrospect, since I was a child. This current situation does not surprise me at all and I have been ready for its revealing to humanity. Know this- we are getting off quite delicately currently, despite global death rates from this virus.


An Elder I connected with years ago on Big Island, Hawai'i talked about an importance and understanding of "withdrawal". To this day when I experience Light, I feel his presence. I speak of him in my programs on rare occasions.


That was back in 2002-ish before he passed on. In many regards I have been withdrawing during this pandemic. Focusing energies, relishing in the love and abundance that my family brings me daily. Just simply existing in that. But also incubating.


I now resume this entry (June 20th) after the further revealing these past months of our broken country and hateful issues & energies that continue driving and dividing. I do not want to speak to that now, but I have been listening, the best I can as a human. What I can do is continue with the work and inspire our future generations with good minds and good hearts...This is crucial. This is what I can do.




In December of 2019, the sailing canoe Hoku'ula named for the constellation Kapuahi (Sacred Fire/Red Star) or western name, Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) came into our life, passed on in beautiful ways by German maritime architect Chris Goeltner of Cupertino, CA. She is truly a remarkable canoe crafted with authentic Aloha in every way and now as of June 2020 has finally come home to rest on the shores of San Juan Island to engage the community and especially our children. When Covid hit in March, it dawned on me the significance of the name Hoku'ula...Sacred Fire- heat, the process of burning away a virus. Fitting.


This time of reflection and turning deeper inwards and continuing to learn has brought great clarity and inspiration. Touching Hoku'ula for the first time, sitting in Skippers seat, raising her Sail, waking up Kaigani as well from her winter rest with like minds, sent surges through me, holding space and the utmost respect and love for all those that have put me on this path, guided me, taught me, mentored me, inspired me...


First I honor and give the most amount of Love to my parents, that did not leash me, allowed me to dream, explore, and find my own path. My grandmother, that encouraged my awe and deep connection to the natural world...And my beloved wife and life partner, brought in to weave the rest of the dream-together along with our spirited children.


And finally, so many, so many, and I will likely omit some names, but speak to the so very many Elders, kupuna, ancestors, teachers, family, friends... that have arrived with me in Spirit the strongest helping me carry my sacred kuleana; as we prepare for this continued voyage to honor the Spirit of canoes and their wisdom... Rick Medrick, Dominie Capadonna, Jed Swift, Matthew Mitchell (Prescott College) Stephen Foster & Meredith Little (The School of Lost Borders) Tom Brown Jr (Tracker School) John Seed (Council of All Beings) Bill Plotkin (Animas Valley Institute) The Kailana Program youth & crew of SSV Makani Olu, Damion Sailors, Uncle Sonny Bradley, Uncle Bobby Puakea, Nakoa Prejean, Capt Bonnie Kahapea Tanner, Uncle Mark Stride (Hui Maunawili) Uncle Walter Ritte, Uncles Merv Dudoit, Herb Hoe, Mac Poepeo (Moloka'i) Uncle Calvin Hoe (Hakipu'u) Kalau Ku Mana, Hakipu'u Learning Center, Kahuna Hale Makua (Big Island, HI) Uncle Kaipo Pomaikai, Uncle Butch Helemano (Kahu Waimea Valley) Lee Kravitz & Jerry Vasconcellos (Hakipu'u/Pu'uhonua Kualoa) Uncle Nick Beck (Kau'ai/Holopuni Canoes) , Uncle Kimokeo Kapahulehua (Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society), Donna Kahakui (Kai Makana/Mokauea Loko'ia) Uncle Willis (Waikaloa Loko) Teshima Sensei & Roshi Ken (Chozen-ji Zen dojo) Joe O'Reilly ( Hawaii Instit. of Marine Biology) Nainoa Thompson (Polynesian Voyaging Society), O'ahu Army Natural Resources Program Colleagues, Dr Mimi George (Vaka Taumako Project) Dr. Nancy Maryboy (NASA/Indigenous Education Institute) Dean Washington (Master Canoe builder/Elder Lummi Nation) Dr Sylvia Earle, Samuel Barr (Samish Nation, Canoe Skipper) Jono Saunders & Naim Ferguson (Pacific Northwest Canoe Voyagers) Salt Spring Island Wisdom of the Earth School, Frederick Tredree (ancestal great-grandfather) William Naukana (deceased Kupuna, Hawaii/Salt Spring Island, BC) Uncle John Stokes (The Tracking Project) Stephanie Buffum (Friends of the San Juans) Sarah Hanson (On Sacred Ground Land Trust) John Calogero (Outward Bound) Chris Goeltner (master canoe builder) Hank Wesselman (Shared Wisdom)...


And of course the Spirits of the canoes, Smeye, Xwachxeng, Malama Po'alima, Kaigani, & Hoku'ula and all those paddlers being woven into the story bringing your good minds and hearts. IMUA!


With these energies/wisdom/inspirations carrying forth inside and all around & all others past present and future: I have taken the time to reflect on the Core guiding principles/teachings of our program.


Kaigani Canoe Voyaging Society Core Teachings:


  1. Malama Mana- The deep caring for, respecting, honoring, perpetuating, and speaking to spirit energy, mana, or chi/qi. The forces in the Universe that bind us together as humans and our interconnections...tuning us in so intimately with the natural world and all life. When we speak to the sacred it opens our hearts and minds to the 'aka field through trust/development in our na'au. The 'aka field and its awareness/access is perhaps one of the most important tools in accessing the realms and disciplines of Tracking & Wayfinding. (land & sea) In these times of human struggle and disconnection from the Creators original instructions to us, a quote that dear friend/mentor Uncle John Stokes from The Tracking Project reminds us of. He has heard it from various Elders of various tribal nations..."What we do not speak to, we do not understand. What we do not understand, we fear. What we fear, we destroy". On our canoes, we honor their spirits by connecting to our waterways and speaking to the sacred. Canoes everywhere are waking People up near their waters and language is being spoken again. To speak this language is to heal the original language of the earth that all People share.


2. The ʻōlelo noʻeau (Hawaiian proverb) "He wa'a he moku, he moku he wa'a"- A canoe is an island, an island is a canoe. This proverb reminds us of our dependence on the finite resources available on an island as well as our dependence on one another as people, much the same as if we were at sea on an extended voyage where senses and awareness are heightened and reliance on amount and quality of resources aboard the canoe inclusive of crew and their kuleanas. In practical terms for experiential learning this proverb also translates into our roles on land to prepare for voyages at sea. Or just how to navigate our own land as humans in good ways. This can encompass and speak to the arts & crafts, primitive living skills & bushcraft, sustainability, food security and principles of permaculture, ethnobotany, conservation & stewardship, energy, water quality, community building, etc. Taking care and learning our roles for a sea voyage are the same as accepting our roles on land and ways to steward our resources into future generations.


3. Wa'a as Peacemaker- A great part of inspiration for some of the teachings come from mentor John Stokes, Founder of The Tracking Project. Melissa and I are part of an International mentor network spread across the world & trained by Uncle John over course of 3 years in the Nurturing the Roots Program.

"...Originating from the vision of a traditional Hawaiian elder, Nurturing the Roots (NTR) began in 1996 as an effort to bring together artists/educators, activists and indigenous leaders from around the globe to share with one another their cultures, stories, arts, and successful teaching strategies, with the goal of creating a global network that would train trainers in indigenous knowledge and community revival. The name Nurturing the Roots was chosen for the program to convey the idea that the roots of any community are its elders, culture, language, art and history. The ability to transmit this information to a community’s youth is paramount. By energizing these roots, we hope to stimulate the growth of ever more beautiful “flowers,” helping communities regenerate themselves while giving the roots well-deserved support and reinforcement. Programs which bring youth and elders together are key components of helping a community to harmonize itself culturally and ecologically. During the three-year program (one week per year for three years), NTR participants are immersed in the key areas of our curriculum: Thanksgiving, Traditional Tracking & Survival Skills, Nature Awareness, Peacemaking, Cultural Awareness, The Arts of Life, Personal Development, Community Education, Ceremony, Leadership, International Community and Renewal. Each day follows a traditional learning model offered to us by our mentors from the Iroquois Confederacy..." (tracking project website)


Of many profound dreams and visions I have had in regards to our canoes over the past decades, it was one specific beautiful but simple realization (dreamtime) of the powers that canoes possess. They can be used for war or to bring teachings of peace. During a mentor program in Cuba, New Mexico, Uncle John spoke to our group of recent experiences visiting the Elders of the Arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia who consider themselves the "Elder Brothers" of the Earth Mother. Uncle John made a humorous comment at meal table one day about what it would look like when all of the old fellas get together one day to discuss affairs of the world(and how difficult it could prove to be if they all considered themselves the Elder Brothers with ultimate knowledge, this is Matt's interpretation)...That night I dreamt. I saw a white canoe of crystal and it was paddling in perfect synchronicity. It had a pulse, a rhythm, a breath, a heart beat...and from the SIX seats of the canoe, were paddlers wearing their respective Six traditional feathers of the SIX original tribes of the Haudenosaunee (Mohawk, Oneida, Onandaga, Seneca, Tuscarora Cayuga) From Seat 7, the seat with various meanings and significance, the Creator, a glowing light, energy...Binding them all together with a common purpose. One heart, one mind, engaged in the work, despite coming from different perspectives/rituals/traditions.


The canoe has a spirit that trancends barriers of race, origin,tradition, status. When 6 paddlers come together for the first time, they come to a place where all must be aligned in one mind, heart, breath, to paddle forward successfully and efficiently.


4. The 3 Kapu of the Spiritual Warrior- (Hale Makua)) At this point students in our programs have developed a deeper connection or reconnection to the natural world, have learned how to tune in to all of the wonders of creation, have learned to slow down and listen, to see, to dream, to vision far ahead of things they cannot physically see. We have fine tuned our technical skills, we have looked inwards to our own communities and considered how our kuleana (responsibility) on a canoe is quite similar to our roles in our communities and families. Having experienced and engaged in work with the canoes that builds community and brings us back to acknowledging the Creators original instructions to us- to live in peace and harmony with all living things...We are now paddlers engaged in deepening our bond to the greater mana of the Universe....


I have recently come full circle with a very powerful and well known Hawai'ian Elder from Big Island, Hawai'i who I was lucky to connect with before his passing. Kahuna Hale Kealohalani Makua. He left a mark and he entered dreams/visions that would reveal themselves for me many years later. Research paleoanthropologist Hank Wesselman, Phd. was a close & dear friend of Hale Makua. Hank and his wife Jill, have recently come into my life and I am currently engaging in a year long intensive study going deeper into shamanic tradition/practice & indigenous wisdom and most especially the teachings of Hale Makua. No coincidence Hank was one of my earliest college professors.


As my experiences reveal themselves with Hank & Jill and a group from around the world, I will weave in various teachings from Hank and most especially Hale Makua, who comes to me in dreams, & who I know is one of many Elders helping me to navigate my story. Hale Makua speaks to the Grand Ancestral Plan for humans to move forward...But, for now I will just put out Makua's three Ihi Kapu Sacred Laws of Aloha and an Abundant Flow of Life.


"Love all that you see with humility"

"Live all that you feel with reverence"

"Know all that you possess with discipline"


(For a detailed and beautiful accounting of Hale Makua, a must read is The Bowl of Light by Hank Wesselman)


To be continued in ways I can only imagine and dream, guided by ancestors and the spirit and energies of all the good minds and hearts that enter this story. We look forward to exploring these deeper teachings centered around the canoes in small intimate groups in our "Wayfinding Towards Holistic Health Program" in partnership with Wayfinder Wellness and On Sacred Ground Land Trust.


me ke aloha la,

Matt, June 21, 2020


February 2021






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