Above, last year’s lei making event, June 2022. (Video by Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)
By Susan Enright.
Every June 30th, members of Hui Mālama Makanalua, a group of students, alumni, and faculty affiliated with the History Club at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, place lei on every known gravesite on the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai to honor kūpuna who were sent to the settlement because of Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
On Sunday, June 25, 2023, the group will be gathering to make more tī-leaf lei for the project at 1:00 to 5:00p.m. on the lānai at Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.
“Everyone is welcome to join us in this effort,” says UH Hilo Professor of History Kerri Inglis in an email shared with the UH Hilo community on June 21. “We will have lā‘ī (tī leaves) available, but are also accepting donations of leaves or donations of lei, which can be dropped off to us on Sunday or any other day on campus this week. We will be shipping all lei to Kalaupapa on Mon., June 26th.”
For those wishing to make lei on their own, in order to prevent the spread of any invasive species to Molokai, everyone is asked to:
- Rinse/clean leaves after picking.
- Prepare leaves by applying heat or freezing.
- Once lei are braided, place in a ziploc bag with the number of lei marked on the bag.
- If not dropping off lei that same day, place bag of lei in the freezer.
Inglis asks that the lei be approximately 36 inches in length, noting that there are many large headstones where they are placed.
“We hope you will consider joining us this Sunday and/or make a donation of lā‘ī or tī-leaf lei,” says Inglis. “If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to contact me.”
Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.