The goal of this project was to build what was at one time the most sacred canoe of the Kapingamarangi, the waka sui, to maintain the knowledge of this ancient art. It was hoped that by having both the youth and elders of the community working together on the project the tradition would be passed along. Though I view this project as a success in many ways, the fact that no one actually knew how to build this specific canoe caused a forced re-evaluation of the initial project goals.
Had I realized this earlier, perhaps a more familiar type of Kapinga canoe could have been built. Unfortunately, this realization came slowly; I continued to believe that the knowledge to build this canoe of the past would reveal itself. With the launching, I was finally convinced that the art was no longer within the collective knowledge of the community. Though lost from the collective memory, given the quality of construction and close approximation of the new waka siu to the reports and photographs of the canoes of the past, I believe the knowledge can be recovered. The extreme differences in projected capacity (seven to eight men) and actual capacity (two to three men) clarified this for me. In short, a waka siu was not built. Given this, much was still learned. The skills of canoe building were passed along, albeit incomplete. With the current demand for canoes almost nonexistent, particularly on Pohnpei, the idea of reintroducing canoe building seems foolish without an increase in demand.
Tourism might supply some demand for canoe construction and use. With the increased interest in eco-tourism, it is conceivable that a market for canoe tours could be developed. This approach would also help with the transition toward a cash based economy.
The value of the canoe, as a means for
supplying food cash free cannot be underestimated. As with other
indigenous practices that have evolved to fit within the natural
environment, the loss of the ability to build and use canoes would