The term “wayfinding” comes from an ancient system of navigation used by Polynesians to voyage thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. In order to determine directions at various times of day and year, these wayfinders learnt to recognize important signs and patterns in the natural world, such as the position of specific stars, weather and climate, wildlife species, the nature of ocean currents, colors of the sea and sky, and cloud formation relative to land mass.
Wayfinders share a common value system: respect for the earth, an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and people, a sense of wonder and a spirit of exploration. We believe that the wayfinders are a powerful example for young people and built our toolkit around ideas found within a number of different wayfinding traditions.
In designing our toolkit we were lucky to work closely with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a non-profit organization in Hawai'i committed to the transmission and practice of these ancient wayfinding traditions. In 1976, when PVS navigated a double-hulled voyaging canoe from Hawai'i to Tahiti, they successfully debunked a theory held by a European scholar that people from South America drifted aimlessly in the ocean and hit the Polynesian islands by chance. This epic journey demonstrated the deep wisdom of the Polynesian wayfinders and the great importance of preserving native bodies of knowledge.