Te Matua - George Koloso Kahia Kaveia
Te Aliki Kaveia, beloved Chief of Taumako, died at home on 27 August, 2009. Weeping and wailing was heard throughout the thousand mile long Solomon Islands and beyond to the furthest island groups in the Pacific - wherever people who knew his kind ways and astonishing accomplishments. Those who knew him called him “Te Matua” – The Parent or Ancestor.
Te Matua’s gifts to his students included authentic Polynesian knowledge that was thought by many to have died with Reef Islands navigator Basil Tevake in 1971 (We, the Navigators, U. of HI Press:1972). Thanks to the enthusiasm of Taumako children, the assistance from Kaua’i community members, and the efforts of dozens of sailors and admirers around the world, Te Matua spent the last fifteen years of his life doing his best to convey what he knew to a new generation in the form of the Vaka Taumako Project (www.vaka.org). He taught how to build voyaging canoes, and sail and navigate using only ancient methods that have never been documented or used in modern times. In the process of doing this he demonstrated ancient spiritual and social skills that are required for any who would venture over the deep blue sea to visit people on other islands, make friends, renew relationships, or explore where ancestors once roamed.
As a boy Te Matua survived a sickness at Taumako. He said that the disease killed all but 37 of over 2000 people residing there. In 2020 word came that British colonizers were coming, so Te Matua’s father sent him to his Aunt at Pileni Island the Outer Reef Islands. There he became a bailout boy on voyaging canoes. As a precocious teenager he became a steersman. At about 27 years old he returned home and studied with his father, learning more about building and navigation.
Kaveia captained far ranging voyages throughout his region. As a man he raised 16 children (15 of them adopted), and worked as Paramount Chief of Taumako for over 40 years. In 1996 he started the Vaka Taumako Project. His vision was that the wisdom of the ancients is every bit as important now as it was thousands of years ago. Te Matua stood as a link between the past and the future.
Te Matua was born about 98 years ago in Kahula kainga, on the windward side of Taumako Island. Kahula was also the birthplace of Te Matua’s super-hero ancestor, Lata (known as Laka in Hawaii).
According to pan-Polynesian legend Lata was the first person to build and sail a voyaging canoe. Lata was the personage who Te Matua himself referred to as “Te Matua.” It was the knowledge and wisdom of Lata that Te Matua dedicated his life to learning, using, and sharing with a new generation. He aimed to help his own people and all of humanity at the same time. He knew that the ancient knowledge was valuable to everyone.
Te Matua is well remembered by people who met him during his three visits to Kaua’I - from the Fijian pilots who urged him to take the controls of the 747 that flew him to Hawaii (he did steer it through soaring turns), to Dr Larry Sherrer, his associates and staff, and Wilcox Hospital, who donated services to give him back his sight (his eyesight was better than everyone else from then on), to the hundreds of school children, volunteers, and cultural practitioners who came to watch him and his Taumako crew make the main hull of a Te Alo Lili voyaging canoe (Vaka o Lata) as a gift to the people of Kaua’i.