New federal law creates monument at Kalaupapa


POSTED: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Most of the 8,000 people forced into isolation at Kalaupapa lie in unmarked graves, but a law signed yesterday by President Barack Obama will allow them to be remembered publicly.





        Tax-deductible donations for the Kalaupapa monument may be made to Ka Ohana o Kalaupapa, a registered nonprofit organization. Write to Ka Ohana o Kalaupapa, P.O. Box 1111, Kalaupapa, HI 96742.

For information, visit the Web site www.kalaupapaohana.org.




An organization of former leprosy patients, their families and supporters had pressed for the legislation to create a monument to the people who were quarantined over a 103-year period that ended in 1969.

A nonprofit organization, Ka Ohana o Kalaupapa, must come up with funding under the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, which did not appropriate federal money for the project.

“;I'm not here as a number, I'm a person,”; said Clarence “;Boogie”; Kahilihiwa, 67, one of about 20 former patients who still live in the remote Molokai peninsula. “;I want my name on it.”;

Valerie Monson, secretary of Ka Ohana o Kalaupapa, said the monument was one of the priorities of the organization when it was formed in 2003. “;It is to recognize the great sacrifices that everyone who was sent here made, and their contributions to society and to their families.”;

Monson said passage of the bill “;is timely because of the upcoming canonization of Father Damien.”; The missionary priest, who died in 1889 of leprosy after serving in Kalaupapa for 16 years, will be declared a saint in an October ceremony at the Vatican. “;The monument will make sure that everyone will be remembered, not just Father Damien. The people of Kalawao were inspired by Damien, and I think Damien was inspired by the people of Kalawao,”; she said.

To curb an epidemic of the disease, King Kamehameha IV in 1866 ordered victims be transported to the eastern, windward side of the peninsula, called Kalawao. As the population grew, the kingdom of Hawaii extended the settlement to the leeward end of the 5-square-mile peninsula. The quarantine continued until 1969, although drugs that arrest the disease were developed in the 1940s.

Ka Ohana o Kalaupapa researchers Anwei Skinsnes Law and Bernard Law are searching the State Archives and have recorded the first 5,000 names of people sent between 1866 and 1896. The project will eventually list the names on a Web site.

Monson said the 1,300 graves that do have identifiable headstones are mostly of people who died since 1930. About 90 percent of those who died in Kalaupapa were of Hawaiian ancestry.

The National Park Service has administered the Kalaupapa peninsula as a national historic park since 1980. The state Department of Health staffs a small hospital and provides nursing care for the aging population of patients, and shares administrative functions in the settlement, which has a population of less than 100 people.

Obama invited U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka to witness his signing of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Hirono introduced the monument bill, and Akaka took a companion version to the Senate.

Akaka said the monument will honor the patients' resolve and help bring closure to their descendants.

“;It will keep the memory of this tragic chapter of Hawaii's history alive for future generations to learn from,”; he said.