Three traditional navigators in Guam virtual conference

Posted on May 29 2020


File photo shows Larry Raigetal, founder of Waa’gey in Yap, teaching a course on traditional navigation. (GUAM EPSCOR/KATIE MAFNAS)

The impacts of climate change and health emergencies expose both the vulnerability and resilience of islands. As repositories of ancient wisdom, islands carry lessons that can address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. How can islands help navigate the way to a sustainable global future? 

Traditional navigators will lead the discussion, when the University of Guam Virtual Conference Series on Island Sustainability continues today at 9am. Registration is of no charge at 

The fifth week of the series is titled “Ancient Winds Navigating Tomorrow.” Rita P. Nauta, managing director of Guampedia, will moderate the panel, featuring:

• Larry Raigetal, co-founder of Waa’gey in Lamotrek Atoll, Yap;
• Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii;
• Vicente Diaz, founder and director of the Native Canoe Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Raigetal co-founded Waa’gey, a community-based organization that “uses traditional skills to confront the social, economic, and environmental challenges faced by the people of Micronesia’s most remote outer islands.” Raigetal is an accomplished master canoe carver and a weriyang pwo navigator. He serves as an instructor with UOG Sea Grant, teaching courses on traditional navigation and climate change adaptation and was the keynote speaker for the 2019 CIS Conference. Raigetal previously served as a diplomat within the Federated States of Micronesia and holds a master’s degree in international relations from Oxford University. 

File photo shows Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesia Voyaging Society in Hawaii, navigating on the Hôkûle`a, a traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe, in a recent four-year voyage around the world. (POLYNESIAN VOYAGING SOCIETY

Thompson is a pwo (master) navigator and the first native Hawaiian since the 14th century to practice wayfinding—the art and science of ancient non-instrument navigation—for long-distance ocean voyaging. He recently completed a four-year voyage around the world on the Hōkūle`a, a traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe. Through these travels, Thompson and his crew engaged with thousands of people, including world leaders to highlight the importance of ocean resources, cultural legacies, and protection of these critical places in the future. 

Diaz is of Filipino and Pohnpeian descent and was born and raised in Guam. He conducts community-based research and learning in indigenous canoe culture and knowledge in ways that partner disparate indigenous communities’ work in cultural and political resurgence with innovative relationships across humanities, social science, and STEM research. His most known project on “trans-indigenous” knowledge, politics, and relations also involves virtual and augmented reality development. Diaz holds a doctorate in history of consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

File photo shows Vicente Diaz, left, positioning a model of a traditional canoe for a photo. (UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA)

So far, the conference series has featured a distinguished lineup of speakers from across the globe on topics including COVID-19 impacts in island communities, clean energy, and the circular economy. 

Last week, the conference featured CIS SEED Talks: Ideas Worth Cultivating. The program featured change-makers from the inaugural cohort of the Obama Foundation’s Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program, along with Maya Soetoro, co-founder and senior advisor for the Institute for Climate and Peace in Hawaii and consultant to the Obama Foundation. 

The virtual conference series continues to garner more viewers every week, with 1,200+ total participation over Zoom, 60-plus countries, states, and territories represented, and 8,900-plus views on social media. The virtual conference series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks. All sessions are available to view on the UOG Tritons YouTube channel at (PR)


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