Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hawaii

Most Americans, at least most Americans in the forty-nine continental states, don’t realize that the encounter of native Hawaiians with Europeans has been nearly as tragic as the encounter with Native Americans on the continent. Europeans brought their diseases to Hawaii just as they did to North America, and just as in North America, the native population did not have the immunity to resist them. The need to cope with the new diseases led to two tragedies on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of the island of Moloka`I: first the removal of indigenous people from the peninsula in 1865 and 1895, and second the forced isolation of sick people there from 1866 until 1969. Hansen’s disease, commonly called leprosy, kills very slowly, but it causes such horrible disfigurement that victims in many cultures were removed from the contact with society, forced into isolation, and stigmatized for life. Leprosy reached Hawaii in the 1830s. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Hawaiian people suffered death and disfigurement at alarming rates. The Kingdom of Hawai`i took action by setting aside land on the Kalaupapa Peninsula for confining leprosy patients, removing the native residents of the peninsula, and requiring police and district justices to arrest any persons suspected of having leprosy. Within the Kalaupapa National Historical Park are the historic Hansen’s disease settlements of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, including the settlement where Father Damien (Joseph De Veuster) worked and died of the disease. The community of Kalaupapa, on the leeward side of Kalaupapa Peninsula, is still home for many surviving Hansen’s disease patients.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Kalaupapa National Historical Park

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