Kalaupapa National Historic Site
Kalaupapa National Historic Site Reviews
That we might not forget Aug 12, 2011
Kalaupapa National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park located in Kalaupapa, Hawaiʻi on the island of Molokaʻi. It was established by the National Park Service in 1980 to expand upon the earlier National Historic Landmark site of the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement. Its goal is to preserve the cultural and physical settings of the two leper colonies on the island of Molokaʻi.
The removal of the Native Hawaiian inhabitants in 1865 cut the cultural ties and associations that preceding generations had established with the ʻaina (land) over 900 years.
Thereafter, the establishment of isolation settlements, first at Kalawao and then at Kalaupapa, led to broader dislocations across Hawaiian society as the Kingdom, and subsequently, the Territory of Hawaiʻi tried to control leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), a much feared illness, by forcibly relocating patients to the isolated peninsula. The impact of both the broken connections with the ʻaina and of family members "lost" to Kalaupapa are still felt in Hawaiʻi today.
Hansen's disease, caused by a bacteria-based infection, has been cured since the 1940s with the introduction of modern antibiotics. There are no active cases of Hansen's disease in the Kalaupapa settlement or on the Island of Molokaʻi, and those who reside in the colony presently are the few remaining elderly former disease patients and their descendant families who wish to continue to live in the neighborhood of housing maintained on the peninsula.
The controversial figure of Belgian missionary-priest Father Damien brought considerable attention to the leper colony both in the late 19th century but also in subsequent literature and popular culture. (He would be canonized in 2009 as a Catholic saint.) Robert Louis Stevenson described the Molokaʻi leper colony as a "prison fortified by nature". Jack London visited in 1908 and wrote the Lepers of Molokai and Koolau the Leper in response. The 1999 movie Molokai featuring Peter O'Toole and Kris Kristofferson focuses on the story of Father Damien and the leper colony.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park, established in 1980, preserves the physical settings for these stories. Within its boundaries are 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-scarred patients, whose memories and experiences of their ordeals with surviving the disease are cherished. In Kalawao on the windward side of the peninsula are the churches of Siloama, established in 1866, and Saint Philomena, associated with the work of St. Father Damien.
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