- The Insurrection of Subjugated Futures
Ioften wonder what the double-hulled voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a might do to different New Yorkers’ conceptions of possibilities when the crew arrives in New York City—Lenape territory—in the summer of 2016. Through the ancestral art of wayfinding, those courageously navigating and sailing the Hōkūle‘a are able to brush aside colonial tropes that infantalize Oceania as a “wasteland of non-achievement.”1 Navigators on the Hōkūle‘a use no instruments; rather, they rely on knowledge taught by the Satawalese grandmaster navigator Mau Pialug, coupled with an ongoing Hawaiian creative practice that reads the sun, moon, stars, clouds, winds, waves, and the patterns of a diversity of nonhuman species to find their way.2 The Hikianalia, a companion voyaging canoe that will sail at times as an escort vessel or solo, is named after a companion star that rises with the star named Hōkūle‘a, and possesses solar panels that charge electric motors that, if necessary, will help keep crews safe. Hikianalia is also Internet ready, thus capable of communicating via photos, blogs, videos, live chats, and other media for educational purposes.3 The canoes’ worldwide voyage is called Mālama Honua (to care for our Earth) and is expected to cover forty-seven thousand nautical miles, eighty-five ports, and twenty-six countries in order to, as the Polynesian Voyaging Society describes it, “engage all of Island Earth—practicing how to live sustainably, while sharing, learning, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we call home.”4 In a historical moment defined by, yet largely apathetic to anthropogenic climate change, what mana might we witness when the voyaging canoes arrive at their various destinations with the possibility of flipping colonial modernity on its head and creating space for Kanaka ‘Ōiwi and other Indigenous “subjugated knowledges” to chart new epistemes for the twenty-first century?5
That non-Natives are disposed, as Philip Deloria argues in Indians in Unexpected Places, to imagine Natives through the colonial tropes of “primitivism, technological incompetence, physical distance, and cultural difference,” which undergird colonial expectations of Indigenous peoples, makes the worldwide voyage of the HMkūle‘a and Hikianalia “unexpected,” if not “unthinkable.”6 [End Page 637] Indeed, these voyages are preceded by a longer history of the Hōkūle‘a sailing more than 140,000 miles over the past three decades, inspiring twenty-five other voyaging canoes. This is also preceded by an even longer history of seafarers who first found the Hawaiian Islands more than two thousand years ago. Within the tropes of presumed “technological incompetence,” what might be further “unexpected” is the ability for the Hikianalia to possess such a technologically advanced communication system. Taken together, these are Hawaiian examples of the “unexpected” historical “anomalies” that, as Deloria asserts, may be less anomalous than representative. By examining the frequency of these “secret histories” (rare, occasional, frequent), we might be better equipped to challenge dominant characterizations and assumptions of Indigenous peoples, and instead write complex and transformative histories informed by or in relation to Native cultural politics. As Deloria writes: “Those secret histories of unexpectedness are, I believe, worth further pursuit, for they can change our sense of the past and lead us quietly, but directly, to the present moment.”7
As we reach a critical point in this planet’s history, global systems of US Empire, militarism, and capitalism reveal themselves as accountable to abstract notions of profit and power, yet increasingly materialize in their capacity to destroy the resources and relations sustaining various forms of life. Indeed, there are few places in the world where the adverse effects of rising sea levels caused by climate change are felt so dramatically as they are in the island nations of Oceania.8 Ty P. Kāwika Tengan thus argues that our historical moment demands “ever new ways of understanding the world”; numerous movements for cultural revitalization, the Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia among many, “enable new sorts of political and social action … where important historical transformations have occurred with the recoding of cultural categories, especially in the ‘contact...