Making long canoe voyages, Polynesians colonized previously unsettled islands. Entire small villages set sail in double-hulled canoes. Sometimes against prevailing winds and tides, these intrepid Polynesian navigators steered by the sun and the stars. They studied and followed bird flight patterns to locate land. They followed and named stars and constellations. By about 1280 AD, these voyagers had settled the Polynesian triangle that in includes Hawaii in its northern corner. Polynesian voyagers may even have reached South America.
The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Laie, on the north shore of Oahu, was founded in 1963 as a Polynesian theme park and museum by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It occupies more than 40 acres of land belonging to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The PCC is a non-profit organization. Revenues support operations at the PCC. In addition, since it opened, the PCC has provided financial assistance to as many as 20,000 BYU-Hawaii students. These students also work at the PCC up to 20 hours per week during school terms and 40 hours during breaks. About 70% of the PCC’s employees are students.
The Center encompasses six simulated tropical villages in which performers demonstrate various arts and crafts from throughout Polynesia. The villages represent the island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The PCC also features one of Hawaii’s most authentic luaus and a show the visitors love: “Hā: Breath of Life.” This show features over 100 performers and Samoan fire knife dancing. A fire knife is a traditional Samoan implement used in ceremonial dances. Performers dance while twirling the knife and doing other acrobatic stunts.