World waka leaders honour Sir Hekenukumai Busby

By Piripi Taylor

Sir Hekenukumai Busby had a massive influence on the people of the Pacific and the world. 

From far and wide, they've come to pay their respects.

"It's impossible to be able to try to measure his impact on, not just me, but every Hawai'ian in the world," said Hawai'ian master navigator, Nainoa Thompson at yesterday's tangi.

Thompson was a key figure in helping Busby realise his dream of ocean voyaging and was part of the original crew of Te Aurere on her maiden voyage to Rarotonga 27 years ago.

"Hector helped me find courage when I was most afraid, because I didn't believe.  He taught me to believe."

His passing is also being felt in mainland America.

Benny Armstrong of the Suquamish tribe of Seattle, Washington says it's an honour to be here to represent the tribes of Washington that couldn't make the journey.

"We are all heartbroken in the US, from the waka culture over there." 

Dutch custodians of the waka Busby made for the Netherlands were also among the mourners today.

The first captain of Te Hono ki Aotearoa in Leiden, Koos Wabeke says, "It's real special to be an ambassador for Māori culture back in the Netherlands and throughout Europe."

Fellow former member of Leiden University's Njord Royal Student Rowing Club Peer van der List made the long trip as well.

"It has just been humbling and an experience to be be able to say goodbye and to build on a stronger connection in the future," he says.

On Friday, Busby will be honoured in Hawai'i, where a star will also be dedicated in his name.

Thompson says they're also planning to return later in the year.

"We're coming in November to go to Aurere to honour his school on Hokulea's anniversary date...but what's really important to me is that we do what he wanted us to do and that is to protect the world's oceans."

Senior waka leaders are in talks to plan a voyage in honour of Busby's memory to various parts of the world that he visited.

It is certain that, like the hull of a great canoe, the legacy of Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi KNZM, MBE will never be lost.