Story by Sky Barnhart
Edwin Robert Naleilehua Lindsey Jr.
1939 – 2009
He stood solidly against the earth. Legs as strong as the trunks of trees, face that could be stern as pohaku, or full of laughter as a child. His hazel eyes in the last weeks of his life were softened, changed, already looking beyond this world into the realm of his beloved parents and his ancestors.
But Edwin Robert Naleilehua Lindsey Jr. was not ready to let go. His deep love for his family, for his treasured wife and partner Puanani, for his children and his grandchildren, was a tie to life that he would not break.
And then there was the work. “Enough work for five lifetimes,” he often described the restoration of Honokowai Valley. But Ed knew he only had one life this time around, and when the cancer which had gone into remission five years before returned, that time dwindled to six months, the doctors told him. It was not enough time, not enough to grow old with his family, not enough to complete the important work to be done.
Now a Hawaiian wa‘a (canoe) is being built at Olowalu, a canoe that Ed christened “Naleilehua.” He always knew he would pass the steering paddle along to the next generation—his job was to point the wa‘a in the right direction. Sometimes that task seemed huge, as big as the island of Maui, as big as the ocean surrounding his ancestral Lahaina home. He loved that ocean. He fought for it with all the fibers of his body, for its prolonged health, for the sanctity of life which it sustained and the minutest life within it. He fought also for the land, for the lush overgrown valleys of the West Side, for the windswept hills of Hanaula, for the native dryland forests of Makena. He knew he could never stop fighting.
But he did not fight with anger—he was past the anger. Instead, he had mastered the remarkable skill of bringing people together, people with very different opinions and viewpoints. He did not judge on race or background; he judged on what was in your heart. He practiced what he preached, and what he preached was aloha—to the schoolchildren he taught at Hana and ‘Iao Schools, to the volunteers he guided at Honokowai and Kaheawa, to the officials who took his testimony at public meetings, to the corporations who looked to him as a cultural expert, to the community who listened to him as a kupuna.
In the face of joy and in the face of sorrow, Ed’s final words—and his father’s before him—were always “aloha” and “malama.”
He leaves behind an immense void, as deep and long as Honokowai Valley, where he once stood on the mountainside, calling out, “E, Tutu!”—where his voice now joins the echoes of his ancestors.
— Sky Barnhart
In his “retirement” from 25 years of teaching, Ed Lindsey served as president of Maui Cultural Lands, Inc.; president of the Ohana Coalition; a founding member of Hui O Wa‘a Kaulua; co-founder of the Maui Nui Marine Resources Council; organizer of Kilakila O Haleakala; and was active in Na Kupuna O Maui and Ka‘anapali 2020, among many other activities. The Maui County Council passed a ceremonial resolution in May honoring Uncle Ed as a “beloved Maui treasure.”