Remembering Byron Mallott * April 6, 1943 – May 8, 2020

          We have suffered a considerable loss with the recent passing of PVS Board Member Byron Mallott.  A native Alaskan and former Lt. Governor of the State of Alaska, Byron was an extraordinary leader, visionary and longtime friend to PVS. He helped to build the special, long standing relationship between Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians.  This special kinship began more than 30 years ago when Byron was CEO of Sealaska.  When canoe builders began plans for Hawaiʻiloa using native materials, a nine-month search of Hawai’i’s forests found no koa trees large enough and healthy enough to build the hulls.  But there was a second source — giant gifts that came to Hawai’i by wind and wave – driftwood logs from the Pacific Northwest.  A phone call was made between two elders – Herb Kawainui Kane and Native Alaskan Judson Brown, who told Herb he needs to call this man and ask him for the trees.  Herb called Byron and asked to purchase two trees from the Alaskan forest.  Byron said no, this will be a gift from us to you, to build your voyaging canoe to carry your traditions and your culture and give pride to your children.  And so two majestic Sitka Spruce trees, children of their forest, were felled and gifted to Hawai’i, and Byron built a bridge and a friendship between two native cultures that will continue to be a large part of his immeasurable legacy.

          Byron explained, ”Both the reality and the symbolism of the [Hawai’iloa] project breathe hope and inspiration into all peoples seeking to maintain their traditions, heritage and culture in a society that does not place a high priority on such things except when they may touch a nerve or help nurture shared values through an expression of such vision, initiative and sheer innate beauty that all can feel ennobled by it….You do it for the Hawaiian people, but it reaches far beyond. In your canoe you carry all of us who share your vision and aspiration for a people to live and prosper with their future firmly built on the knowledge of their heritage and tradition.”

          “It’s impossible to measure Byron’s impact, but over the years he would constantly send these gifts from Alaska that would grow the Hawai‘i-Alaska friendship and our shared commitment to uplifting ancestral knowledge and nature,” said PVS president Nainoa Thompson.  “His beliefs were deeply rooted in who he is as a native and he was always working courageously and fiercely to make the world a better place for future generations.” 

Our aloha and love go out to the Mallott ‘Ohana.

(All photos are courtesy of Sealaska and Kamehameha Schools)


In memory of Byron, we share these links to past stories and videos:

Byron Mallot’s inspirational talk at the Mālama Honua Summit, June 2017

The building of Hawaiʻiloa

Returning to the Koa Forest after 30 Years

Video Highlights from 2019 Alaska-Hawaiʻi Conference “Hoʻoilina: Empowering our Traditions of Exploration” 

Hōkūle’a Mo’olelo: Joey Mallott (son of Byron)

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