A symbol of the longstanding friendship between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the canoe represents months of painstaking craftsmanship, and centuries of traditional technique. This custom craft was hand built by the master carvers and apprentices with “Waa'gey,” a cultural preservation and mentorship program operating throughout Yap.
The westernmost state in Micronesia, the tiny islands and atolls of Yap are scattered across 500 miles of ocean, just south of the US Territory of Guam. An American protectorate following its liberation in World War Two, Micronesia is now a sovereign nation in a special “Compact” with the US.
Super Typhoon Maysak, a record-setting storm that ravaged Yap and Chuuk States in the spring of 2015. Delivery of the donated canoe is being organized by Habele, a South Carolina headquartered charity serving students throughout Yap and across Micronesia. Habele solicited, coordinated and delivered relief supplies to pupils and educators in the wake of the storm.
For centuries, Micronesians have hand-fashioned canoe keels from mahogany logs. Planks are fitted and tied in with rope made from coconut fibers to complete the watertight sides. These graceful crafts appear symmetrical, with sternposts and stems protruding up from the keel in forks that Islanders liken to lizard tongues. An outrigger steadies the canoe. The contemporary design remains identical to that detailed by Spanish missionaries in the early 1700s, who called the Micronesian canoes “flying proas.”
The canoe’s point of origin and its new berth share historical ties with the Spanish Empire. In 1686, the Islands of Yap were sighted and first claimed as Spanish colony. That same year -over 7,000 miles away- Point of Pines Plantation was burned by Spanish raiders from Florida hoping to expel English colonists from present day South Carolina.
Raigetal’s group was one of many Yap-based organizations who partnered with Habele and other US public and private donors to orchestrate and deliver relief supplies, a process which is still ongoing. Others include Pacific Missionary Airlines (PMA), the Fais Ulithi Ngulu Sorol Organization (FUNSO), as well as Yap State’s own Office of the Governor, Department of Education (DOE) and Sea Transportation Department.
partnerships created to support communities’ recovery from the Super Typhoon reflect the foundation of the US-Micronesian relationship: person-to-person connections,” continued Raigetal. “I hope this canoe, perhaps the most powerful symbol of Micronesian culture and tradition, will highlight how much individual Micronesians value those friendships."
Formal dedication and commissioning of the canoe is planned for the spring on Edisto Island.