Words by Sky Schual

Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III stepped up as president of Maui Cultural Lands

Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III
Serving the Land and the Sea. For the son of Puanani and Edwin “Ed” Robert Naleilehua Lindsey Jr., serving the land and the sea is simply second nature.

The Lindseys established Maui Cultural Lands as a nonprofit organization in February 2002. A Native Hawaiian and lifelong school teacher, Ed worked throughout his life to involve the people of Maui—both residents and visitors—with the preservation and restoration of Hawaiian cultural sites. Working side by side with her husband, Puanani shared that kuleana, or responsibility, for the land and its gifts.

When Ed passed in 2009, Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III stepped up as president of MCL. “After my dad’s passing, I’ve really felt him working from beyond, like he’s paving the road for me,” Ekolu says. “I’m amazed at how the work is unfolding, and sometimes I’m just amazed at the words that come out of my mouth because it feels like it’s not really even me talking.”

In 2012, Ekolu spoke about protecting and restoring Hawaiian cultural resources as part of the prestigious TEDX talks. Hundreds of audience members were captivated and inspired by his words and by his strong likeness to his father.

“Our tasks were similar to the monitoring we do here at home: to count fish, take photos of the ocean floor, measure habitats,” Ekolu says. “Our goal was to create a baseline index that we can use to see how our reef compares to a pristine reef, as well as to see how the reef might change in future.”

Stocked with provisions, the Hikianalia headed out early morning June 28. It was Captain Kaleo Wong’s first journey in the role of captain, although he had crewed many voyages in the last two decades. Also on board was Russell Amimoto, who was serving on this voyage as part of The Nature Conservancy’s marine monitoring team. In the past, Russell had captained Hokule‘a, which is a sister vessel to Hikianalia.

Honokowai Valley

Ekolu is taking the lessons learned from his dad and making them into reality. Like when he was paddling in a kayak with his dad and his son Ka‘elo in front of their family home in Lahaina, some 10 years ago. “We were looking in the water, and my dad noticed there were hardly any fish,” Ekolu says. “He told me, ‘Something has to be done! We have to be sure our resources are taken care of.’”

With that urgency in mind, Ekolu cofounded Polanui Hiu in 2010. The group was the first Community Managed Makai Area (CMMA) on the island. “We are taking it upon ourselves to monitor the area,” Ekolu said. “We have to enforce ourselves, to remind ourselves of how to take care of the reef and teach others.”

Ekolu is also a member of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, and vice president of ‘Uhane O Wa‘a Kaulua, which is working to build a double hull voyaging canoe named Naleilehua in honor of his father. Working with The Nature Conservancy, Ekolu is a frequent speaker on matters of conservation and restoration on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island.

Most recently, Ekolu completed a 10-day, 500-mile journey aboard the voyaging canoe Hikianalia. Together with a team of marine biologists, traditional navigators and cultural practitioners, he traveled to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There they completed reef surveys and fish monitoring as part of far-reaching efforts to better manage Hawai‘i’s marine resources.

One steady step at a time, Ekolu continues the journey begun in his father’s footsteps.