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Episode 60: Self-determination with Malia Akutagawa

Malia Akutagawa was born into the aloha ‘?ina movement: As a child in the 1970s, she watched her uncles and aunties advocating for the ‘?ina—fighting to take down “No Trespassing” signs and reopen trails, fighting to stop the bombing of Kaho‘olawe—and their actions left a great impression on her. Her home island of Moloka‘i was, she says, the least colonized of all the Hawaiian Islands and that led to an independence other islands struggled with.

“When I look at the story of Moloka‘i in many ways we never gave up that fire of aloha ‘?ina because we could feed ourselves. Moloka‘i people are very proud and resilient. To me it’s no surprise that the aloha ‘?ina movement in the 1970s started on Moloka‘i.”

Today Akutagawa is a founder of Sust‘?inable Moloka‘i, an organization dedicated to making all facets of life on Moloka‘i more sustainable: energy, food, housing and more.

“When I look at my role with Sust‘?inable Moloka‘i it’s creating that capacity to control our own destiny: economic development, education, how do you successfully straddle and navigate the modern world.” For Akutagawa self-determination—the ability and right to make one’s own choices—is key. “To me, the future of aloha ‘?ina is the restoration of the l?hui, a healthy planet and having that capacity and autonomy to drive our own decisions.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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