"I am proud to announce the passage of the Kalaupapa Memorial Act after years of hard work, perseverance, and patience by the people of Kalaupapa and Hawaii," said Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono, following today's approval of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, H.R. 146. Members of the U.S. House passed the land management bill by a vote of 285 to 140.
Congresswoman Hirono introduced the legislation, incorporated in H.R. 146, that authorizes a memorial within the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the island of Molokai. The monument will honor and perpetuate the memory of those Hansen's disease patients who were forcibly relocated to the Kalaupapa Peninsula from 1866 to 1969. Of the approximately 8,000 former patients buried in Kalaupapa, only some 1,300 have marked graves.
"It is especially fitting that we approve this measure one week to the day before Bernard Punikai'a's memorial service in Honolulu," said Hirono. "Bernard is one of many examples of island Hansen's disease patients who led strong, dignified, and compassionate lives despite their physical condition. I also want to recognize the vision and dedication of Ku'ulei Bell, who passed away last month. Ku'ulei served as the president of Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa, the group that will make this memorial a reality."
Once signed into law, the advocacy group, Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, will be responsible for funding the costs that surround the construction of the memorial. The monument's location, size, design, and inscriptions must be approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
"I have visited the preferred site of the Kalaupapa Memorial, just across the roadway from Father Damien's Church, St. Philomena Catholic Church, in Kalawao. And while the memories of the events that transpired in Kalaupapa are still painful, it is my hope the Kalaupapa Memorial will help bring a sense of peace and closure to family members and loved ones who remain," said Hirono.