The edges of the canoe were smooth to the touch and the whole thing looked powerful even just resting in its stand, like a racehorse at the gates. A few Wampanoag tribal members helped guide the formation of the canoe with a patient care, using a single piece of wood to burn out a hollow in the log, a technique perfected centuries ago.

Jonathan Perry creates canoe the traditional way, by burning out inside of log. — Mark Lovewell

This particular kind of handmade canoe is called a muhsh8n (pronounced mishoon). It had been burning for over a week straight.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is building the muhsh8n in preparation for the arrival of the Hokule’a on Tuesday. The Hokule’a is the same kind of vessel that Polynesians sailed in the Pacific a thousand years before the arrival of Europeans. It is circumnavigating the globe and has used only birds, waves and the stars for guidance since leaving her homeport in Hawaii. When the Wampanoag people heard of the Hokule’a’s voyage, the tribal committee decided to welcome her to Martha’s Vineyard. They will wear traditional tribal clothing and paddle out to greet her in the muhsh8n.

On Wednesday morning, tribal members Jonathan Perry, Adahy Gonsalves, Andrew DeVito and Steve Craddock were working on the muhsh8n. Mr. Perry described the significance of the Polynesian people connecting with Vineyard Wampanoags.

“There’s a number of things that are going on here,” he said. “We have an indigenous group of people who specifically want to meet with us as an indigenous group of people. For us to do it in our traditional clothing and traditional style of vessel is important.”

The aspect of tribal connection for the ceremony of the Hokule’a’s arrival has extended to other native societies. Wampanoag Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop said that the log used to build the muhsh8n is a gift from the Eastern Pequot Tribe.

Twenty-six-foot long canoe will hold up to six tribe members. — Mark Lovewell

“It’s quite remarkable,” he said.

The muhsh8n is 26 feet long and is expected to hold six tribe members. The final step before it launches on Tuesday is to shape the ends into points that are designed for the open ocean.

Muhsh8ns were an important part of the Nantucket, Cape Cod and Vineyard whaling industry. Though this vessel will rely on paddles and manpower, whaling muhsh8ns had sails and lookouts built in the centers of the boats.

“This vessel symbolizes our strong connection to the ocean and the ocean world,” Mr. Perry said. “That is one of the main things that kept our society alive for many thousands of years.”