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Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark District
U.S. National Historical Park
Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park is located in Hawaii
Location: Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi, USA
Nearest city: Kaunakakai, Hawaii
Coordinates: 21°10′40″N 156°57′36″W / 21.17778°N 156.96°W / 21.17778; -156.96Coordinates: 21°10′40″N 156°57′36″W / 21.17778°N 156.96°W / 21.17778; -156.96
Area: 10,779 acres (4,362 ha)
Built/Founded: 1866
Architect: Board of Health, Hawaii
Visitation: 48,772 (2005)
Governing body: National Park Service
Added to NRHP: January 7, 1976
Designated NHLD: January 7, 1976[2]
Designated NHP: December 22, 1980
NRHP Reference#: 76002145[1]

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.[3] Its goal is to preserve the cultural and physical settings of the two leper colonies on the island of Molokaʻi.


Establishment of leper colony

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 Leper Colony in popular culture

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".[4] Jack London visited in 1908 and wrote the Lepers of Molokai[5] and Koolau the Leper[6] in response. The 1999 movie Molokai featuring Peter O'Toole and Kris Kristofferson focuses on the story of Father Damien and the leper colony.

Long after the death of Father Damien, Belgian missionary priests from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary continued to devote their lives to work on Molokai and assist its ex-leper flock, most recent figures including Henri Systermans and Fr. Joseph Hendricks whose death in November 2008[7] marked the end of this 140 year old tradition.

A leper colony in Hawaiʻi, possibly the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park, appeared in "Little Big Mom", an episode of The Simpsons. Bart and Homer were sent there after faking leprosy using oatmeal.

Park description

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.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.  
  2. ^ "Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-04.  
  3. ^ NHL Writeup
  4. ^ Tayman, John. "Fear and Loathing in Hawaii: 'Colony'". NPR. Retrieved 2009-10-12.  
  5. ^ "The Lepers of Molokai". Retrieved 2009-10-12.  
  6. ^ "Koolau the Leper". Retrieved 2009-10-12.  
  7. ^ "† Fr. Joseph HENDRIKS sscc (Hawaii) / Congregation of the Sacred Hearts". Retrieved 2009-10-12.  

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