Marianne “Mimi” George, Ph.D

Principal Investigator 
Dr. Mimi George is an anthropologist, sailor, and writer specialized in voyaging cultures. Before the Vaka Taumako Project, she documented voyaging traditions of islanders in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Siberian Yupik Eskimos on the Alaskan and USSR sides of the Bering Straits. Her research voyages have included using ancient polar technology, and the early 19th century European technique of wintering-over in a sailboat frozen in the sea-ice of Antarctica. In the Vaka Taumako Project she studies Polynesians building vessels and making voyages using ancient technology, materials, tools, and navigation methods..  Mimi made 25 inter-island voyages in the Santa Cruz Islands, and one voyage from Duffs through Vanuatu, either under the sailing directions of Te Aliki Kaviea or with him on board.  She aims to complete the book “Sailing with Lata” in 2014.

Te Aliki Kruso Kaveia

Paramount Chief of Kahula, Taumako Island (deceased)
Known by many names, Te MatuaTe Aliki, or simply Old Man Kaveia, Kruso Kahia Kaveia was born at Kahula, Taumako; the  birthplace as his ancestral father, the Polynesian culture hero Lata.  A voyager since the age of 8, and having learned navigation from his father, Kaveia sailed the Santa Cruz  Group for twenty years during an era when many voyaging canoes were confiscated by missionary and colonial authorities. Kaveia was Mate on a trading scow that ranged between northern Santa Cruz Islands and Port Vila, Vanuatu during the early 40’s through WWII.  For many years, Te Aliki Kaveia was the last able-bodied link to the voyaging culture of the Duff and Reef Islands Polynesians.  In 1993 he recruited Dr. George’s help to realize his longtime dream to teach a new generation how to build and sail voyaging canoes using the ancient methods. He passed away in 2009 at the estimated age 98.

Heu’ionalani Meph Wyeth

Permanent Secretary
A classics scholar, Kumu and President of the Ka’imi Na’auao o Hawaii Nei Institute, pottery conservator on archaeological digs, and paddler extraordinaire, Meph helped start the VTP and has been Permanent Secretary since it started in 1996.

She studied hula and Hawaiian language and culture with Kumu Hula Roselle Keliihonipua Bailey of Maui since 1985, and uniki’ed in 2006. Meph is President of Ka’Imi Na’auao o Hawaii Nei Institute, founded By Roselle Bailey for the preservation and teaching of Hawaiian culture.  She performed Hawaiian protocol with Kumu Bailey at the 1997 launching of the first Te Puke in the Vaka Taumako Project, and she continues to compose, perform, and write about the Vaka Taumako Project.

Dr. Simon Salopuka

Executive Director  of  VTP Solomon Islands
Born and raised on Taumako, Simon Salopuka left for boarding school at 11 years old in pursuit of education.  He was the first Taumakan to go to universitey, and the first to earn an advanced degree (BS and MA), “Doc Simon” is a born leader.

“Doc Simon”  temporarily puts aside his career in medicine and public health to learn how to build and sail Te Puke.  He leads from the Honiara Base of VTP, coordinating with the Solomon Islands Office of Education, assisting in translations, facilitating logistics, and serving as medical officer during voyages.  Because he spent most of his life away at school he was extremely eager to learn anything and everything about Kastom.  He now lives in Honiara and is considering job offers that would pay him a living wage.

Doc Simon, Luke Vaikawi, and other Taumako leaders registered the Vaka Taumako Project of the Solomon Islands/Vaka Valo Association (VTPSI/VVA) as a charitable organization with tax exempt status in the Solomon Islands.  They receive donations and grants, and organized for-profit activities to fund the not-for-profit educational programs of the VTP.

Captain Jonas Hollani

Chief Builder and Navigator
Chief Jonas learned to build voyaging canoes from his father and uncles.  He was foreman for Kaveia in buiding several voyaging canoes, and practiced steering and seagoing with him on various voyages.   Jonas is a master vaka builder who taken on the role of Captain of the VTP’s voyages and teaching since the passing of Te Matua.  Jonas leads the Valo Group which has taken the lead in building a Te Alo Lili and is now intent on building a Te Puke, for the purpose of training more crew and taking longer voyages. Jonas is over 80 years old, but he is still able to steer and is trying his best to lead and teach as much as he can for as long as he can.

Jonas’ grandmother was the other of 3 children who went away to school in Vanuatu almost 70 years ago, and no one ever saw them again.  Jonas and his Valo Group want to sail the new Te Puke and the older Te Alo Lili to Vanuatu to see their cousins before they die.

Captain Luke Vaikawi

Director and Treasurer of VTP Solomon’s
Luke Vaikawi was born and raised on Taumako, and gravitated to a career on the ocean. He helped form the VTP and has given staunch and constant support to it from Honiara Base.  Luke is a lifelong learner and his career is very demanding of his time.  But he longs to sail on a Te Puke and hopes to do it soon.

A Maritime Police officer for the Solomon Islands government, when Luke isn’t out on patrol chasing illegal fishing boats, or searching for lost mariners, he helps VTP in coordinating the massive transportation and communications logistics between Taumako, Honiara, and the United States.

Peter Taea

Perhaps the most experienced navigator on Nifiloli Island, Peter has helped the crew with canoe-building and a mental library of maritime wisdom.  Peter and his helpers took care of the Te Alo Lili when it was left on Nifiloli during the off-season of 2012 and 2013.  When he is able to go out on the canoe he leads by example.  His positive  and committed manner is appreciated by all.

Captain Fox Boda

Captain, Navigator, Steersman
Chief Kaveia’s son, Fox is heir to the great voyaging tradition of his ancestors.  Fox is one of two younger people who has almost mastered how to adze out inside the ends of the main hulls of voyaging canoes.

In 2000 Fox and his son’s sailed the Te Puke named Vaka Taumako back from Pileni to Duffs.  Some ne’er do wells had spread rumors that this canoe had rotted on Nifiloli and would never sail again.  But Fox led the maintenance work on it and then sailed it into Taumako.  As they passed the area where the rumors had been spread he yelled “Here is your rotten canoe!”

Fox makes fine models of Te Puke and looks forward to building another full scale one.

Dixon Holland Wia

Cameraman, Production Coordinator
A crew member on the Vaka Taumako Project’s first voyage in 1998, Dixon met his wife-to-be on arrival in Nifiloi.  He and Emily have five children, and all of them seem to have Dixon’s “gotcha” sense of humor.

Dixon showed an aptitude for videography and received basic video training in Hawaii in 1999 with Larry Williamson of the Pacific Traditions Society.  He assisted BBC and German film crews and has shot over 200 hours of video documenting traditional boat building and sailing methods in his community.  Over the past decade, he has dedicated himself to learning Kastam  (customary knowledge).

Recently Dixon has been learning from the VTP media master Jacob Penchansky, and is doing extensive translations of the 2012 and 2013 recordings.  He hopes to narrate the program and participate in the full editing process.

Honorable Stanley Tehiahua

Local Coordinator
Honorable Stanley is a primary school teacher, and two-term representative for the Duff Islands in the Temotu Provincial Assembly. He also heads the Committee on Culture and Tourism. He represented Solomon Islands in a trade mission to Vanuatu in 2011 to open the border between the two countries and helps VTP with various logistics and coordination efforts.

Hon. Stanley is waiting for the right wind to be crew on a vaka that will arrive in the Provincial capitol of Lata.  He wants to show the other assembly members that there are voyaging canoes at the ready to sail for Vanuatu.  He wants to see the students realise that their culture is still alive, and he wants to see the old people cry for joy.

Ambrose Miki

Steersman, Navigator
Ambrose Miki comes from a long line of builders and is mastering the most difficult adze work and lashings.  But Miki is growing to be a skilled sailor and navigator as well.  His goal is to become a professor in the Lata School of Navigation.  He wants to teach the next generation the riches of their culture.  He wants them to find an easier time than he did dealing with the frustrating lack of transport and resources to make their lives better.  He wants to help them aware of the gift of their heritage, and motivate them to work hard to help themselves and others in lasting ways.

Harry Vanosi

Steersman, Captain-in-Training
Leaving his job as a logger to join the crew, Harry has quickly become one of the hardest working crew members.  Harry is first born in his family, which is a privileged position in Taumako Kastom.  Harry is very gifted and is determined to use his gifts to make his community stronger and happier.  He was appalled by what he saw in his job as a logger and in his years in Honiara.  He is unmarried with two young children.  Harry aims to be the Captain of a voyaging canoe.

Jacob Penchansky

Multimedia Producer
Jacob is a radio producer, filmmaker, photographer, sound recordist, and “guerilla ethnomusicologist.” His radio stories and audio recordings have been broadcast on National Public Radio, PRI’s “The World,” the Nature Conservancy Podcast, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and Outer Voices.  Jacob has recorded traditional musicians in more than 30 countries. He’s a contributing writer for the Rough Guide to World Music, has helped preserve audio recordings for Easter Island’s Museo Anthropológico, guided BBC radio production crews through Southeast Asia, documented endangered native languages in Alaska, created films for various aid organizations, built radio stations and trained journalists and folklorists throughout south and southeast Asia.  Jacob is the producer and director of the award-winning film The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya and oversees the Mountain Music Project’s musical education projects in Nepal, Burma, Thailand, and Bhutan.  He is currently producing and managing VTP’s ocean of digital multimedia, from web design to film production.

Larry Williamson

Former President and Web Designer (deceased)
President of VTP for more than 10 years, our dear friend Larry designed the original website, and helped in the production of VTP’s early video efforts, including training Dixon Wia and other video students from Taumako. He visited Taumako in 2007 and it was the fulfillment of his dream to just lie in a fishing net swing and see the adults building canoes and the children learning.  His son Arlen is a great paddler in Hawaii.  Larry passed away in 2012.  We all miss him.

Rex Alalo

Translator, IT Support, & Musician
A computer science student at the University of South Pacific in Honiara, but with roots on Nifiloli in the Reef Islands, Rex helps the project through local logistical and much needed technical support.  He’s also a great singer.