MARCH 11, 1953


Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Nainoa is a Native Hawaiian navigator and Executive Director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  The first Hawaiian to practice the Polynesian art of navigation (wayfinding) since the 14th century, he navigated double-hulled canoes from Hawaiʻi to other Polynesian islands without aid of western instruments.  Trained by master navigator Mau Piailug, his first solo voyage was from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti and back in 1980.  He has been lead navigator on subsequent voyages, including from Hawai’i to New Zealand (1985-87).  He currently is a trustee for Kamehameha Schools and member of the Board of Regents for the University of Hawaiʻi.  Nainoa has received numerous awards, including the Unsung Hero of Compassion, awarded by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama; Native Hawaiian Education Association’s Educator of the Year Award; NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award; National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal; and Explorers Club Medal. 

Sources:  Karen Meech, “Nainoa Thompspn-Biography, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, updated 12/15/2001.  Retrieved 6/24/2019,  “Trustee Nainoa Thompson,” Kamehameha Schools. Retrieved 6/24/2019, 
Photo:  Native Voices, U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Public domain.  U.S. Government owns no copyrights.

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