Ventricles S1 E5: Canoes in Space

What can we learn about space exploration from Polynesian voyaging, or wayfinding? How does a frontier differ from a horizon? In this episode, Professor Eli Nelson explains the story of the Hokule‘a, a double-hulled voyaging canoe launched in 1975 to understand and recover the navigation techniques by which indigenous people found and settled the Pacific Islands. He touches on the various ways that people, from artists to authors of science fiction, have imagined voyaging canoes in the future, and in space.

Eli Nelson (Mohawk) is an assistant professor of American Studies at Williams College. He works on the history of Native science and Indigenous futurism and science fiction.

Audio credits: Thanks as always to The Overseas Ensemble, a collaboration between composer Paed Conca and Sarigama, for use of their music

Images: Special thanks to Elizabeth LaPensée for letting us feature these images of her paintings, Space Canoe, Returning, On Scrolls Carried by Canoe and Manoominike Mazinaanang

A painting of a single canoe floating in space between two large planets.
Elizabeth LaPensée, “Returning”
A painting of a canoe with six figures in it, floating in space next to a large planet.
Elizabeth LaPensée, “On Scrolls Carried by Canoe”
A painting of a canoe with two figures paddling it through space, overlaid with a transparent photograph of a river.
Elizabeth LaPensée, “Manoominike Mazinaanang”

Bibliography by Eli Nelson:

Anderson, Atholl. “Polynesian Seafaring and American Horizons: A Response to Jones and Klar.” American Antiquity 71, no. 4 (2006): 759–63.

Beaglehole, J. C. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, Routledge, 2017.

Chang, David A. The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Cornum, Lindsey Catherine. “The Space NDN’s Star Map.” The New Inquiry, January 26, 2015.

Daniel, Tony. Warpath. First Mass Market Edition edition. Tor Books, 1994.

Dillon, Grace L. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Sun Tracks ;v. 69. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012.

Finney, Ben. “A Role for Magnetoreception in Human Navigation?” Current Anthropology 36, no. 3 (1995): 500–506.

———. “Cosmic Humanities?” Anthropology News 35, no. 8 (1994): 16.

———. From Sea to Space. Macmillan Brown Lectures; 1989. Palmerston North, New Zealand : [Honolulu]: Massey University ; Distributed by the University Press of Hawaii,1992.Lowe, Sanford H. Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle’a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance. 1st edition. Waipahu, Hawaii: Island Heritage Publishing, 2013.