Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park

Kalaupapa National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park located in Kalaupapa, Hawaiʻi, on the island of Molokaʻi. Coterminous with the boundaries of Kalawao County and primarily on Kalaupapa peninsula, it was established by Congress in 1980 to expand upon the earlier National Historic Landmark site of the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement. It is administered by the National Park Service.[4][5] Its goal is to preserve the cultural and physical settings of the two leper colonies on the island of Molokaʻi, which operated from 1866 to 1969 and had a total of 8500 residents over the decades.

More than 7300 people live on the remainder of the island, which was a site of cattle ranching and pineapple production for decades. Much of these lands were purchased and controlled by the owners and developers of Molokai Ranch. This part of the island is also a tourist destination.

Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park
Fumigation Hall Kalaupapa.jpeg
Fumigation Hall
Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park is located in Hawaii
Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park
LocationKalaupapa, Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi, USA
Coordinates21°10′40″N 156°57′36″W / 21.17778°N 156.96000°WCoordinates: 21°10′40″N 156°57′36″W / 21.17778°N 156.96000°W
Area10,779 acres (4,362 ha)
ArchitectBoard of Health, Hawaii
Visitation58,875 (2012)[2]
WebsiteKalaupapa National Historical Park
NRHP reference #76002145[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 7, 1976
Designated NHLDJanuary 7, 1976[3]
Designated NHPDecember 22, 1980

History of Kalaupapa peninsula

Archeological evidence has revealed human habitation by indigenous peoples for more than 900 years before European contact. The peninsula has house sites, cultivated taro fields and irrigation systems, stone walls, and temples (heiau), all constructed by ancient residents. "Historical accounts from the early to mid-1800s speak of populations of 1,000 to 2,700 people living on the peninsula, in the valleys, and in the villages" but by 1853, there were only about 140 people remaining after epidemics of Eurasian diseases.[6]

History of the Kalaupapa leprosy settlements (1865 – present)

In 1865 the Kingdom legislature passed a law to try to prevent transmission of leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease after the scientist who discovered the bacterium. The disease had been introduced to the islands about 1830 by foreign workers. At the time it was incurable. Sugar planters had brought pressure on the government as they were worried about the labor supply.[7]

The government arranged for Native Hawaiian inhabitants to be removed from the Kalaupapa to prepare for its development as an isolation settlement for persons with severe leprosy. This cut off the island people's cultural ties and associations with the ʻaina (land), which had been established for centuries.[6]

Bringing patients to the isolation settlements, first at Kalawao and then at Kalaupapa, led to broader dislocations across Hawaiian society. In the long term many families were affected and some divided when a member contracted leprosy. The governments of the Kingdom, and subsequently, the Territory and State of Hawaiʻi tried to control leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), a much feared illness, by relocating patients with severe symptoms to the isolated peninsula. Other patients were treated in quarantine at facilities on the main islands; but families were still broken up in the process.

The first settlement was started on the windward side at Kalawao, followed by one at Kalaupapa. In 1890 a total of 1100 persons with leprosy were living here, the peak of resident population. In those years, they generally had to leave family behind on other islands. The effects of both the broken connections with the ʻaina and of family members "lost" to Kalaupapa are still felt in Hawaiʻi today.[6]

The settlements were administered by the Board of Health, with local financial control held by Rudolph Meyer, a German immigrant who worked for the Moloka'i Ranch and lived on the island. Local supervision for decades was by superintendents of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian ancestry, some appointed from among the patients or family members with persons with leprosy.[7]

Belgian missionary priests from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were among those who cared for persons with leprosy on Molokaʻi. The most well-known was Belgian-born Father Damien, who served there from 1873 to his death in 1889. For his charity he was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint in 2009, the 10th person recognized in what is now the United States. Among other missionaries and caregivers, was Mother Marianne Cope, a nun and administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. As the General Minister of the Sisters of St Francis of Syracuse, she brought six sisters with her to the islands to aid in the care of persons with leprosy and develop the medical facilities.[8] Mother Marianne and sisters of her community developed hospitals, homes and schools on the islands of Oahu and Maui from 1883 to 1888, at which time they traveled to Kalaupapa where she lived and worked there until her death in 1918. In 2012 she was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.[8] Also serving in the colony was Brother Joseph Dutton, who went to Molokai in 1886 to aid the dying Father Damien.

The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts continued to have brothers who devoted their lives to work on Molokai and assist the residents. From the late 20th century, recent figures included Henri Systermans and Fr. Joseph Hendricks, whose death in November 2008[9] marked the end of this 140-year-old tradition. Since St. Marianne arrived in 1888, sixty-five Sisters of St. Francis have maintained a continuous presence in the settlement[10]. There are two Sisters currently residing at the Bishop Home, established by Mother Marianne in 1888 as the Charles R. Bishop Home for Unprotected Leper Girls and Women[11] to care for those she deemed the most vulnerable of the population.

Hansen's disease, found in 1873 to be caused by a bacterium, has been curable since the 1940s with the use of modern antibiotics. There are no active cases of Hansen's disease among residents of the Kalaupapa settlement or on the island of Molokaʻi. After the management of the settlement was turned over to the National Park Service, residents of the former colony were allowed to stay if they chose to do so. They and their descendant families who wish to continue to live in the neighborhood of housing maintained on the peninsula.

Representation in popular culture

  • After being given a high award by the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Belgian missionary-priest Father Damien attracted considerable publicity to the leper colony in the late 19th century; his story was recounted in popular culture and literature.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, who suffered from tuberculosis, then also incurable, visited the Molokaʻi leper colony after Father Damien's death in 1889. He was moved by Damien's care for patients and described the settlement as a "prison fortified by nature." 2000-foot-high mountains cut off the settlement from the rest of the island. He published a 6,000-word open letter praising Father Damien's work.[12] Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired by Mother Marianne and the girls of the Bishop Home. He taught the girls croquet, sent a piano as a gift and wrote a poem to Mother Marianne and sisters. Both a letter about the girls and the poem are published in "The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson" by Graham Balfour.
  • Jack London visited in 1908 and wrote the short stories, "Lepers of Molokai"[13] and "Koolau the Leper"[14] in response.
  • The 1999 movie Molokai, featuring Peter O'Toole and Kris Kristofferson, features the life of Father Damien and his work among persons with leprosy.
  • Alan Brennert's 2003 novel Moloka'i recounts some of the history of the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement through the eyes of fictional character, Rachel Kalama, exiled there at age 8[15]
  • Location for a Hawaii Five-0 investigation into a murder in the episode Kai Pa'ani Nui (Season 7, Episode 15).

Park description

Kalaupapa National Historical Park, established in 1980, preserves the physical settings of the historic Hansen's disease settlements of Kalawao and Kalaupapa. The community of Kalaupapa, on the leeward side of Kalaupapa Peninsula, is still home for a few elderly surviving former Hansen's disease patients. Some were disfigured by the disease before being cured and wanted to continue refuge here. They have shared their memories and experiences of their ordeals and of life on the island.

Surviving structures at Kalawao, on the windward side of the peninsula, are the Protestant church of Siloama, established in 1866, and Saint Philomena Catholic Church, which is associated with the work of St. Father Damien.

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "National Park Service Visitation Statistics". National Park Service. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  3. ^ "Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2007-03-01. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
  4. ^ Apple, Russell A. (September 5, 1975). "Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Inventory Nomination Form. National Park Service. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  5. ^ "Hokukano–Ualapue" (pdf). Photographs. National Park Service. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "The Ancient Hawaiians". National Park Service. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Pennie Moblo, "Ethnic Intercession at Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony, 1871-1887", Pacific Studies Vol. 22, no. 2, 1999 (cached)
  8. ^ a b CNN.com (October 21, 2012). "Mother Marianne becomes an American saint". CNN. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  9. ^ "† Fr. Joseph HENDRIKS sscc (Hawaii) / Congregation of the Sacred Hearts". Ssccpicpus.com. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  10. ^ Kalaupapa, Mailing Address: P. O. Box 2222; Us, HI 96742 Phone:567-6802 Contact. "Frequently Asked Questions - Kalaupapa National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  11. ^ "A Place of Care: Mother Marianne Cope and the Kalaupapa Cultural Landscape (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  12. ^ Tayman, John. "Fear and Loathing in Hawaii: 'Colony'". NPR. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  13. ^ "The Lepers of Molokai". Carl-bell-2.baylor.edu. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  14. ^ "Koolau the Leper". Carl-bell-2.baylor.edu. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  15. ^ Jackson, Kristin (February 9, 2013). "Exploring the tragic beauty of Hawaii's remote Kalaupapa". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 25, 2017.

External links

Father Damien

Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC. or Saint Damien De Veuster (Dutch: Pater Damiaan or Heilige Damiaan van Molokai; 3 January 1840 – 15 April 1889), born Jozef De Veuster, was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious institute. He won recognition for his ministry from 1873 to 1889 in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), who were required to live under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi on the Kalaupapa Peninsula.During this time, he taught the Catholic faith to the people of Hawaii. Father Damien also cared for the patients himself and established leadership within the community to build houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches. He dressed residents' ulcers, built a reservoir, made coffins, dug graves, shared pipes, and ate poi from his hands with them, providing both medical and emotional support.

After eleven years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, Father Damien realized he had also contracted leprosy when he was scalded by hot water and felt no pain. He continued with his work despite the infection but finally succumbed to the disease on 15 April 1889.

Father Damien has been described as a "martyr of charity". He was the tenth person in what is now the United States to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. In both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Father Damien is venerated as a saint. In the Anglican communion, as well as other denominations of Christianity, Damien is considered the spiritual patron for leprosy and outcasts. Father Damien Day, April 15, the day of his passing, is also a minor statewide holiday in Hawaii and to this day Father Damien is the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaii.

Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on 4 June 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day, which is celebrated on 10 May. Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers."

Kalaupapa, Hawaii

Kalaupapa is a small unincorporated community on the island of Molokaʻi, within Kalawao County in the U.S. state of Hawaii. In 1866, during the reign of Kamehameha V, the Hawaii legislature passed a law that resulted in the designation of Molokaʻi as the site for a leper colony, where patients who were seriously affected by Hansen's disease could be quarantined, to prevent them from infecting others. At the time, the disease was little understood: it was believed to be highly contagious and incurable. The communities where people with leprosy lived were under the administration of the Board of Health, which appointed superintendents on the island.

Kalaupapa is located on the Kalaupapa Peninsula at the base of some of the highest sea cliffs in the world; they rise 2,000 feet (610 m) above the Pacific Ocean. In the 1870s a community to support the leper colony was established here; the legislature required people with severe cases to be quarantined on this island in the hope of preventing contagious transmission of Hansen's disease. The area has been preserved as the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park, which takes in the entire county.

Despite the declining population, the post office is still active, having a zip code of 96742.

Leprosy stigma

Leprosy stigma is a type of social stigma, a strong negative feeling towards a person with leprosy relating to their moral status in society. It is also referred to as leprosy-related stigma, leprostigma, and stigma of leprosy. Since ancient times leprosy instilled the practice of fear and avoidance in many societies because of the associated physical disfigurement and lack of understanding behind its cause. Because of the historical trauma the word "leprosy" invokes, the disease is now referred to as Hansen's disease, named after Gerhard Armauer Hansen who discovered Mycobacterium leprae, the bacterial agent that causes Hansen's disease. Those who have suffered from Hansen's disease describe the impact of social stigma as far worse than the physical manifestations despite it being only mildly contagious and pharmacologically curable. This sentiment is echoed by Weis and Ramakrishna, who noted that “the impact of the meaning of the disease may be a greater source of suffering than symptoms of the disease”.

Masanao Goto

Masanao Goto (後藤 昌直, Gotō Masanao, March 6, 1857 – July 9, 1908) was a Japanese leprologist. He was the son of first Shobun Gotō and called as the second Shobun Gotō. He devoted his life to leprosy patients in Japan and on the island of Molokai in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Father Damien had trust in Gōtō's therapy, and he left the message, "I have not the slightest confidence in our American and European doctors to stay my leprosy, I wish to be treated by Dr. Masanao Gotō."

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