Islanders Preserve, Revive Canoe Traditions

Waa'gey's traditional canoe carving program is changing lives in Micronesia. It provides young islanders with a sense of self, community and their cultural heritage.

Publication of this blog post, by Pacific Voyagers, speaks to a growing awareness of the Habele-supported effort:

"Islanders on these remote [Micronesian] coral atolls have little contact with the outside world and even fewer modern day resources. Now, their complicated and time-honed crafts are being used to pursue a broader social agenda."

"A small group in Yap by the name of “Waa’gey” has begun to pair master carvers, weavers and other skilled mentors with post secondary school aged boys and girls. They hope to support those students’ academic and personal development. The exciting side benefit is the preservation and revival of a distinctive and technically rich tradition of craftsmanship and navigation."

"The process of crafting these complicated vessels is passed on from a handful of elderly experts, one generation to the next. The seemingly tenuous oral link with the past is kept vibrant through practice and observation. Waa’gey sees this as a chance to build bonds between generations and develop a positive work ethic among young islanders, particularly those who now reside in the more dense and developed state centers.

Waa’gey’s approach has been to work with master carvers across the Outer Islands and coordinate projects among teams both on Yap Proper and back on the smaller outer islands where the practices remain more vibrant. In the process they’ve revived a centuries old process of obtaining trees on Yap Proper (where they grow much taller) and exchanging the logs for specialty items only produced in the Outer Islands. That form of tribute and barter stopped when the Japanese ordered an end to the practice of inter-island canoe voyages in the 1920s"

Read the full story here.