Hotel spas, rushed souvenir shopping, and crowded hotel pools can sometimes take away from a deeper experience when visiting Maui. This is why we want to highlight one way you can get more out of your getaway in Hawai’i. Whether you are visiting or have lived here your entire life, Maui has a plethora of ways to learn and give back to the Hawaiian culture. One of these ways is donating your time and energy to ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the revitalization of one of Maui's ancient Hawaiian fishponds.
In ancient Hawai’i, loko i`a (fishponds) were used to make sure the community had enough to eat throughout the year. From the very first rock that was placed down, to the required daily maintenance the loko i`a, everyone would help. This was a very community-centered and sacred part of life. Throughout the entire Hawaiian islands, you can find remnants of hundreds of loko i`a that were once used by ancient Hawaiians. On Maui, Kō‘ie‘ie is a historical fishpond in Kihei that has been constantly restored and protected by ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui. Their mission is to keep the fishpond thriving while also educating those who want to learn more. The best part? You and your family can leave your mark on Maui by helping these efforts.
“Fishponds are masterpieces of Hawaiian engineers. They were a means of bringing the community together and a display of remarkable leadership by the ali`i (chiefs). In the uplands, the maka`ainana (commoners) would benefit from the pond’s bounty. Here, the loko i`a kalo and loko wai, were refrigerators for fish such as `o`opu (gobies) and aholehole. Towards the ocean, many fishponds were reserved for the ali`i. People were forbidden to retrieve fish from loko kuapa, such Ko`ie`ie. The fish were used for subsistence, ceremonial purposes, and managed carefully to ensure that the resources were not abused.”
This non-profit is focused on protecting and caring for the fishpond through education, hands-on experiences, and sharing its story with all who visit. They have perfected their programs by approaching the education of the fishpond as a creative process. Through interactive lessons, visitors are not only left feeling like they physically made a difference, but they also leave knowing and understanding cultural lessons and stories they won’t find in a traditional tourist stop.
“We believe in hands-on activities for our visitors. In this meaningful manner visitors have the opportunity to taste, touch, smell, see and listen to the story Ko`ie`ie has to share. All five senses will unknowingly be infected with new knowledge. Whether by tasting freshly picked limu, letting their toes ooze into the sand, smelling the `ehukai (seabreeze), watching the `opio (baby fish) leap in unison or just listening to the soothing surf, Ko`ie`ie tells its story and we kokua (help).”
With the ocean being such a powerful source of energy, the fishpond is always needing constant rebuilding and structure. This is why visitors can stop by at any time of the year! Kō‘ie‘ie is always looking for community members to help maintain its strength and cultural presence. No matter your age, size, physical capabilities, the organization finds a way for everyone to participate, even if it’s just sharing what they learned through word-of-mouth. Other programs you can take part in are the canoe tours where you are out on the Kihei waters with a guide, organized group visits with various learning stations, or even kids activity booklets.
Please visit their website for more information: http://mauifishpond.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for ways you can help, to scheduling visits, or how you can donate.