Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine September-October 2014 - September-October 2014
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Seeds across the Seas

From coconut trees to the taro that was considered Man's precursor, "canoe plants" carried the seeds of Hawaiian civilization.

Mai'a (banana)—used for food, cloth, thatching

Mai'a (banana)—used for food, cloth, thatching

Robert Wagstaff

(page 1 of 4)

Photography courtesy of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens
Illustrations by Robert Wagstaff

In the holds of the canoes that first touched Maui’s shores were 20 to 30 “canoe plants” that conveyed the entire world of the original Hawaiians: their nourishment, their handicrafts, their medicines, and the foundation of their life of the spirit.

It would probably have amazed an American pioneer, crossing the plains with his meager provisions, to know that a race of Polynesian seafarers in double-hulled canoes had once managed to carry with them not only food for a 3,000-mile journey, but for the rest of their lives in Hawai‘i, along with their medicine, clothing, handicrafts, and the essence of their religion.

Their entire culture came with them in the form of seeds, stalks, tubers, roots, and cuttings. The kanaka maoli (original people) mastered the uses of an enormous number of plants.
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