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The Next Time You’re in Maui, Connect With Its Cultural Lands

By Aislyn Greene

Sep 2, 2021

From the September/October 2021 issue

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ALOHA—which carries many cultural meanings—written in coral in the lava fields of Kona on the island of Hawai‘i.

Photo by Brendan George Ko

ALOHA—which carries many cultural meanings—written in coral in the lava fields of Kona on the island of Hawai‘i.

On a volunteer outing with Maui Cultural Lands, travelers can explore the island’s rich archaeological history—and help restore precious lands.

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With Maui Cultural Lands, president Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey invites travelers to make a positive impact on the island’s natural spaces.

[Maui Cultural Lands] was really my dad’s brainchild. In the mid-’90s, when sugar was no longer a viable option on West Maui and big companies started to leave, all these lands came up for sale. My dad and a few others who had hiked a lot of the valleys had found Honokowai Valley to be the most archaeologically rich. Looking at all the development, he wanted to make sure there was a presence here that was going to protect these cultural resources and also bring awareness to all the other valleys that have it too.

We have several projects that are ongoing. Malama Honokowai—malama means “to take care of”—is our main project. But we also take care of a heiau, which is a place of worship specific to women. It’s in a place called Launiupoko, which means the small leaf of the coconut tree. We also take care of a place called Kaheawa, where the wind turbines are. We find that a lot of people come [volunteer with us] because they want to do something different. They’ve done the mai tais, the beach, the pool, the drives, the sunset. They’re looking for something a little bit more authentic.

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If you [join an outing with us] first we do proper protocol, which is a chant asking for permission to enter the land. In this case, you are entering a sacred place. Once we enter that space, we do a bit of work, which mostly involves invasive species removal. The site is along the Honokowai Stream Corridor and the idea is to reduce the amount of sediment that may be washed into the stream through larger rain events. We’re not going to stop it all, but at least we can lessen the amount because in addition to the ocean’s temperature change, sediment is a huge killer of our coral reefs.

We work for about 90 minutes, and then we’ll walk around. We’ll learn about different plants, answer any questions. We’ll start real simple with the names of the wind and the rain. I also talk about the water cycle through a Hawai‘ian lens using the different gods.

The vision from my dad that I try to carry on is that people need to understand why these cultural resources—in this case the archaeology and the plants and the rocks—are important to maintain. You don’t know what secrets they hold that we haven’t discovered yet.” —as told to Aislyn Greene

>>Next: A Better Way to Visit Hawaiʻi

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