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The Struggle For Wai Has Taken Its Toll

Ed Wendt

By Ed Wendt

It has been a long journey, too long. I am happy the water is restored to East Maui and that our people can go back to farming. I am happy for the kalo, the fish, the opae and ‘o‘opu, and the limu. Life has been restored; all will have life again.

However, I am sad for the people we lost along the way, the kūpuna who didn’t live to see this day, the generations of family farmers we lost because there was no wai, the thousands of huli plants that we now struggle to bring back.

So many years of my life and the lives of so many in our community were spent fighting for wai, years that are forever gone. Where is the justice? Why did it take so long?

The wai started drying up in the 1970’s and 80’s and eventually it was completely gone. Alexander & Baldwin took up to 450 million gallons per day, more than the entire island of O‘ahu consumes, and left us farmers with nothing. It took over 30 years of fighting inside and outside the courtroom to bring justice and the struggle still continues.

I served as a combat paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War. I went to protect everybody’s rights, but my constitutional rights were denied to me and my community. There are many veterans in my community who were also combatants in Vietnam, as well as up through and including the Gulf wars. We fought for America and, yet, this is how we were treated.

As I stated above, I am happy the wai has been returned. There must be a better life for the ‘āina and future generations so the sacrifices of our kūpuna and our community will not have been in vain.