Sea people of the west

Greg Dening*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Two thousand years ago, or thereabouts, a double canoe sailed on a northeast tack (or maybe a southeast tack) from a Homeland (Hawaiki) among the islands of Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. After a voyage of 7,000 kilometers, which bypassed the many as yet uninhabited islands of the central Pacific (such as Tahiti) and the stretch of the seventy atolls of the Tuamotu that spread umbrellalike across the eastern entry of the Pacific, the canoe landed on islands that the Spaniards in 1595 were to call "the Marquesas." The descendants of these first settlers call their islands "Fenua'enata" (Land of the People). Here I tell the story of this first beach crossing after what I consider to be the most remarkable voyage of discovery and settlement in all of human history. These first settlers (shall we say a dozen adults?) brought the animals and food plants that would make their island inhabitable. More mysteriously, these voyagers were - in body, mind, and spirit - all that we have come to call "Polynesian" in the great triangle of Hawai'i, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). "Sea of Islands" is the name the descendants of this first voyage prefer to call that great triangle. I here celebrate a Sea People's mastery of their Sea of Islands.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)288-301
    Number of pages14
    JournalGeographical Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


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