Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey
Photograph by Kauila Barber
Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey, Ph.D., is the first female National Geographic fellow and the first Polynesian explorer at the National Geographic Society. An award-winning filmmaker and anthropologist, she is committed to ethnographic rescue, the conservation of vanishing indigenous knowledge and tradition.
A descendant of Hawaiian chiefs, English seafarers, and Chinese merchants, Lindsey was raised by native Hawaiian elders who prophesied her role as a steward of ancestral wisdom. Lindsey's expeditions now take her to some of the most remote regions of the world.
A recent journey took her to Satawal, Micronesia, where Lindsey, who earned her doctorate specializing in ethnonavigation, documented rare and nearly lost traditions of the palu, Micronesian non-instrument navigators. There, Lindsey also recorded Satawalese chants and practices that have never been seen or heard by the outside world. Her mission of ethnographic rescue not only provides a cultural record for future generations, but also serves as the foundation for a global, digital repository, which she is spearheading.
Upcoming expeditions will take Lindsey to Okinawa, New Zealand, Easter Island, South America, Norway, Bhutan, India, and Tibet. In addition to recording vanishing traditions, Lindsey serves as executive producer of a multipart television series for PBS in partnership with the National Geographic Society.
Lindsey has shared her passion for indigenous science with audiences throughout the world, including at Oxford University, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Her documentary film, Then There Were None, which chronicles the near extinction of native Hawaiians, is considered a Hawaiian history classic and has received numerous awards, including the prestigious CINE Eagle.
Lindsey, who has established scholarships that advance literacy and culture and supports orphans in Vietnam and India, was named Woman of the Year in Hawaii in 2004. She serves as an advisor to National Geographic's Enduring Voices project, the trustees of the Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawaii-Hilo, and the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, and she is a member of the board of PBS Hawaii.
A resident of Hawaii and California, Lindsey considers herself a citizen of the world.
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Using the ancient art and science of wayfinding, Elizabeth Lindsey and her team set sail for the Soloman Islands.
National Geographic Fellow Elizabeth Lindsey gives a TED talk on collecting cultural knowledge.
Listen to Elizabeth Lindsey
Hear an interview with Lindsey on National Geographic Weekend.
00:09:00 Elizabeth Lindsey
Most of human history existed before the advent of GPS technologies that can pinpoint where we are at any time. National Geographic Fellow and ethnonavigation expert, Elizabeth Lindsey has taken it upon herself to understand what it was like for Polynesian explorers to colonize tiny, remote islands across the south Pacific Ocean. To better appreciate the skills it takes to study the clouds and winds in search of land, Lindsey plans to join a team of Polynesian women who are island-hopping using traditional methods: no GPS, no cellphones and no compass.
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