Video: The Land and the Waters are Speaking: Indigenous Views on Climate Change

April 4, 2019
Video: The Land and the Waters are Speaking: Indigenous Views on Climate Change
Nainoa Thompson

The ongoing destruction of Earth’s natural systems is the result of decisions, made daily, by billions of people. These decisions are voluntary and involuntary at once, collective and personal. Two indigenous leaders—Nainoa Thompson and Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq (Uncle)—have both been identified by their communities as messengers who will guide us through climate challenges as they reflect on their traditions and spiritual practices.

Nainoa Thompson is the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a Pwo navigator, who, inspired by his kūpuna (teachers), has dedicated his life to exploring the deep meaning of voyaging, and Uncle is an Eskimo Kalaallit Elder, shaman, healer, storyteller, and carrier of the Qilaut (winddrum), whose family belongs to the traditional healers from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland.

"The Land and the Waters are Speaking: Indigenous Views on Climate Change" is part of The Constellation Project, a larger collaboration between the Planetary Health Alliance and the Harvard Divinity School that brings together science, faith, arts, and indigenous communities to explore larger questions about our place in the world and imagine a better future.


I deserve no credit for any of this, so it's interesting to stand-- Oh, thank you. Thank you. [LAUGHS] That's the easiest applause one could possibly get.

So welcome to "The Land and Waters are Speaking: Indigenous Views on Climate Change." I am Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities. And the principal architects of this event-- Sam Myers and Terry Tempest Williams and Charlie Stang-- have done me the honor of requesting me to say a few words to kick off the event this afternoon. And it is both an honor and a deep, deep pleasure.

The event is part of The Constellation Project here at Harvard, a collaboration between the Planetary Health Alliance and the Harvard Divinity School. It is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions, the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Harvard College Hawaii Club.

Not so long ago, this constellation of Harvard entities coming together on a common enterprise would have been unthinkable. But anthropogenic climate change is an issue without borders that seeps into every corner of everything that we do. It does not affect everywhere the same way, it does not affect all of us the same way, but it does affect all of us.

And our response at Harvard I deeply believe must be equally connective. It must bring us together across the borders that separate disciplines, that separate schools, that separate all the divisions that may come between us. It must draw on art, science, history, design, and the many other things we study and things we do here at Harvard. And I am immensely grateful to Sam and to Terry and to Charlie for showing us the way in this respect.

The land and waters are speaking. Will we listen? Will we have the wisdom to know what they say?

At times, it's hard to feel hopeful in the face of such questions. At times, it's hard to feel hopeful that we will even take the time to listen as our devices buzz and our screens flash, all calling for our attention. As we especially at Harvard go through our days filled with one activity or another, it can feel that we live in a world designed-- and indeed, in some ways, it has been designed-- to distract us at every turn so that we do not listen.

And one of the reasons that I feel so hopeful this afternoon is that we are taking a moment to listen. And not just to listen to one another within Harvard, which is one of the meanings of The Constellation Project, but also literally as constellation, bringing stars together not just from within Harvard, but outside it.

And I think it's a moment in which Harvard is called upon in many respects to turn itself inside-out to listen to voices that have not historically been heard in this institution. And I find tremendous hope in the younger generations, the generation of our students who are calling upon us to listen to voices that have too long been unheard in these rooms and in these halls.

And I have to say, this afternoon is an event that gives me great hope. And it is no surprise to see this room filled to capacity, but it is also a reassurance that, when we have these opportunities to listen, that we will indeed come together and open our ears and our minds and our hearts to what those who have been welcomed into our midst have to say.

And so those are my opening words. Again, I welcome you. Others will be introducing the speakers. But thank you so much for coming and for being a part of this special event.


Good evening, everyone. It is my honor to introduce Nainoa Thompson.

Nainoa's job description contains more professions than most. Explorer, environmentalist, master navigator, cultural revivalist, educator, storyteller, and future earth visionary. Through his rediscovery and revival of the ancient Polynesian art of navigation, he has awakened a new generation of people committed to embracing their ancestral and Maritime heritage and reorienting their relationship to the sea.

Nainoa is the first Native Hawaiian in 600 years to practice the ancient Polynesian art of navigation. The long-distance, open-ocean voyaging on traditional double-hulled canoes without the aid of modern instruments. Nainoa and his crew would navigate using the stars, the wind, and the flight patterns of birds as guide. These voyages can be seen as sailing against the tide of colonialism and westernization, and a rejuvenation of Polynesian pride.

Currently, Nainoa is the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a nonprofit research and educational organization. In this role, he recently completed a four-year voyage around the world on the hokulea, a traditional voyaging canoe. Through these travels, he and his crew engaged with thousands of people, including world leaders, to highlight the importance of ocean resources, cultural legacies, and the ownership we must all feel to protect all of these critical places for future generations.

I was fortunate enough to sail with Nainoa very briefly on the hokulea, and so can fully express how powerful this movement truly is. Nainoa is a hero of mine, which is perhaps why I'm a little bit nervous introducing him. But truly, he's a hero for his exemplary integration of traditional principles with modern scientific knowledge. We as an academic community have so much to learn from him in how to rethink our place in the world.

[SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] Thank you very much, and let us move forward united.


Whoa. [LAUGHS] [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] Well, Chris, that's the most amazing introduction I've ever heard, so.

I'm just going to start off that I know we have a certain limited time, and I don't want to disrespect our premier elder here, or take away his time. But I do want to say that it's actually been amazing being here. In fact, it's overwhelming. It changed all my expectations.

You know, I've never been to Boston, except for once. Never came to Harvard. And I didn't do very good in school either, and my expectation was that this would be a place that wasn't for me, that it would be a place that I would be intimidated by. And that's how I grew up at the time when being Hawaiian was second rate.

But coming here, I found the best of my home, when people are kind, and they're compassionate, and they're giving, and they're generous, and they're so respectful. So thank you to all of you that I had the privilege to meet, and thank you for allowing me the chance to meet this great elder on the earth that is just a living treasure that needs to be heard and needs to be listened to. And so Terry, and Sam, and Charlie, and others, and the Hawaiian Club, thank you.

All I have is a bunch of slides. I'm not much of a public speaker, and I just wanted to share them with you, with the assumption that many in this room don't know much about hokulea or deep sea voyaging. So it's an eye blink of 44 years of voyaging, of discovery, of arrival, of failure, of pain, of loss, and the need to keep going and do what you need to do to sail on your beliefs, and your values, and the things that matter.

And so I do know that we're at Harvard to find new navigators. Not on deep sea voyaging canoes, but those who are navigating the earth towards a better place. And so in hindsight, the trips are way too short. We don't have enough time. We need to go home, but invite us back, Sam, and we'll come.

Anyway, this story-- I don't know how this thing works, but-- press that one? No. Guys, I don't know anything about stuff.

So you just hit this to go right.

Oh, OK. OK.

It's about the blue island in space-- I got so many slides, I'm going to go really, really fast-- and our rediscovery of it, the oceans. And it's about this place in space. It's the Pacific, my home. This screenshot is from 39,000 miles in space. It's a little more, a little less than 1/5 the distance of the moon where you begin to see the boundaries of Chile, and China, and the Aleutians, and Antarctica.

It's a big place. It's 1/3 the surface of the Earth, and it's half the salt water. It's a place that needs to be protected.

And now I need to ask you to understand the story, to put it into perspective for every one of you, to try to really imagine that you're not in Boston or Cambridge. You're in the middle of the Pacific. You're in the ocean. You're on this voyaging canoe.

Imagine it's not now, but it was 2,000 years ago. And imagine that it would come from a place-- islands in the South that would be 2,400 miles away. And imagine, it would be the first human footprint on the shores of Hawaii, my home.

And you kind of got to imagine that, because we don't know much about it at all. But we do now guess that there were these 1,400 years of exploration-- round-trip voyages between Hawaii and Tahiti, great navigators, great canoes, great captains-- and we don't know anything about it because we forgot. And we forgot because it wasn't valued.

Then imagine that about the 14th century, three things would happen. There would be population crashes. Guess that we exceeded-- human need exceeded the resources of small islands. People wouldn't make it.

And at the same time, they would have a whole new system of governance which is all based on the laws of nature. Break the law, you die. That was a very simple penalty.

And for that next 300 or nearly 400 years, we know by reading the journals of Captain Cook that when he arrived in 1778, that the description of a healthy people, a strong people, that they had enormous capacity to grow foods, that they were very high in the ability to have enormous kinds of art forms. And it's a very different description than it is today.

But essentially what they achieved was what sometimes I think we're looking for. A so-called thing called sustainability. But they had to. 100% of what kept them alive came from the island. So that journey-- going back and rethinking your relationship to nature-- was crucial.

The other thing that happened in that time period, voyaging stopped. We don't know why. The guess is that all of-- we know one thing. If you want to have the resources to go deep sea voyaging, you have to have a healthy society, and your environment has to be healthy. We don't have time to go through the stories but we know that.

So it might have been the fact that they had this focus on their relationship to the land. We don't know, but it did stop.

But then, 28 years after the beginning of European discovery into the Hawaiian islands, 75% of native Hawaiians would die. We do know the stories, that certain beaches on Maui had to bury the dead standing up because there wasn't enough sand to lie them down.

And then we know the whole kind of chronic story that comes up what happens to indigenous people around the world. It's the same story, so I don't need to tell you that. You know it. It just is characterized by the loss of everything. Your lands, governance, your language.

But in the end, what it takes away-- where you start to really get really close to the edge of extinction-- is when you take away your dignity and your honor. And when it gets really close is when you don't believe you're good enough anymore.

In Hawaii, there was a miracle that happened. A miracle of restoration. Nothing to do with me. Everybody kind of credits me. I didn't do anything, frankly. But this man did. He was an anthropologist. Actually, he was a surfer from Santa Barbara, anthropologist.

And he was studying this issue of the peopling of the Pacific-- primarily Polynesia, the biggest country on Earth. Hawaii in the North and New Zealand in Southwest and in Rapa Nui Easter Island in the East 10 million square miles-- larger than Russia. current thinking was that we drifted on balsa wood, balsa logs from the Americas. And the other current thinking was that we weren't smart enough to navigate more than 100 miles.

And his name was Dr. Ben Finney. He would come to Hawaii on his post-doctorate. The genesis of voyaging began when this man flew to Hawaii, went to the University of Hawaii. A lady came searching him. Her name was Katherine Luomala. And she was a professor, and you can count the professors that were women on one hand.

And she would come, hand him two books and say, read these books, they're wrong, and change it. One book was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I knew Thor Heyerdahl, and a great hero of mine, but I think he's wrong. That would suggest that it came from the Americas, and that the book that he wrote would develop the worldview of the Pacific people, because it was the only story.

And then there was another book by a world-famous anthropologist by the name of Andrew Sharpe who would claim, no, no, no, they had sailing canoes, we know that. But they weren't smart enough, again, to sail outside to sea for more than 100 miles. And so Ben took the books in 1958, and it will take a decade for him to make a telephone call to this man.

These are our heroes. These are the revolutionists. These are the ones, Sam, that really allow us to understand that renewal is possible.

And he wasn't in Hawaii, even though he born there. He was an artist, he was a sculptor, he was a painter, he was a-- he was a historian, and he did great research. And Ben knew, because Herb Kane, this man wasn't in Hawaii.

What if Ben called Hawaii? Even if somebody answered, they wouldn't know what he's talking about, because none of us wherever that knew anything about our culture, where we came from, and we come from the legacy of the great navigators. We didn't know, because it wasn't in our school, it wasn't valued enough.

This man was in Chicago, and they talked about the idea of the restoration of culture to restore pride and dignity back to Native people. And their theory was, build a voyaging canoe.

And in that process, what they started to do in their research-- this is the Polynesian triangle, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Rapa Nui. 10 million square miles. It's three times the size of the continental United States. If you exclude politely the land of Aotearoa and add up all the total square miles, all the rest of the islands you can fit into 1/3 the state of New York.

This is oceans-- 600 times more water than land-- and all these items were discovered. Nobody knew the how. How did they do that?

And if you really start to do the research, National Geographic's going to do a story on America's Polynesian's voyages to North and South America. Native Alaskan Haida Indians are genetically clearly Polynesian, have some Polynesian genetic makeup.

And if you go-- and in our travels, we're finding that the evidence is there, they went to South America. We know they went to Australia. We know they went to Micronesia. We know they went to Melanesia. And if you go around the screen to the other side of the world in the Indian Ocean, an island called Madagascar, it's the same root Austronesian language that it is in Hawaii.

That's 15 time zones. They were global. And so how did they do that? And the only way to figure it out was, build a voyaging canoe.

And this was a day before launching from the sacred beach of Kualoa on the north side of Kaneohe Bay. And I was there, and it was a confusing time of something elegant, powerful, and inspirational. But how could it be Hawaiian?

Sitting on the beach, there were those that prayed for this canoe. There were those who didn't care. I mean, there was a fear the success of this canoe was going to change things. And to make it a really short story, I was there just by chance, just helping out, and we sailed it for the first time the next day.

Sam, you know what happened? We had these two skinny skinny sweeps. We didn't know how to tie knots for the sheet lines, so we just kind of strapped sails on them. We sailed off, went aground on one of the sandbars.

We had 35 people on board. The captain told everybody, get off and push the canoe. We didn't unsheet the sails. It was full sail stuck in the sand-- can you imagine that-- on the sandbar.

We all got off, the canoe lined up, started sailing by itself with just the captain on it. And there were a few of us who get back on and try to help the captain do something. We didn't know to do. And I was going, whoa, this is going to be a long voyage if we can't even make it out of our bay.

But what it started to tell us is about how much we don't know, and how dangerous that is when you go to sea, and how much we didn't even know how much to know how much we don't know. And it was a scary time, because they were committed to going, but they didn't have the navigator.

The biggest nation on earth was searched by Herb. Couldn't find a single deep sea navigator left on the planet. We know what extinction feels like. We can smell it.

Long story short, we-- they, leadership-- found this man. Not from Polynesia, but from the tiny islands Micronesia, at a time when traditions were still intact on some of these islands. And in that time, there was six navigators that were master rank. They were graduated masters by their culture, by their traditions, by their families. And this would be one of them, and he was the youngest.

You are looking at the end of the great navigators on the planet. His name is Pius Mau Piailug, and he was the other miracle besides the canoe.

I wasn't there because I wasn't in leadership roles, but Herb went to talk to him about navigating a canoe from Hawaii to Tahiti, which would be a canoe eight times bigger than his. It would be six times bigger than his. It would be eight times distance that he would have. That's longer than any voyage he's ever made.

He would cross the equator underneath southern stars he's never seen and lose the primary northern stars, like the North Star. And then he would be on a canoe that wasn't constructed, and a crew that wasn't selected. And I heard that he just said yes. He could barely speak English.

Most would say it's obvious that he said yes because he's a navigator, he's an ocean person, he's courageous. And he is all those things. But the many, many geniuses of Mau, he understood what was-- he could see the decline of his people, and be trying to retain their culture. You know, he was one of the-- he was the last.

And so when Hawaii came then asked, he knew that we didn't have any idea how to do this. That if he didn't come, hokulea would fail. And what that would do to us. People held hokulea up as the light of hope for indigenous people. If we failed then all we would have done was meet the expectation that we were going to fail, because it's Hawaiian.

So he came and, long story short, he corrected-- he saved us. But he would come, and he would do two amazing things.

This is his island of Satawal It's a mile and a quarter long, half mile wide. No lagoon, so the Spanish, and the Germans, and the Japanese, and the Americans had no-- there was no value for this island because there's no military value. So they left it alone, so the school stayed intact for over 3,000 years.

And this is our school. Everything that we know, when we say it's Hawaiian, our teacher was from someplace else. But he would always claim, you're ocean people. The world isn't five oceans, it's one.

And then we asked him to do this, go from Hawaii up in the upper left down to this island, Tahiti. And if you're standing on Waikiki Beach looking towards Tahiti, the width of that island is less than one degree, and do that with nature with no instruments, and be the first in 600 years.

This was kind of the sail plan. All you gotta do is follow the blue line and you're fine.


The northeast trade winds by Hawaii, the southeast trade winds by Tahiti, the two most consistent wind belts in the world collide on the equator where there's direct sunlight 24/7 all year. High evaporation rates with high moist content, and this collision, this constant permanent front. Cloudiest place in the world, rainiest place in the world, and it's hard to see stars.

I've been in the doldrums, that area, and sometimes morning is only blue. Rain is black. It's an awesome place, by the way, but a terrifying place in the beginning.

They would go 17 onboard, heavily laden, old boat slide. It's three days out from the island of Maui, Honolulu Bay on May 1st, 1976. And then, 31 days later, this is arrival.

I luckily somehow made the crew to take the canoe back to Hawaii, so I was there. Had to climb the monkey pod tree to see the canoe, there were so many Tahitians on the beach.

So many children jumped on the canoe, because this was-- what it was, they have their stories, they have their orators, they have the names of canoes and the great voyages and the great navigators, but they didn't have a canoe. So when hokulea came into-- this is the name of this canoe, which is star of gladness-- came into Papeete, children jumped in, they were sinking the stern, and we had to politely ask them to get off in English. And they were speaking their native language, which is our language, but we forgot.

And 17,000 Tahitians came. That's more than half their population. It would be the day that-- it would be like the shot heard around the world. Everything would change. We can believe again.

And the thing about family and connections is it would drive everything in Hawaii. Business changed. Everything changed. And the most important thing in Hawaii, education is changed. Even though it took 10 years for institutions to institutionalize Hawaiian as first language and mandatory Hawaiian competency for every child in the public school system and at commandment schools, and the impact is huge.

And then the other amazing thing that Mau did was-- make a long story short-- he'd come back for three decades and train us. And so I had the privilege to live with him for about 28 months in the ocean every day. Like a child, he would take you by the hand and drag you through the window of time into the old world, the old ocean.

When you try to put that scale, he was the only person on the earth that could have done that. Three years. For 28 months he stayed with me. He never went home once. Stayed with us.

My mother asked him the day he was going to go home after we sailed all the way down to Tahiti, we sailed all the way back, then he's gonna go home. This is when we were trying to navigate and learn, he was on board. My mom goes, how come, Mau, you come back to Hawaii? You said you weren't going to do that, and then you stay and teach Nainoa. I just go, I look at Nainoa. He come see me at Micronesia. I look in his eyes, I know he's going to go. If I don't come, maybe he'll die. And so we know what it is to be a teacher.

So he just prepared us and helped us learn and grow over 30 years, and then we would sail many voyages. My first voyage, this is just a story about what I think is a story. There's many, many, many, but this one's important.

We sail all the way down to Tahiti, we come all way back. It's about 2,800 miles. And I mean, almost 6,000 miles, sorry. And Mau is going to go on for the first time. He's packing his little bag at my mom's house, and he sits me down and goes, OK, Nainoa, you did OK. I give you everything, and the ocean showed you everything, but it'd be 20 years before you'll see. And then he said, because you're too old. I was in my 20s.

And he said, you know, my grandfather choose me to be the navigator to go after his father. My grandfather at one year old take me and put me in the tide pools on my island so I can hear the bird, so I can touch wind, I can smell the tree, and I can smell the sea. He lets me go to school so I can play. [LAUGHTER] With nature, essentially, to be connected. Because, Nainoa, you're too old already.

And then he said, when I was at five years old, my grandfather takes him voyaging on a deep sea voyaging canoe. He was five years old now. And he goes, yeah. We go on the voyaging canoe, the wave come, lift the canoe up and down. When the canoe go up and down, the canoe make me sick. He's seasick. So my grandfather ties my hand with rope and throws me overboard, and then drags him behind the canoe. And you never, ever felt the conversation had any fear in it other than love for his grandfather as a teacher.

He says, yeah. When my grandfather throw me in the ocean, then I can go inside the wave. When I go inside the wave, I become the wave. When I become the wave, then I'm navigating.

Sam, this is what we're talking about in transition of connection. We're talking about connecting the nature.

And then we would sail. We knew how to-- for 13 deep sea voyages through the whole Polynesian triangle. We went as far north as Seattle, and down the West Coast, and as far west as Japan.

But we never left the Pacific until this friend, best friend. Kama‘aina he's Child of our Land. Born in Hawaii, graduated from Punahou. Fighter pilot. He was in Vietnam two days, shot down behind enemy lines, crashes in some river, and floats down and doesn't die. Becomes the lead pilot on the Thunderbirds, elite, top pilots in the world.

But then he goes to NASA to become Hawaii's second astronaut. And I would love to tell the whole story about him, but it takes too long. He loved hokulea. Older than me. Come to Hawaii, and we would get together-- best friend.

So in 1992, he was flying the shuttle Columbia, and we were sailing back from Rarotonga. He did some pretty crazy things, but communicated from the shuttle to hokulea, and then to about 35,000 school kids to talk about the importance of exploration and its role in education. That's him, the crazy guy. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Lacy Veach.

Then he said, Nainoa, I have a present from you from space. I'm going to bring it to you. And it was this photograph. That's the Columbia's window, that's the edge of the earth. If you look in the lower right corner, you see the island of Hawaii.

And if you can barely, can barely see it. That little red spot there on the slopes of Mauna Kea at 12,500 foot elevation is a place called Keanakako'i. It's the cave of the adze. And it's where 35,000 years ago there was an eruption. There was a cold period on Earth. There was a glacier on the whole mountain, super-cooled the lava, and made the second best stone to carve canoes. So that thing you see floating in zero gravity-- which he smuggled on board, by the way, nobody gave permission-- is a stone adze from there, given to him by his grandfather.

And the gift was saying, we've got to help fix the earth. And it's the first time I'm hearing that. And that we need to understand 500 years back about the wisdom and the genius of our ancestors, because they knew how to live on islands. And then we have to take the best of-- we have to take technology and use that to drive a better future.

But he said that the thing that's most important is that we navigate all of this with good human values, especially technology. And so he was constantly the most optimistic person on earth. He was the one that kept pushing me, pushing me, that you can't just sail to just in the Pacific. You need to start to think about the island, the island floating in space.

And so we would, once a year, take our calendar books up, cross it off. That day was Kapo-- you can't put any time on that day. And I'll meet you at the Hilo Airport, and we'll rent a car illegally and drive up to these black lava on Mauna Loa over here. And we would camp where the black lava would absorb all light and bring stars closer to you, and help you dream better and imagine better. And we would talk about how does hokulea and the shuttle program come together and help inspire children to explore and to learn.

But on this, every single time we would go there, the conversation would go back to the island in space. And when Lacy, the most optimistic person I ever met, would start to talk about what we're faced with, he didn't have the answer. He would get so upset I would have to physically hold him, just hold him, and just hold him until he would calm down.

And he didn't know the solution. But his second flight in Columbia, his mission specialist partner was a guy by the name Bill Shepherd, who became the commander in the International Space Station for the first time in year 2000. He would say, yeah. He said, Lacy would tell me a story.

But they sleep in opposite shifts kind of stuck to Velcro on a wall with the goggles on, and they're going around the earth in 90 minutes-- six miles per second. And Bill saw in the inertial navigation system that-- the place that Lacy loved the most was Hawaii. He always spoke of it as home, and he was always happiest there.

Bill sees Hawaii coming up on the inertial navigation system into the golden light of dawn. And so he breaks protocol, grabs Lacy, scrapes him off the wall, floats him to the window, takes his goggles off. And Lacy never told me that what Bill did. He said, yeah, Lacy just looked outside, he saw the Hawaiian islands in the golden light of dawn, and he just said, that's it. In a very quiet, non-angry way. That's it. It's the place.

That here, if you want to serve the issues of energy, we can do that. If you want to have food sovereignty, Hawaiians already did. You go down all the list of all this stuff that we need to solve, Hawaii could do it.

But the one that Lacy felt that Hawaii is most important for is that, in Hawaii, it has a culture that's still kind. Not about race, not about geography, not about nationalism, but values. It goes back to our conversation, Sam. Will we is the question. And so he told me-- so it started this dialogue with him saying, I know you've got to go around the world.

And so we lose him in 1995 from lymphomelanoma. He should be here, not me. Hawaii's greatest explorer. Best friend. But he would leave us with a seed of ideas planted that need to be looked at.

Now I know I have no idea how beautiful your whole island of earth is. You see the whole thing from space. I know you cannot protect what you don't understand, and you won't if you don't care. And you can't do it by yourself. Nainoa, sail. Hokulea needs to see the earth, earth needs to see hokulea. You need to go find out if the human culture on earth, if humanity is still kind enough and willing enough to change. And then he said, you need to build bridges and connections. It's why I'm here.

And, as powerful as he was from 1992, for 16 years we would have these organization meetings every year of the voyaging leadership. It's on the agenda, this voyage around the world. We would have a conversation about how powerful that would be and how important that is to do everything that Lacy was saying.

And then we would talk about the other side. What about the dangers of going around the world, like the hurricane, or the pirate, or the mosquito, or disease, or the rogue wave of South Africa? The list is long. And when we go through that kind of way of looking at the world, we would always vote no. We're not good enough.

Until one thing Lacy left with us said, Nainoa-- this is right before he was going to die. I was with him. He goes, listen to the language, the language of the earth. It's a new language. Climate change, sustainability, hypoxia, dead zones, acidification. This new language is growing.

April 1st, 2008, the voyaging leadership got together. We were going to put the voyage of the world on the agenda again. But the question is not whether we're going to go or not. Because of the growing language and how loud it was becoming, we knew we had to.

The question really was about what's more dangerous, the hurricane, the pirate, the rogue wave, the mosquito, or staying tied to the dock, go nowhere, do nothing? And accept that you knew the language, but you chose to be apathetic and inactive, and frankly ignorant?

So we trained four times, and we agreed to grow. It needed to be unanimous, needed everybody. This is a very dangerous thing to do, and because we know we didn't know how to do this, and then we would train for six years hard, research and preparing.

And this is just a [HAWAIIAN] weekend where people would come Friday night, they'll go on to Sunday night 24/7 work and rehash hokulea. This is hokulea in dry dock. We had to re-do the whole canoe to meet the requirements of the earth. And we would train, especially young people. They've got to take over.

And we built another canoe called the sister star to hokulea, which is Arcturus. Another star is called spike that rises-- synchronous rising, same time in the east-- is Spica, and we call it [HAWAIIAN] in Hawaiian. And it was built in New Zealand, and launched in September 2012.

It's powered by the sun. Sun makes wind, wind drives sails. But we had 240 square feet of solar panels, and six lithium batteries, and two electric engines. We tried to go around the world without a carbon footprint. Didn't work. Half of it did.

Anyway, I know I'm taking up too much time. Worldwide voyage, 37 months, 42,000 miles, 18 countries, 327 ports. It would take 322 crew members from actually about 18 different countries also. We left, basically went west until we came home and ran around blue earth. And 50% of the time we navigated in the old way, 50% of the time we used instruments.

Tahiti was the first protocol, sir, because we needed permission from our ancestors to go. so we went there first. And Samoa, we would meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave us that bottle with a message about a commitment on his side to get the 127 nations to start to protect the oceans. And so we said well we'll do our part.

Aotearoa, New Zealand, we met with 2,400 of the poorest schools network in all of New Zealand. Primarily 85% are Pacific Islanders. And they chose [HAWAIIAN]-- that's a Hawaiian name for starline in Hawaii-- to have them know how to navigate. And they're using science and technology, they're linking the two things together to give these children the ability to sail anywhere in the world they want. But they always know where home, and they can do whatever they want, because we have an education.

Australia, we met these young people at a network of 320 schools. Australia told me that there's something there that really is clearly you can say this is why we have schools. What's the purpose of schools? The purpose of these 320 schools from K to 6 is to do one thing. Protect the ecology of the oldest and largest single ecological living system on the earth called the Great Barrier Reef.

So the kindergartener's dragging me around to where there's a wounded turtle, there's a wounded seabird. We're replanting corals, we're replanting algaes and fish stocks. It was amazing.

We sailed to some pretty amazing places. Ashmore Reef. Dove in some pretty crazy places that day. But in Hawaii you never see this anymore, because the whole system of living is so destroyed that sharks don't have a place in the main Hawaiian islands. Not like this.

And so this is the image of what our oceans are supposed to look like back in Hawaii. So at least we know what we're working towards, because they're the top apex predator of the food chain.

Then Bali and places, you can actually just walk on the rubbish on the water. Our state guys came down, city and county guys came down to help them with ways to power Africa. It's a problem. There's no Panama Canal.

You got two choices. You can go up north and go through the Red Sea, but you got to go past Somalia and Yemen. And then there was a lot of conflict, and in the Mediterranean there was so much violence. And the other way you can do is go around South Africa, and it's one of the roughest places in the world, Cape Agulhas, highest incidence of rogue waves.

And it's an interesting story, because when we were in Bali, board members of the Voyaging Society which I serve said, and informed me, Nainoa, don't do it. Just put the canoe on a ship and ship it to Brazil. Skip South Africa. I said, hey, I'll do whatever you guys want, but if you make me do this, I quit. And I said, because, you know, it's not just the shipping.

You're going to ask me to put this sacred vessel in some ship I don't know, and some crew I don't know? And then you're gonna ask me to do that, and have me go back to my community and essentially tell them, hey, all you guys who trained for six years, you're not good enough? That's an old response to what we do as people.

And I just said, I'll do it, but I quit. And anyway, they let me go. Biting the nails, and it was a rough trip. Mauritius to ending up in Mozambique. That was a rough day. Just fields of lightning.

And then you had to go around South Africa. I'm going through it really quick. I don't want to rob your time.

Around Agulhas Point where there's-- it's where the emergence of the South Atlantic big swell and the strong western boundary current. And there's gale force wind and build waves that are big enough to break 900-foot tankers in half.

And we would pull in. It took us 61 days to go 900 miles. It was the longest voyage, but the shortest distance, because it kept hiding from these cold fronts. And then it became just a voyage I'll never forget-- that interaction and connection with South Africa.

And going on Cape Agulhas was like Avatar. It was so much richness in the water. From there on, all we saw was just super pods of humpbacks 200-plus whales per pod all the way to Cape Town.

Cape Town, we arrive. And 2013, Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to Hawaii to bless hokulea and made the commitment even though he was sick that, if you make it to Cape Town, I'll come see you guys. So here he was. He was brought in November 15th, 2015.

And then brought in a van, a tent, a couch. He was fully clothed with all these jackets and a hat over his head. And they put him in there, and he laid down. He was sick, and he's never made a public appearance the whole year.

And they they're apologizing. He's not going to speak today. I said, we're just honored that he's here.

And so we're speaking, and people were speaking. And all of a sudden what happened was, we had our school kids from public and private and charter schools there, and they had their drums. The African kids, they got cracker cans. They don't have drums.

But some girl, African girl, went over to one of our Hawaiian girls and said, can I borrow your drum? And while we're having all these public speeches, that girl starts beating the drum. And then the African children jumped up, and they started dancing in the streets. And while we're trying to give our speeches, this is all going on behind us. And they grabbed the Hawaiian kids, pulled them into the circle.

And then I'll never forget. I don't remember who, but he says, Nainoa, you need to turn around. Grabbed my shoulder, turned me around. And that's when Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was too ill to stand up, was dancing with kids in the street with the Hawaiian children and the African children. And it was the day that, after all the stress and the strain of wondering if this trip is worth it, that I knew it was. That moment.

Entry into America wasn't in Miami. We chose to go to the Everglades. The alligator was more important.

Our question, Sam, was, what's going to be the first picture? You want it of some expensive yacht club, or do you want it of nature? We chose nature. Went to NASA, saw where Lacy lived, went back to New York, gave the bottle back to his secretary general.

Went all over the place. Up to Nova Scotia, I went up the Great Lakes. 62 locks, it was wild. And then we went through Panama and entered the Pacific Ocean again.

And the first island we went to was the Galapagos. Galapagos, you have the privilege as a human being to occupy only 1% of the islands. You have a privilege as a human being to only go to 1% of the oceans. The rest is nature. We learned a lot.

And then we navigated. Entered Polynesia into the easternmost island called Rapa Nui, and then we went home. Yeah. Long story, but this was homecoming.

Head of the TV news stations said, hey, let's grab lunch. And so we had lunch. He goes, Nainoa, I need to talk to you. He said, by far, this event of coming home was the most viewed event in Hawaii's history. By far.

He said, we knew that was going to happen from the news side. But he said, what we didn't know was going to happen, that the vast, vast majority of viewership wasn't from Hawaii. They were friends, people that helped and inspired us and strengthened us.

And so we come home, we think about the Earth. And you know, there's nothing else like it. And we end up in the same place. I think [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] the name of the voyage. [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] means to care, [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] means the earth. It's defined also as the womb of the mother carrying their child. It could be your place that you live. But one of the names is the earth.

So [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] care for the earth. To me, it's endless. It's not something that we do, we achieve, we find. It's forever.

And this photograph, again from 39,000 miles, is about the size of the Pacific. We're going to sail again. We'll have to keep sailing if we always have to keep sailing. And Hawaii's in the middle of these giant oceans, and it's our home.

But it's really about them. Our focus is on tomorrow. We're setting the benchmark out to really look long-term about how we're going to protect this world to make it good enough for them.

So we put the star compass in the middle of the Pacific. We're going to do circumnavigation of the Pacific that begins in Alaska. It's clockwise. It goes around the Americas from British Columbia, through to the United States, to Mexico, to Central America, all the way down as far south as Chile.

And then we cross into the Pacific Islands through Rapa Nui and the many, many Pacific Islands. And then we go down to New Zealand, then we go to Australia, then we come up to Melanesia, and then we go North to the island of [INAUDIBLE] and then to Palau.

And then we go up to the big economies, which have to be a part of the conversation about healing this ocean. They have to be. Otherwise, it's talking to ourselves. And so Philippines, and China, and Taiwan, and Okinawa, and Japan, and Korea, and Hokkaido.

And we have permission from all those places already-- permission to come-- except Russia. Maybe you can help us. Because the native people in Russia are the same people in Alaska. So it depends on what map you're looking at, right?

Yeah, so it's 47 countries and archipelagos, and it'll be longer than the worldwide voyage. It'll be 44,000 miles and it'll be 43 months. It's dangerous, it's long, and we've got to go. This is kind of the countries we'll be connecting to.

Alaska. The reason I made this is, here's Alaska. It climbs five time zones. But if you look at this map, it's a different map. It's the native territories of 20 different countries and 20 different languages. It's a country to itself.

And we are looking at trying to rethink, what is the map supposed to look like? Isn't there many maps?

So this is just a picture of the one route of one leg of the 35 legs that we're going to take along Alaska. And I'm going to try to stop this next slide, but I'm going to end here.

We won't go. Want to physically sail around the Pacific, we can do that. If this is a sailing trip, we can do that. We need to find the world's great navigators. We need to find. We need to find.

Try and imagine these big institutions. Just imagine Harvard. There was some connection to values, of things that we believe in. That might be 5,000 miles apart physically.

But imagine, when you sit down with Terry and you sit down with Sam-- single, short conversation-- and find out that planetary health and the issue of the Divinity School. To be here is a privilege. It's an honor to be in this room. To find out that planetary health, if you kind of pull the words apart, it is [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] It's the same thing.

And to find navigators that-- and I don't know all of you, but I know some of you. There is so many navigators in here that are going to help create a million voyages that have nothing to do with sailing on the oceans, that have everything to do with the common sense of making a contribution of kindness and compassion to heal the earth.

So every time one of you do something of an act of compassion, let me just say it. You're not just doing it for you. You're doing it for us in Hawaii and the rest of Pacific. This next voyage needs all the navigators.

I am so honored to be here. Way too short. But what I've found is friends. I've found brilliant people. I found great navigators. And I'm just hoping that you'll let me come back, and I'll bring more young people with you to connect with you guys. Because essentially, the best investment we have in hoping that we can have a world good enough for our children is to empower young people to do it, to find a way.

And that's where the power of an institution like Harvard is. It's just unimaginable for me. So thank you, all of you, for allowing me the time to share a story. But this story is really about you. Mahalo.


Thank you. Thank you, Nainoa. Thank you for showing us what is not only possible, but necessary. And thank you for being one of our teachers.

Dean Kelsey, Dean Hempton, Associate Dean Gyatso, climate whistle-blower Joel Clement. Beautiful, powerful students and distinguished guests, with special gratitude to Erica and Perry and Amalia and Ariella Ruth for making this event possible. We are in the presence of indigenous global storytellers and leaders. And it is our deepest honor, speaking as a member of the Harvard Divinity School, to have you here. We are humbled by your presence and what you know we need to hear.

These storytellers, Native elders, wisdom keepers have a fierce sense of home in the water, on the ice, as we have experienced with Nainoa. The waters are rising, the ice is melting. How shall we live? That is what you asked me, Uncle.

Your fellow companions, Lehua, Sonya, Judy, you remind us the importance of being connected. And to you, Uncle, welcome to this community of seekers. We are listening, we are learning, we are struggling, and we are changing.

It is my great privilege to introduce you tonight as an Eskimo Kalaallit Elder from Greenland, a shaman who comes from a distinguished family of healers. Uncle is a global teacher who carries ancient teachings and shares them in modern times. Uncle's been invited to 71 countries-- most recently Italy, at the personal invitation of Pope Francis-- wanting to know how shall we live, wanting to know what it's like to have the ice melting beneath your feet.

He sought out Uncle, whose family has lived in Greenland for 5,000 years. Uncle knows who he is. Nainoa knows who he is. Do we?

Uncle's mother gave him a task-- to melt the ice in the heart of man. The last time Uncle and I were together was in the spring of 2017, and I had just received an invitation to come to the Harvard Divinity School as writer in residence. I sought uncle's counsel, and I asked him, what is the question I should ask? What is the question I should take with me to study while I'm here?

And he said, what are the spiritual implications of climate change, and how shall we live? And you'll remember, Dean Hempton, when you asked me what is it you want to study. What I didn't tell you was Uncle's guidance.

What are the spiritual implications of climate change? I am living and struggling with that question, Uncle, and I have not forgotten my promise to you. Thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for coming. Judy, thank you for accompanying him. Thank you for making these connections and reminding us what we have forgot.

To bear witness to the beauty and destruction of our planet is not a passive act, but an act of conscience and consequence. Uncle is carrier of the Qilaut, the wind drums-- and is a spiritual leader of planetary consciousness. It is with great respect and deep affection and gratitude to welcome you to our community. Please welcome Uncle from Nunaat.


My name is Angaangaq, and it means The Man Who Looks Like His Uncle. And I actually do. I actually do.

You know, I would look like my father's older brother. His name is Queri which means the beloved one. But he was named after his uncle Angaangaq, who was named after his uncle Queri who was named after his uncle Angaangaq. So I'm pretty old, you know. But I use L'Oreal, [LAUGHTER] so I don't look so bad. Say yes.


I really have to share a thank you note to L'Oreal. You can see the cream.

But I come from Greenland, which is just northeast of Harvard University, which is not very far compared to the way you had traveled to come here. What an honor and privilege to meet you. I have met your family all over the world. Not all-- just 71 countries-- but I have met them, and I greet them, and they have taught me so much.

You live in an ocean because [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] which is calm waters. But then we also knew that one day, that calm water would become really wavy, and the waves would be very big.

How do we know that? Because the big ice on top of Alaska will melt. And as she melts, the ocean temperature would rise, and it will expand. And where those two cold, cold water and the hot water meets, they would create havoc in our lives.

And my old brother who passed on is an old sailor. He traveled around 15 times around the world by ship, and also from the South Pole to the North Pole, and he is an amazing navigator. He taught me that I can just look up in this big sky and know exactly within a few kilometers where I am on earth.

I'm really thankful to him. He would have loved to meet you, because you are a person of the ocean. Me, I'm a person of the land.

And Greenland, I don't know if you knew that, but she's a pretty big island. When you put it to the North Dakota-Manitoba border, it goes down to South America. And then, when you put it into Austria and Norway, it'll go down to the middle of Tunisia. So it's bigger than Boston. [LAUGHTER] Boston is a very big city, but Greenland is bigger.

So that's where I come from. Yes, my family has lived in the same village for more than 5,000 years. It's my father's mother's family.

And just recently, UNESCO recognized the importance of my grandmother, and made the land heritage land for generations to come. And then, soon after, her niece-- my great aunt, who's going to be 92 in October-- said, my son, now it's your land. I'm sorry, what do you mean? I can no longer walk. You can walk. She said, now it's yours.

Can you imagine that I have a piece of land which is about 500 kilometers long from East to West? Almost the same size of Holland. So there's lots of room with nobody living there except me. So when you come and visit me, you can walk like that and you will not touch anybody. And you can become aware of yourself.

And that's the important part, because you will realize mother nature as she was born. Why? Because this is the oldest crust of Earth. Can you imagine? In my land, it's the oldest crust of Earth, and the only land on Earth where people live where there's never been war.

Can you imagine to step on her? Because war is really not so good. And this amazingly beautiful little country we know as United States of America had never known one single day of peace. She has been at war somewhere in the world for the last 200-some years.

Your family-- your own personal family-- has been at war for as long as the land has existed as United States of America. And I should know. I don't know if you knew that, but the war in itself is to kill. That's what we do.

But my land is the only land on earth where people live where there has never been war. And she's old. I'm very old, but my land is much older. It's so incredible. And there you become aware of this, where you will be living in silence within yourself. And this silence within you is deafening when you recognize yourself.

My father, our beloved father, he knows distances. I don't know if I told you, but the tribe of the Eskimo people, we live on the top of the world. There's only one language of the Eskimo. It doesn't matter if you come from East Greenland or if you come from Kamchatka or Chukchi Peninsula, we speak the same language. There's 13 time zones on the land of the Eskimo.

I don't know. Have you ever heard of a small company called United Airlines? It's just a small company. [LAUGHTER] Their big airplane 747, to fly from top of Greenland to the island in Newfoundland, it takes more than nine hours. That's the land of the Eskimo.

So she's big, but there's only one language. And there we know the distances. It's so big. It's so big.

I am the only living person who has visited every single Eskimo village in Alaska, in Canada, and Greenland. I have no idea why, but I loved my travels. No, I do know. I was told to visit the elders.

That's why I greeted you, because I didn't greet you before. I saw you when I came in, but people were busy. It's my responsibility to greet you as an elder, because I realize you look very, very old, and I look so young. [LAUGHTER]

So that's the responsibility I have. So I'm so glad I greeted you both. I feel honored that you were able to be talking for a moment.

Where I was born, we have a big ice. It's really, really, really big. The east to west innermost distance is 1,700 kilometers, and it's just ice. And it's 2,700 kilometers from north to south. It's ice.

When I was born, it was five kilometers-- that means three miles thick-- the ice. It's amazing what has happened now. Now, 2019, the sun-- you know that there is no sun in the winter in the North, right? You don't have to go to work, because you can just sleep all day long.

And now the sun comes up four days early. Can you imagine that we now have sun four days early? Our sunshine has increased tremendously. Why? Because the big ice is now so low. It's only now two kilometers thick, from being five. So what caused that thing to melt? It's so interesting.

In 1963, I was just a young kid. And in the winter, we rely on seals, and whales, and a little bit of fishing. But it's difficult to traverse these oceans with so much ice. So when change comes in the wintertime, we used to have winter hunt. We could hunt the caribou and the musk oxen.

So two young men went hunting, and it's about 300 and some 50 or 70 kilometers to reach the big ice from the coast. It's a fair distance. And because we grew up knowing that I am supposed to be, you are supposed to be a caretaker and the custodians on Mother Earth, watch on her and within her.

That's what you are supposed to be in Boston. You are supposed to be the caretaker and custodian of Mother Earth. But that tradition, that ceremony, we lost in Boston. We don't do that anymore. Back home, we still do.

And every hunt-- can you imagine the big wall? It's 1,500 meters tall. Just a wall. One of the many, many, many fingers. The big ice is holding our land with many fingers. And that wall is just like this wall here, except she's-- how many feet is that? 1,500 meters times three? My math is not very good. I never come to school. How many feet is that?

Four and a half thousand feet.

Four and a half thousand? Four and a half thousand feet tall. I'm a very tall Eskimo, as you can see, but that wall is bigger than me.

But when you go there after the hunt, you go and say thank you to the great one. So people would touch in thanking the great one. I think you call him God. Is that true? Is that how you call him? We don't have the word God in our language, so we call him the great one.

So we thank him, because he trusts us to be caretakers and custodian of Mother Earth. It's a big responsibility, so we thank him for giving us that trust.

So they did. And they looked up there, way up there, and the water was trickling down. That was January of 1963.

Now in Kangerlussuaq, the big airport of Greenland, that's where the American Embassy used to be as well-- it would be at least, minimum, at least minus 35 Celsius for three months. And as you know in science, anything below zero Celsius will freeze solid. But three months of minus 35, the big ice was dripping water, liquid water. So it was a phenomenon unheard of.

So they went home by their dog sleds. And they told the old people, the elders. Said, you know, it's a strange thing happening. The water was trickling. And the old people did not believe this young man. They thought that they'd been drinking beer at the American air base.

You're very lucky in Boston you don't drink beer, because when you drink beer, your mind goes a little crazy. [LAUGHTER] So the old people thought that they'd been drinking. But they said, no, no, no, no, no, we didn't go.

In the month of March in 1963, the elders themselves went hunting. And just like everybody else for thousands of years, they go to the big ice and touch the wall in awe of being caretaker and custodian for this earth. And they looked up, and lo and behold, the water was still trickling. It's a phenomena we never heard of.

Now we understand. Because so much summer melt there because the 24-hour sun that it creates many, many lakes. And you can see that in the university, pictures where we were today. Some of these lakes are more than one kilometer deep. That's more than 3,000 feet deep.

If you throw out a quarter, you can see it traveling down to the bottom, and you can still see the coin at the bottom at 3,000 feet. You can do that. I didn't throw away too many quarters, because I needed them.

So that trickling was coming, what happens in the summer when the lakes are created with the 24-hour sun. But, as you know, water is living. It's a living entity. Just like you and I, we have a life. And we consist, most of us are water.

And it would find cracks in the ice and go so far deep that the cold outside cannot reach it. So it remains alive, not frozen. And because it is a living thing, she will find other cracks to move through. And it comes out of the wall, and drips. Minus 35 Celsius for five months, the water was still moving.

That is a phenomena today you and I would call climate change. That was 1963. I was just a young man, a teenager. And 15 years later, I had become the runner for my elders. There used to be runners here in Maine or Massachusetts. Where are we?


Massachusetts. Is it the same as Maine? No? [LAUGHTER] There's a difference?

There’s a difference. [LAUGHTER]

My apology. I will learn geography one day. So there used to be runners here in Massachusetts from the villages to the villages. When someone is born into your family, you send a runner to the next village to tell them, oh, you have a new member of the family. Or someone has passed on, you let them know.

So there have always been runners all over the world, messengers who carry news to the next village. We do. And I was asked to be a runner for my elders by my mom and dad in June of 1975. I had no idea what it meant, but when your mother and father speaks you like that, you say yes. So I did, and I became a runner.

And the elders wanted me to speak to the world, and it's so interesting. My elders had no money. It's one of the poorest countries in the Western world, if not the poorest, Greenland.

So they don't have the money to send me out to New York. They don't have any money to send me to all these states of United States except for Nevada, Oregon, and Hawaii. Those are the only states I have not visited.

So I had to find a way of raising the money, so I worked. And I worked so I can travel to carry the message for the elders to the world. Then when I'd come home, I had to tell them whom I met, what I saw, what I experienced, and what I heard. And it's so interesting to tell them.

So in 1978, I ended up in New York City. Don't go there. It's a big city. It's a really big city. It's not really a good place to visit. [LAUGHTER] But they have good pizza, though. [LAUGHTER]

So I ended up there, and I spoke at something called United Nations environmental thing. I had no idea what that means, but I told them about, that the big ice is melting, or that's the message from the elders. And in 1978-- that's 15 years later-- when the first awareness of a phenomena called climate change was observed by my people.

That's many years ago now, when I think about it. How many years is it from 1963 to now? 40? 50? Holy shit, I must be very old. [LAUGHTER] Whoa.

And I spoke there. It was so interesting.

In those days, men had the business suit. Three-piece suit, you know, the vest with small, tiny, tiny buttons. I had that on, and I had a briefcase-- brown one. It was empty, but I looked very good, though. Because everybody carried briefcases, you know.

And I went there, and I spoke. And when I finished, I had this standing ovation. Probably about 10 to 15 minutes long standing ovation. And thereafter, they declared that Angaangaq is a well-spoken young Eskimo.

So I ran home to Greenland, and my mom and dad invited the elders to come. And there were many elders in those days. The really, really old ones. And I was telling them that I spoke at the United Nations, the world government.

And I remember one of the old men talking to me, and says that, do they own the world? Because the Danish government owned Greenland, so they thought that the world government must own the world. I didn't know how to answer that, so I let it go. And I was telling them whom I met, what I saw, what I experienced, and what I heard.

And then, all of a sudden, my beloved father-- our beloved father-- stopped me in mid-sentence and said, did he hear you? And I look at my father, really surprised that he would ask me that question. I said, they gave me a standing ovation. And then I carried on explaining.

And then after a little bit he stopped me again and said, did he hear you? And he wanted to know if they heard the message that the big ice is melting and it's not good for the earth, and the people who live on her, and the animals who live on her, and the plant world who live on her, and mineral world who live on her. It's not good. Now it's too late.

I've never gone anywhere on earth without being invited, because that's the instructions I have. But now I have traveled to and worked in 71 countries. An Eskimo from a small village of 17 people and three houses. Can you imagine I traveled the world? What a privileged life I have.

One day I ended up in the Rio de Janiero on a United Nations mission, and I was met by someone called James Taylor. I don't know. He's from the United States of America.

You know him? Please say hello to him from Uncle. Could you do that for me?

So I hugged him, I kissed him, and I sniffed him. The Eskimo kiss, by the way, is not rubbing noses. That's Hollywood. Real Eskimo kiss is sniffing at each other.

You know what we sniff at? To understand your emotions. With every emotion you have, you smell changes. Did you know that? Every emotion you have, you smell changes, literally. And it does not matter if you used L'Oreal or Nivea cream, or sprays. It doesn't matter. You smell changes.

It's that human nature for you and I to smell differently for every emotions we have. That's how [SNIFFS] we greet each other.

Then, when I was young I tried to make jokes. It really doesn't work, but I would say, now I know which one of you didn't have a shower this morning. [LAUGHTER] People don't understand that kind of joke, so I wouldn't do that.

And it is so interesting to realize what the old people say about this phenomena of climate change. You and I, we had a chance to do things differently. And we could have helped many things, but we did not. We didn't do anything. And now in result of it is that the big ice is melting.

In my land, I have enough water for eight billion people for hundreds of years. But this small country called the United States of America, most of it is running out of water for consumption of human beings, for consumption of the animal world, for the growing of the plant world so we can eat.

How did we do that? The farmers used chemicals, and it goes down into the earth and destroys the aquifer. And it's not good for you and I to drink that water anymore.

Then, of course, this beautiful country cracked the earth in shaking for the gas and oil and whatever else. But they crack it with chemicals. So, because the water is a living thing-- polluted or not polluted-- it will sink through the cracks and reach the aquifer below us.

So it's so interesting that the beautiful country of Oklahoma has run out of water. Isn't that sad, that they have no water to drink? They have to import their water. Pennsylvania is in the same situation. Texas is in the same situation. And it is as though we did not comprehend It. And most people don't.

Six weeks ago, I was in India. I wanted to do a water ceremony, because last year I invited spiritual leaders of the world, and about 40 of them came to Greenland to the elders gathering. Because I thought that-- the year before, I made a letter to the Pope. I had no idea who he is, but I never met him.

So I wrote a letter on video-- you know, the film-- and told him that I would like him to come to my land so he can see what you will now be doing to Mother Earth, because he seemed to be concerned about it. So I did, but nothing happened out of it. So I thought, I better invite physically those spiritual leaders of the world, and people came from all over the world.

And the oldest one who came was representing Dalai Lama. He was 97 years old. He came, and he walked unassisted. I want to be like that when I grow up. I want to be able to just-- it was so beautiful to see that he was so concerned about the well-being of Mother Earth.

But when I came there-- when we came there-- it was dark, and gray, and cold, and the ground was so wet that we couldn't pitch up our tepees. So we had to find places where we can be dry and we can sleep and eat, because the land of my grandmother is huge.

And then I was like, wow, what the heck am I going to do? We're all just cold, and everything was frozen. I walked with them up to the big ice. Everything was just gray, and dark, and cold. Solidly frozen.

Next day, though, I woke up in my tent. Oh the sun is shining. I was so excited. That was 4 o'clock in the morning I woke up.

So I ran to the river-- one river which comes directly from the big ice. It was trickling a little bit of water. Just a little, tiny trickle. But the sun just starts warming up. Within the course of about 10 hours, that little river was carrying more than one million liters per second from the melting of the big ice.

Have you heard about a small river in Ontario called Niagara Falls? You should go there, it's really beautiful. It's really beautiful. She carries 750,000 liters per second.

One river from the melting of the big ice carried in about 10 hours more than one million liters per second. And there's about 10,000 rivers like that in Greenland, and they go to the ocean. It's so interesting. Why is it melting so fast?

You're very lucky in the United States, not everybody has a car. But every time you check onto the highway, the highway eats the rubber of your car, and that's why you have to change your car tires so often. And those tiny rubbers, because your RPM, it flies up, becomes part of the jet stream, and it comes to Greenland.

And it's very cold. The big ice is always minus 40 Celsius, always. In winter, it becomes minus 60, but in summer it's minus 40. So it becomes too heavy for this rubber from Boston. Then they come down as the snow.

And then, on New Year, March 21-- you know that's the new year, right? That's the new year. Not January the 1. The new year is when the sun shines for the first time on the bellybutton of Mother Earth. Bellybutton is the one you know as North Pole. That's the bellybutton of mother Earth. When she shines, she stays there for six months.

And the rubber from Boston says, oh, sun. And then, immediately as sun hits the rubber, it melts, because it warms up the rubber. And instantly, this water will start to trickle and become rivers, enormous rivers carrying more than a million liters per second. That's the velocity of the rivers.

And then, of course, the rubbers go down by the river, and then go through the ocean, and then the animals of the ocean don't know if it is a good steak or a good vegetable, but they just eat it.

That's what they do, because we did not educate them not to eat rubber. We failed to teach the fish, the seals, Arctic dolphins, the whales not to eat rubber, and they become polluted.

And just last week in the Philippines, a whale washed up, and she had 50 kilos of plastic in her. Normally she would live hundreds of years. Now she died, suffocated by the plastic you forgot to pick up and put it in the garbage.

I just landed last night to Boston, and the plastic was flying everywhere. And I told Judy that I better pick it up, because it was just too bad to have it floating around and flying in the wind. Nobody in Portland picked up that plastic. I did. I put it in the garbage.

Then, a little while later, another plastic from Starbucks was flying around. So I picked it up, and put it in the garbage. Because if it goes to the ocean, the whales out there, the seals out there, the fish out there will eat it. And then in the restaurant, you will have fish, seal, and dolphin and whale, and you will be eating the plastic.

Is it really true that's what we do? Yes it is. That's how it works. And you were the one who did not pick up the garbage.

Of course, it's not just Boston. New York is the same. Washington, D.C. Fort Myers, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Everywhere. We do not pick up the garbage, which will end up in the ocean, and the animals we depend on will eat it.

So today, when you go to a restaurant tonight and you have fish, it will contain plastic. It is not a vegetable. It will remain in the body of that fish. And when you come, and it looks really good on picture to have fish, but it will contain the plastic from Boston. So think about it, the impact it has on your life.

It's too late to stop the melting of the big ice. It really is too late. There is nothing we can do. The ice will melt, and the ocean will rise.

And many of my family, the Pacifics, they will lose their land. Boston will be underwater. Where should we put you? Who should take care of you?

When will it happen? In my lifetime. I am going to be 72, but in my lifetime, the airport will be useless. Why? The ocean is rising. The Atlantic out there right now, it's getting warmer and warmer.

And as you know if you make tea, boiling it, the water expands as it gets warmer, and then it will boil. These bubbles, we call them tsunamis. Did you ever think about climate change like that?

So it has enormous spiritual implications, because in our religions-- and there are nine big religions, remember? Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh. [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh.

Nine big religions. We all believe the same thing, that you and I, we're supposed to love each other, care for each other, recognize each other, respect each other, honor each other, but most of all, to love each other. And we don't.

I landed in Boston yesterday. Not one person welcomed me. Not one person asked me, oh, where are you from? They never seen me before. Not one person. And I had to really look at myself and see, am I really real? I said, it hurts, so I must be real.

But not one person. Can you imagine? I am real. But not one person in Boston asked me, what's your name, where are you from? How is your family? Did you have a good travel? Not one.

That's how far apart we have become. And when we stop recognizing each other, really bad things will happen in our life.

You and I, we have never been so close to another big war. Except this time, the bullets are much stronger than 77 years ago. One single bullet now can kill dozens of people. That's the power of that enormity of military thing we have called war, and we let it happen.

It is as though it does not matter what they do, because I'm different. No, you are not. We are not different. We all have a responsibility to something called Mother Earth. That's the only mother we have. We don't have a plan B. It does not exist.

When will we realize the spiritual implications? Because I believe as a shaman and as a believer and spokesman of the man who made us-- you call them prophets-- that I am supposed to be helping anyone who comes to me. I'm supposed to be assisting everyone who comes to me.

I'm supposed to be guiding everyone who comes to me, just like you. But you don't recognize each other. It's so interesting how far apart we have grown. And implication of climate change is right inside you.

I shall run out. One day I decided that I want to quit, so I went home. My father then has passed on, and many of the original elders have passed on, because now there's only one more left. That's my great aunt. She's going to be 92 now. She's the only one left of the original elders I was a runner for.

So one day I decided, no, because I traveled the world. And I became an elder for the United Nations, by the way. Can you imagine that I'm an elder of the United Nations?

You paid for my travels. I flew first class United Airlines. I ate real food in the airplane, and you put me in five-star hotels. Thank you very much. You pay taxes so I could travel.

You should fly first class just for the fun of it. Really, you have real knife and forks, and you have a choice of many meals you can have. Oh, they have good coffee as well. So you paid for it. I thank you for that.

But at the end of the day, we failed ourself. You and me, you and me, you and me, we failed ourself. We did not take care of Mother Earth, and now many people will not have water.

In India, where I was just recently, I was going to this source of the rivers, seven rivers of India to do a water ceremony. But then the war started between Pakistan and India, so everything was canceled. But I will go back and finish my ceremony, because as a shaman, it's my responsibility to bring back the ceremony to the world in which I travel. Why? Because life is a ceremony in itself, worth celebrating with a ceremony.

Can you imagine that your life-- your own personal life-- is worth celebrating with a ceremony every single day? And my grandmother says, when this ceremony loses its spirit, it becomes a ritual.

So we ask her, what does she really mean when the ceremony loses its spirit it will become a ritual? She says, we will begin to do things because that's the way it's been done. We don't really know why it's been done like that, but we do it but that's the way it's been done. And my grandmother was born in 1891. Says, the world as it is is full of rituals.

You were right, I was invited by the Pope to speak about spiritual significance. Can you imagine that the Pope invited me as a shaman? I touched my heart for that. He had the courage to invite ancient tradition of the world long before religion came. Long before.

And I told him about the spiritual significance of climate change. And it's so interesting that in that world, it is as though we have not heard one thing. It is as though you are not worth it. But when I look at you, you're a really beautiful being. You are worth it.

And the only one who can be caretakers and custodian of Mother Earth is humans. Animals cannot do it. The plants cannot do it. The minerals cannot do it. Only you can do it. So--

This is a circle. The circle which had no beginning, no end, in which we all belong. That's the spiritual belief of my people. And can you imagine that this circle, it has no beginning, it has no end, and we all belong.

In the east when the sun rises, she's always yellow. And because of Fox News and CNN, we learn that there are actually yellow people on this earth. Isn't that amazing, that we actually have yellow people on this earth?

And then, when the sun shines highest upon it in the south, she's always white. And because of CNN and Fox News, we learned that there are actually white people on this earth. Isn't that amazing? There are actually white people on this earth living with us.

And in the west, where the sun sets, she's always red. And lo and behold, because of CNN and Fox News, we learned there are actually red people living on this earth, and I'm one of them.

You live on the red people's land. That's where the Sun sets. South America, Caribbean, Pan America, North America. That's where the red people live.

And then, at night, it's always black. And lo and behold, we now have learned there are actually black people on this earth. Isn't that amazing, that we have yellow people, we have white people, we have red people, and we have black people, and we all belong in the same circle? The beauty of this circle is that we cannot not see each other's backs, and the strength of the circle is that we can only see each other's beauty.

Can you imagine to live in that world where everyone is equal? And the beauty is that we are so different from each other. Look at yourself. Not one of you look alike to the next one. And for me from looking at you here, you are so stunningly beautiful.

You are worth knowing. You are with accepting. You are worth respecting. You are worth acknowledging. But most of all, you are worth loving. Every one of you. And that's the spiritual significance of climate change.

We cannot do anything about it anymore. It's now going to take its course. The big ice is melting, and as she melts, the ocean will rise seven meters-- 21 feet-- and Boston don't stand a chance. She will disappear.

Where the heck are we going to put people from Boston? We cannot just let them drown, because we believe in the goodness of mankind. We cannot do that, so we're going to have to help, assist, and guide them. The same thing in Manhattan, and the same thing all the coast of North America, both in the east and the west. Most of Europe will disappear. That's a lot of people.

And my grandmother says, one day, the big river will come. When she comes, you must not jump in to save your family. You have to learn to say thank you to your family, and tell them how much you love them, what a difference they have done in your life, and wish him well. Then run up the hill, because the world which is coming after that needs you.

It's so interesting at the big tsunami in Japan. Some months later, BBC broadcasted one segment-- you can find it on the internet. They found a man who told the same story as my grandmother.

He said, all of a sudden, the big river was coming, this tsunami. And then I realized that my mom and dad was there yelling screaming for help. And then, right there, my wife and my kids were yelling and screaming, asking for help. And right there next to me was my brother and his family yelling and screaming for help. And I realized I could not jump in that big river, because if I did, I would become the food for the big river.

I always manage to say thank you to every one of them and told them how much I love them, what a difference they had done in my life, and I ran. And I ran until I could no longer run. I just collapsed on Earth. But then the big river didn't come. The tsunami has retreated. And he did it with such love in the eyes when he told this story.

I have told God never to let that happen to me, because I love my grandkids too much. I don't want to see them die. But their great grandmother says, you cannot jump after them. You have to have the strength and the capacity to express to them how much you love them, how much difference in your life they have done, and then wish them well, and then run. Because whatever is going to come after that will need me.

I have nothing to give. Very little things. The only things I can think of, I can give, is to tell you how privileged I am that you invited me, what a difference you have done in my world. And then my prayer is that I will carry your spirit to the next destination. I will be this year in four continents, so I will carry your spirit. I will tell them what a beautiful sight you are to look at.

Unfortunately, I didn't sniff at you, because there was not enough hours in the day. But if I have a chance, I will sniff at you, and I will be able to tell you if you had a shower or not shower. But I will never reveal my sources.

I carry with me an instrument called quilaut. This is it. It's an Eskimo drum. The quilaut, the word quilaut means instrument from the great sky. Can you imagine that I carry an instrument from the great sky? And this is what I do with it. This is what we do with it. We chant.

You must remember that I'm not like Elvis Presley. I don't look like him, but I did the same one in his house. I'm the only one who's been asked to do a ceremony in his house in Memphis.  

They asked me to do a ceremony to cleanse the house, so I did. So I chanted at his dining table, where that was the best energy of the house. But I don't sing like him. So if you hear me not singing good or chanting good, forgive me.

The chant is called "Melting the Ice in Your Heart." And it's really in my ears and in my spirit and in my mind a really beautiful chant because, unless you and I, we melt the ice in our heart, we will never be able to change the world. And, most importantly, we could never use our knowledge wisely. And we need to do that.

We need to learn to melt the ice in the heart of man. Only by melting the ice in the heart of man, man will have the chance to change and begin using his knowledge wisely.

And this little place of Harvard has so much knowledge. Can you imagine the people in her if they learn to use that knowledge wisely? They could change the world.


In my language, we say [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH] which means thank you.

Next time we meet, please tell me, Uncle, and invite me for coffee. You promise? [LAUGHTER] That's how you can get free coffee. [LAUGHTER] Uncle! And we run for coffee. No, I'm willing to pay for it. But you have to come to me first first, then second I will buy you. [LAUGHTER] [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH]


I'm mindful of the hour, so I will be very brief. My name's Charles Stang. My friends call me Charlie. I have the privilege of serving as the director across the street at the Center for the Study of World Religions. I want to thank Nainoa, Uncle. Thank you so much for being our teachers this evening.

In the spirit of remembering ancestors in order to chart the course for the future, I just want to recall one ancestor of ours well-known in these halls, and that is Socrates, a philosopher, a lover of wisdom who was unimpressed by the authorities of his day.

And he sought a teacher, someone who loved wisdom as much as he did. And so he sought out an oracle to find out who was wisest, and was surprised when the oracle told him it was he. You, Socrates, are wisest.

Disbelieving, he asked why. Because you, Socrates, know what you don't know. You know that you don't know. You know how much you don't know. That is the definition of wisdom, and I've heard that definition spoken tonight. I daresay I've heard that oracle speak tonight.

How much we don't know. The flip side of that is how much we might learn. How waters speak, how the land speaks, how forests think, how animals feel, how much we might learn.

Which brings me back to the question with which we began. Will we listen? Will we listen?

Thank you so much. Thank you all for coming this evening, and we look forward to future gatherings of The Constellation Project. Thank you.