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Remembering Makia Malo, celebrated storyteller and one of the last remaining residents of Kalaupapa

makia malo with book.jpg
(R) Watermark Publishing
Pamela Young and Makia Malo at an event for "My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa."

Celebrated storyteller, educator, and poet Makia Malo died last Saturday, a week shy of his 87th birthday.

He was one of the last remaining residents of Kalaupapa, exiled as a young teen to the Molokaʻi peninsula after he was diagnosed with Hansen's disease — then known as leprosy.

Medical advancements in the 1950s allowed him to travel back and forth between Kalaupapa and Hale Mohalu treatment center on Oʻahu. He would go on to earn his degree in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and wrote a book called "My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa."

Malo was the first college graduate from Kalaupapa and had traveled to Rome for the canonization of Father Damien and then Mother Marianne Cope.

The Conversation shares a clip from an interview that Pamela Young did with Malo that aired on HPR in 2013 as part of a piece by reporter Noe Tanigawa. Also, Honolulu harpist Ruth Freedman, a nurse who spent a decade at Kalaupapa tending to Hansen's disease patients, shares her experience with Malo who knew her by the nickname, “Rooty Tooty.”

"My Name Is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa" by Makia Malo with Pamela Young tells his story. Click here for more information about the memoir. This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 7, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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