The Life of Kruso Kaveia

Known by many names, Te Matua, Te Aliki, or simply “Old Man Kaveia,” Paramount Chief Kruso Kaveia was the inspiration and originator of the Vaka Taumako Project and, for over 30 years, the last able-bodied link to the full voyaging culture of ancient Polynesia.  Kruso Kahia Kaveia was born at Kahula, Taumako, the same place as his ancestral father, the Polynesian culture hero Lata.  The word “Kaveia” can be translated as “star path”; a fitting name for a navigator.

Kaveia took his first voyage at about 8 years old.  He sailed the Santa Cruz Group for twenty years on Te Puke voyaging canoes, at a time when  many voyaging canoes were being confiscated by missionary and government authorities.  Kaveia returned home to Taumako to marry and studied navigation with his father and work on building Te Puke, and eventually joined the crew of a trading scow that ranged between north Santa Cruz Islands and Port Vila, Vanuatu during the early 40’s through WWII.  In 1971-2 he built a Te Alo Lili voyaging canoe for review by the Duke of Edinburgh.  In 1979-80 he led building and sailing of a Te Puke from Taumako to Vela LaVella near the Papua New Guinea border; a voyage that made him a national hero.

Kaveia said that he adopted 14 children.  His second wife  gave birth to his 15th child, Vaka Taumako.  She was named for his dream to teach youth the skills of voyaging.  She was 13 years old when the Vaka Taumako Project began.  After spending decades passing his voyaging knowledge to a new generation, Te Matua passed away in 2009, at the estimated age of 98.