The Hawaiian Renascence was in its infancy. The rebirth of language, culture and pride had been midwifed and was being raised by a minority of passionate individuals. One of those was Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
In the fall of 1973, Maxwell's base of operations was ALOHA, Aboriginal Lands of Hawaiian Ancestry. He created the group, which went on to play an active role in the fight against the Navy's use of Kaho'olawe as a bombing range.
A small notice appeared in The Maui News about an afternoon meeting of ALOHA at Kahului School. The sun was high in the sky. A dozen or so mostly young individuals sat facing a table. Behind the table stood Maxwell.
A malihini reporter looking for a story on a slow news day sat off to the side. Maxwell talked about the need for keiki o ka 'aina to unite and reclaim their birthright. He was nahenahe, soft and gentle, but there was a power in his words that had the audience raptly attentive.
The reporter was most taken by what he thought was a handsome Hawaiian couple in the audience. Months later, he learned the couple comprised a Jewish woman from the Mainland and a haole from a kama'aina family. Both had spent hours under the island sun. It took decades before I left the ranks of the uncaring to become one of the non-Hawaiians who cheered Maxwell's causes from the sidelines.
Not long after that, home was a small house on a Pukalani side road. Next door was the home of an AJA carpenter who spent hours cultivating green onions in his backyard. On the other side of the house was the Maxwell place. Sometimes, there was the sound of drums - Nina Maxwell teaching the Pukalani Hula Halau.
Across the street was the home of an active police officer who often had to work during the night and was kept awake by the sound of the halau. It was a point of friction that brought out Charlie's combative instinct to protect his family. The police officer once commented, "Two Hawaiians living on the street. It's too bad we can't get along."
Charles K. Maxwell Sr. used those instincts to protest in favor of shoreline access, protection of burials and the fight for Kaho'olawe. He became best known when he and others convinced Colin Cameron to move the Ritz-Carlton back from a burial ground. The effort, which cost Cameron millions, was the beginning of the Maui/Lanai Islands Burial Council.
The council has a powerful voice in the development of the island. It is an official voice when developments collide with ancient burials. The council's efforts to protect the past for the future also bring Hawaiian issues to mainstream consciousness. Maxwell served on the council for years. He and Dana Hall were the principal public voices for getting ancient Hawaiians treated with respect.
Maxwell wasn't without his critics. "If you want a project without Hawaiian protests, hire Charlie as a consultant," some said. He shrugged off the complaints, maintaining he could wield more influence from the inside, a pragmatic approach that could and did prevent developments from violating Hawaiian culture.
Charlie, as I've always known him, was a frequent writer of letters to the editor. He could get prickly about any changes made in the letters, particularly in his translations of olelo o Hawaii. Usually, he was right but one lighthearted attempt at pidgin went astray.
"No moa Hawaiians, no moa Hawaii," he wrote. I called him. "Charlie, I know just enough Hawaiian to know moa means chicken." There was a pause. He erupted in laughter. We settled on printing "No mo' Hawaiians, no mo' Hawaii."
He and I got a little sideways when I wrote about the bravery of Polynesian voyagers setting off into the unknown. With a touch of heat in his voice, Charlie said the voyagers knew exactly where they were going.
I'd run into him outside the Pukalani Foodland. The meetings brightened my day. He was always upbeat and sure of where he was going, a voyager on the turbulent seas of politics and public opinion.
Despite our disagreements on details and tactics, I considered Charlie a loyal friend. Once when I was criticized for writing in support of a project he and other Hawaiians opposed, Charlie wrote I should be forgiven because I had "a Hawaiian heart." I cherish that compliment and will miss him. Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. gave much to all who love the islands.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.