homepage logo

Ed Lindsey — invaluable legacy lives on

By Staff | Dec 10, 2009

Pua Lindsey (left) talks story about one of her favorite plants with a potential volunteer.

HONOKOWAI  VALLEY — More than three years ago, Edwin (Ed) Robert Naleilehua Lindsey Jr., kupuna (respected elder), retired school teacher, protector of the ‘aina (land) and advocate for, and practitioner of, Hawaiian culture and values, sat down for an interview for the first “Beyond the Beach” column.

Nine months ago, Ed provided eloquent testimony on behalf of the West Maui Hospital and Medical Center before the State Health Planning and Development Agency, helping it gain unanimous approval. It is unclear whether Ed had cancer at the time, but typically he did not wear the fact that he had cancer on his sleeve.

Each anniversary year of “Beyond the Beach,” thought was given (but never acted upon) to do another interview with Ed.

Alas, Ed, at 70, passed away June 24, far too prematurely for the hundreds he touched, including this writer.

“One of the lessons I have learned,” Ed said in my one and only formal interview with him, “is that you will be remembered for what you have done in life. At your wake, your survivors will get 20 minutes to say what your life meant.”

Twenty minutes would not begin to cover all that Ed achieved. And so his memorial celebration — filled with tributes and song — lasted at least 90 minutes, with much still left unsaid.

Among the achievements almost too long to list were spearheading or playing a leadership role in Maui Coastal Land Trust (to stabilize and restore cultural lands), Project Malama Honokowai Valley, Project Malama Ukumehame, Project Malama Kaheawa-Hanaula, Hui O Wa‘a Kaulua (building a double-hulled voyaging canoe), ‘Ohana Coalition (political group) and the Kaanapali 2020 advisory/planning group.

In May, the Maui County Council recognized Ed as “a beloved Maui treasure.” In a eulogy, he was also described as “a Hawaiian warrior.”

The pride and joy of this man of aloha,

beyond his family, was the restoration of Honokowai Valley village far above the last Sugar Cane Train stop along Honoapiilani Highway.

Six-thousand Hawaiians lived there for centuries, tending well-irrigated taro patches (there was no “show me the water bill”) amid stone walls still in place below a large cliff.

Today, Ed’s work continues much like it always has.

One recent Saturday, some 40 volunteers headed into the valley to carry on the job of clearing away invasive species and planting native flower and fauna.

Puanani Lindsey, Ed’s wife of 45 years who worked alongside him in the valley, has continued where Ed left off. New volunteers began with a tour of the new plantings, with Pua telling stories about the medicinal value of each plant, including two in Hawaiian legend with matching flowers representing two separated lovers.

When fiery red ants attacked her bare legs, she simply walked over to a plant, squeezed juice from the leaves, and applied it to good effect to eliminate the pain.

Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III, the pair’s son, listened nearby, committed to a leadership role for the project in the years to come. He absorbed his mother’s talk story so he could repeat it someday. Then it was his turn, strolling along with the visitors to explain the stone-walled taro patches.

Although the trip to the valley began early, work for quite a few of the volunteers didn’t start until about 11:30 a.m., when a chain gang was formed to bring small chunks of tree trunks and branches up from a gully to the road, where they would be turned into wood chips for pickup and hauling away.

Veterans of the effort had been at work since 10 a.m., using chain saws to cut down trees, then sending their remains to a kind of chain gang.

The Honokowai project is not just about reforestation. It is also about providing a much-needed cultural experience — a way for those who work there, including Hawaiians who have not been in touch with their culture.

Pua often leads community groups up to the valley, a trip that generally yields new recruits. Participation is largely confined to locals. All residents need to do is show up, almost any Saturday at 9 a.m. at the train station.

Two volunteers, formerly of California, joined up after looking for a volunteer opportunity.  They’ve worked in the valley every week all year.

A lady from India who lives in Germany, who also worked in the valley for a year, received a fond farewell.

All were following  the advice of Ed Lindsey himself, who noted in the column: “Join a hula halau (hula school), join a nonprofit. There are lots of Hawaiian non-profits out there. This is how you extend yourself. You bring certain skills, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, a dentist, Indian chief, salesman. This is what you share, and this can be more fulfilling than staying with just birds of a feather (meaning the people you usually hang out with). People need to work together for the betterment of the island. Yes, it is a long trip, but as the Chinese say, its starts with a single step.”