Of the nearly 8,000 men, women and children sent to Kalaupapa, less than 1,000 have marked graves

Local News

KALAWAO, Hawaii (KHON2) — Beginning in the late 1800s, thousands of men, women and children were removed from the communities that they knew, from parents, spouses, children and siblings because of policies related to leprosy. Those individuals were sent to Kalaupapa, isolated on a difficult to reach peninsula on the northern coast of Moloka’i.

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Decades later a dream formed in the minds of remaining Kalaupapa residents–to establish a memorial as a “place of healing and pride for descendants,” as quoted from the Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa website.

Of the nearly 8,000 individuals sent to Kalaupapa, only around 1,000 graves have been identified, leaving a void for those seeking that place of healing. Those such as the author whose great-grandmother, Mary Kainoakupuna, was sent to Kalaupapa just six months after having given birth to her second child–the first (the author’s grandfather) was only 21 months old. Mary died within seven years of her arrival at Kalaupapa. A grave bearing her name has not been identified–a saddening shock to her great-granddaughter who sought a place to honor a woman she never knew but felt a great connection to.

The Kalaupapa Memorial Act states that the Memorial shall display the names of the nearly 8,000 people who were sent to the original settlement of Kalawao and the current settlement of Kalaupapa.

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa website

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa were authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2009 to establish the memorial. That vision is nearly complete and the ‘Ohana invite the masses to enjoy a virtual concert to be held on their Facebook page and on YouTube, Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. HST. This virtual event will help to raise funds to assist in establishing the memorial.

The concert will feature songs composed by Kalaupapa residents throughout its history — songs such as “The Sunset of Kalaupapa” by Sammy Kuahine, “E Na Kini” by Ernest Kala” and “Kalaupapa: My Hometown,” by Bernard Punikai`a. These songs — many of them forgotten over the years — are being performed by some of Hawai`i’s most talented musicians including Brother Noland, Melveen Leed, Makana, Kevin Brown, Lopaka Ho`opi`i and Stephen Inglis.

To produce the concert, Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa received assistance from CARES Act funding made possible by the Hawai`i Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

To donate, visit The Kalaupapa Memorial Fundraiser page.

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