Keli’imakekau-o-Nu`uanu was born in Kailua , Kona on Oct. 5, 1819 to Naohulelua (kane) and Kuniakea (wahine). Through his father’s side, he was a descendant of Liloa, Ali’i Nui o Hawaii, who resided in Waipio on the Big Island. Through his mother’s side, he was a descendant of the Kahunanui Hewahewa
He was named for a makua, either a parent or person of parent’s generation, who was given that name by King Kamehameha I himself. (Keli’imakekau-o-Nu`uanu refers to the ali’i who distinguished himself at the battle of Nu`uanu which Kamehameha fought to successfully defeat the armies of the king of Oahu. Because that ancestor fought so fiercely, he was honored by Kamehameha to commemorate his warrior skills.)
Tutu Makekau became a Christian and following the western manner, was baptized under the name “Abel”. Because of his staunch Christian faith, he was known as “E kupa’a ma ka Pono.” He was a deacon at Waine’e, a Kalawina church in Lahaina and served under several Kahu. Still, he observed many traditional customs, especially those that didn’t compromise his new Christian faith, which at the time, was puritanical in orientation.
His family moved to Lahaina, which was the capital of Hawaii at that time. He joined his half-brother, Kalanikini, attending Lahainaluna School, which had just opened. Later, Kalanikini sent for Tutu Makekau and their mother, Kuniakea to join him.
He worked for the H.P. Baldwin and was a trusted employee who was given much responsibility because of his employer’s high regard for him. Tutu served as luna for over 30 years. He was familiarly known as “Makekau kane” or Mr. Makekau in western equivalency. Makekau derived from the last part of his name.
Through the Great Mahele of 1846, as an ali’i, Tutu Makekau received lands. The Makekau Estates ran from the sugar mill to Lahainaluna School.
In 1851, he married Meli Kahiwa Swinton, a descendant of the highest chiefs of Molokai. She was beautiful and showed her English blood by her fair completion, features and green eyes. Tutu Makekau on the other hand was a pure blooded, very dark Hawaiian and was plain. Our kupuna often said they didn’t know how he landed that beautiful girl. Together, they had 14 children: Hattie Kalanikuinuiamamao, Harriet “Hattie” Nahienaena, David Kala’i-o-Hauola, Maile Akahiakulena, Charles Kuapu’uikealoonaali’i, Jennie Kaakaakaanaali’i, Sam Umihulumakaokalani, Naohulelua, Ramon Hoe, Lele Kekuhemahemaanaikealo’oKahekili, Tamar Piehu, Iamima, Alice Hakaleleponi, and Abel Nakaielua
In 1907, when he was 88, his daughter Jenny Saffrey sent for him to come to visit her in Kukuiha’ele. Tutu Makekau took his granddaughter, Eliza Duncan, to assist him as a traveling companion because he was old and walked with a cane. While there, he died of heart failure on Oct. 16, 1907.