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After more than a century of turmoil, Kaho‘olawe is poised for a new beginning
Vol. 9, No. 2
April/May 2006

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Taote Sinto 

story by Lynn Cook
photo by Ben Simmons


In 1984, writer Rick Carroll was hiking in Moorea’s Opunohu Valley and saw a marae, a temple, with a hand-lettered sign that read: “restoration by y. sinoto, bishop museum.” Carroll resolved to meet the famed archeologist when he got back to Hawai‘i—he did, and within a year, the two were headed to Rapa Nui together. On the way, Sinoto announced a pit stop back in French Polynesia: on the island of Huahine, where he had been doing extensive archeological work since 1962. Once there, Carroll was captivated by the island, which was just modern enough to have an airport but still traditional enough to sustain a subsistence lifestyle. Inspired, he decided he would write the story of Sinoto’s decades of discovery on Huahine and the island’s long-buried mysteries. The two men sat down, and over cold Hinano beer, drew out a book plan on a Huahine bar’s cocktail napkin.

When the book was begun, there was no funding and no publisher. “At one point, we were ready to color copy the manuscript and sell it out of the trunk of our cars,” says Carroll. Next, everything came to a halt when Carroll was diagnosed with cancer. After he’d healed, he returned to the book, his passion stronger than ever. And now, two decades after that fateful stopover, the book is a reality: Bishop Museum has just published Huahine, Island of the Lost Canoe, Carroll’s tale of Sinoto’s initial 1962 field survey; his work in 1972 rebuilding an ancient fare pote’e, or shrine; his most exciting discovery of all, the 1973 unearthing of the skeleton of a massive voyaging canoe; his 1979 mapping of thirty-five marae sites. It is a tale of adventure, commitment, breakthroughs. But even more, it is a tale of love: for a place, for a people, for a history. Sinoto has changed the way the human story of Polynesia is understood. In return, he has become so identified with the region that he was even immortalized in song by the late great Huahine recording artist Bobby Holcomb. “Taote Sinoto” hit number one on the Papeete pop charts.