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Students learn value of malama through Honokowai Valley trek

By Staff | Mar 3, 2011

Aunty Puanani Lindsey shows students how to make a kukui leaf lei during a recent visit to Honokowai Valley. Photo by Louise Rockett.

HONOKOWAI — Like many Hawaiian virtues, malama has multiple meanings.

In one case, it assumes the character of a sincere message of departure, like adding malama (take care) when saying goodbye.

Then there’s a whole group of organizations that use malama in their slogan, like malama ke aina (take care of the land), malama ke kai (take care of the ocean) or malama Honokowai.

In this instance, malama is the value featured in the 2011 Lahaina News Writing Contest inspired by the life of community leader and Lahaina native son Edwin Lindsey Jr. (1939-2009).

The cultural literary competition challenges West Side youth in grades six through eight and nine through 12 to write about the value of malama.

The grand prize is a pair of Maui Jim Sunglasses. The deadline to enter is April 1.

For a deeper understanding of malama firsthand, a dozen Sacred Hearts School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders joined members of the Lindsey ‘ohana on Feb. 19 for a six-hour trek into the heart of Honokowai Valley, high above the sands of Kaanapali.

Honokowai Valley was a thriving agricultural settlement dating back to 1200 AD that today is being restored by a grassroots land trust, Maui Cultural Lands, founded in 2002 by Lindsey.

The non-profit’s vision is to reinstate balance through education, restoration and preservation.

To this end, Maui Cultural Lands offers weekly guided working tours on Saturdays into the valley for an immersion experience like no other.

Edwin’s wife, Aunty Puanani Lindsey, began the day with a chant in Hawaiian that echoed from one side of the valley to the other.

“My mom always does a kahea before entering with new people to the valley. The kahea is a call out to the kupuna asking for permission to enter; she calls out to akua, aumakua, ohana of Honokowai and acknowledges Naleilehua (my father) in her call asking for entry. We are asking for permission to come out of the cold and walk in the footsteps of our ancestors,” explained Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III.

“As with all things Hawaiian, there is also a kauna or deeper meaning. In this case, one could infer coming out of the cold and into the light of our ancestors to learn their wisdom and warmth; thus enlightening our ‘uhane or spirit,” he added.

The young people from the Catholic academy responded with a chant they learned from their Hawaiian studies teacher, Kumu Kehaunani Ka’auwai.

Eighth-grader Gina Marzo described the chicken-skin experience.

“I felt it was extremely special when we were chanting to the lands. Seeing Aunty Puanani actually be so powerful with her words — it was almost like they (the spirits) hear her, and they were calling back. I thought it was really powerful. When we all chanted to the land, it felt like we were doing something right, and that we were actually helping our community.”

With permission to enter, the students descended down the narrow, winding pathway into another world of archeological treasures, 800-year-old rock walls and thriving native flora.

Aunty Puanani was a resourceful guide, weaving provocative stories into an eco-tour of the native plant life growing along the valley walls and floors.

With the lesson of the day a teaching to malama, the students weeded after lunch preparing the way for planting and watering.

In an interview following the experience, eighth grade student Ali Matthews recalled, “What I liked best about going to Honokowai Valley was probably just being there with caring people and being able to take care of the land and showing our love for the ‘aina.

“I felt that the most rewarding part of the day,” Matthews continued, “was when we cleared an area and then planted, because we got to see the before and after.

Kaile Stockham “learned that malama meant to really care about what you’re doing… to love what you’re doing… and have fun while you’re giving back.

Teak McAfee had a similar view of the value.

“At the valley, I learned that malama is much deeper than just taking care of something. It’s taking care of something with your whole heart and putting your life into it and taking care of it happily.

Ka’elo Lindsey is Ekolu’s son. The sixth grade Sacred Hearts student has been going into the valley since he was three.

He inherited his vision of malama “from my grandpa.

“I’ve learned that malama isn’t just to take care of. You can feel it when you walk into the valley; it’s just all around you. You can’t really tell where it is specifically; you can just see how much work we’ve done from a big patch of grass and weeds and invasive plants. Now it’s full of Native Hawaiian plants in abundance.

Mary Anna Waldrop, the language arts teacher at Sacred Hearts School, joined her students on the Saturday excursion.

She encourages her students to enter the writing contest.

“Any opportunity to allow the students to express themselves is important. Whether that expression is in art or in music or in speaking or in writing, all of it is important. But the writing contest is important, because it makes children stop and think on a deeper level.”

For more information, or for a copy of the contest rules and list of prizes, e-mail lahnews@maui.net or call Editor Mark Vieth at 667-7866.