The birth of new life, naming, blessing and launching of our Waʻakaulua, a 57 foot double-hulled canoe, was a momentus occasion that culminated nine calendar months of creativity, and eight physical months of cultural mastery directed by The Jonathan Nāpela Center for Hawaiian Language and Cultural Studies at Brigham Young University Hawaiʻi.  Dedicated by Elder M. Russel Ballard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the waʻakaulua transformed into Iosepa (Joseph).

Iosepa has become a floating classrom for teaching traditional inter-island navigational skills to students.  Its creation began several years ago when Hawaiian Studies Director William Kauaiwiʻulaokalani Wallace III, other instructors, and advisors dreamed of building their own Hawaiian sailing canoe after organizing the newly created Hawaiian Studies program into two major segments: Mālama ka ʻĀina (care for the land), which includes a kalo (taro) farm and additional agricultural components; and Mālama ke Kai (care for the ocean).

A substantial endowment from the W.K. Kellog Foundation was instrumental in establishing and maintaining the program.  Additional funding was used for the building of IOSEPA.  The Michigan-based foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for indigenous people.  Ira Fulton a philanthropist from Arizona and other donors have contributed significantly to its development.  

The construction of Iosepa was a community-building celebration.  Hundreds of visitors and volunteers stopped by the canoe building site to share stories, watch the work in progress, and assist in its construction.  Many individuals came from neighboring islands, others came from various parts of Oceania, and indigenous peoples from Australia, Africa, and America.  Many came frequently and many volunteered countless hours.  President Shumway said that, "Thousands of hearts and hands and feet contributed to this remarkable monument — those of children, friends, strangers, tourists, Church leaders, teachers, old and young people of many nationalities, passers-by and, of course, our own Hawaiian studies students. This project has been totally inclusive. It has drawn many people to the inner circle of this community's love." All were impresed by the grace and beauty of Iosepa and the skills of the master carvers.

In Dember of 1999, Mr. Wallace commissioned Tuiʻone Pulotu, a master carver from Pangai, Tonga, who was currently living in Lāʻie, Hawaiʻi and Kawika Eskaran, a Hawaiian master carver, who had produced carvings for both The Polynesian Cultural Center and Kualoa Ranch, to create the vessel.  Mr. Pulotu knew that koa wood logs of sufficient size and quality were not currently available in Hawaiʻi, so he selected six large dakua logs from Kabara, Fiji.  Despite the challenges, the logs arrived in Lāʻie on 8 February 2001.  Following sacred ceremonies of Hawaiian protocol, Pulotu and Eskaran began carving the logs–which weighed over 6,000 lbs.  A seventh and smaller log made of damanu wood, also from Fiji, was used to carve two 20-foot hoe uli (sterring oars).

Using his trademark 6-foot chain saw, using only the image of the finished canoe in his mind in combination with that of a small wooden sculpture (above), Pulotu quickly rough-sculpted the logs into segments that were eventually joined together to form the twin hulls of the canoes.  The carvers, Hawaiian Studies students, and community volunteers used tradional Polynesian adzes to fine shape the hull segments.  These segments were then sanded smooth.

Months later, as the hulls neared completion, and with the input of Wright Bowman Sr., patriarch of the Hawaiian canoe builders, the carvers began to laminate the ʻiako (booms) that would hold the canoe together.  These quater-inch thin, 24-foot-long strips of imported Douglas fir, were specifically crafted to create seven ʻiako that would bridge and tie the twin hulls together.  On 7 September 2001, Pulotu and Eskaran laid the first two ʻiako across the hulls.  There is significance in using seven; they represent the seven dispensations of time.  Dispensations are those periods or eras wherein the Lord has called someone to administer or preside over a major assignment or oversee the flow of gospel blessings.  

  Pulotu and Eskaran then explained that, in Hawaiian custom, the starboard (right) hull named ʻAnianikū, represents the kāne (male) aspect of the canoe, and the port (left) hull named Kekaipahola, represents the wahine (female) aspect.  In a program of cultural protocol led by Hawaiian Studies faculty member Kamoaʻe Walk, with his wife Kaʻumealani, these separate entities became one.

Since this day, the carvers, students, and community volunteers have completed the canoe with deck plants, railings, mast splash guards, marine anti-fouling paint, and stering oars.  Joints have been lashed together with heavy nylon rope combined with traditional coconut ʻaha (sennit) fibers.

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