It’s easy to fall in love with Maui—the beautiful scenery, sunny weather and aloha spirit. However, many visitors to Maui only scrape the surface when it comes to learning about the Hawaiian host culture. When you dig a little deeper, you can create a more enriching experience. So, venture beyond luaus and staged events into one of Maui’s remote mountain valleys and volunteer to help restore a heiau (a Hawaiian sacred place). Maui Cultural Lands accepts visiting volunteers to help clear miles of ancient rock walls, home sites and heiau. Volunteers also plant native plants and trees. You will receive much more in historical knowledge, indigenous plant and animal life information and Hawaiian culture than you give by working the land for a few hours.
One site, Honokowai on Maui’s west side, is where it all began for Maui Cultural Lands. An extensive archeological survey was conducted in 1999 revealing many archaeological sites in Honokowai valley. Though covered with a tangle of overgrowth, findings showed a valley that once was a self-sufficient village of about 600 families, likely dating from more than a century ago. This includes homes, farms, trails and heiaus.
When growing sugarcane dominated the island’s economy by the 1920s, stream water was diverted to cultivate more acres. Without fresh water, the village was not sustainable and all of the residents were displaced.
When Ed Lindsey founded Maui Cultural Lands in 2002, Honokowai was number one on the list of cultural sites to restore due to its historic significance and prolific archaeological remains.
Since 2002, volunteers have diligently worked, clearing over 10 acres of the valley, uncovering miles of rock walls, along with home sites and heiau. Thousands of native plants and trees have been planted, lo‘i (terraced planting area) for dryland taro have been established, along with vegetable gardens, and even a simple hale (structure).
But there is much still to do, as this is just a small portion of the architectural remains that stretch up into the valley, as well as cleared areas needing continued maintenance. In addition, work in Honokowai, Maui Cultural Lands has taken on other restoration projects around the island in Kaheawa – Hanaula, Launiupoko and Ukumehame.
If you love the outdoors and want to truly learn about Maui’s history and culture, sign up to volunteer with Maui Cultural Lands. Note this is not a commercial venture- come prepared to get dirty! You can also help by making a donation. From the MCL website:
“Kalo (taro) offers both leaves and corm for harvest, and at the core of every plant is the huli, the piece given back to the earth in the propagation of the next bountiful harvest. If in your core there’s a call to help Maui Cultural Lands, please give as whole-heartedly as the generous kalo.”