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Public Statements

Kalaupapa Memorial Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of H.R. 3332.

Kalaupapa is a 2 1/4 -mile-wide shelf of land jutting out beneath sea cliff ranging from 1,600 to 3,000 feet in height on the island of Molokai. It is an incredibly beautiful and isolated area with a unique history.

This bill authorizes the establishment of a memorial at Kalaupapa National Historical Park in the memory of those who were forcibly relocated there because they suffered from or were suspected of having Hansen's disease, or leprosy. Once sent to Kalaupapa, most never saw their homes or their families again.

Kahauliko, Loe, Liilii, Puha, Kini, Lono, Waipio, Kainana, Kaumoana, Nahuina, Lakapu, and Kepihe. These are the names of the first 12 people who were exiled to Kalaupapa on January 6, 1886, 142 years ago.

This poster is a copy of the Kingdom of Hawaii's register, now at the Hawaii State Archives, of those sent to Kalaupapa Peninsula. These first 12 were all Native Hawaiians, nine men and three women. From that day forward until 1969, approximately 8,000 people living in the Hawaii Islands were taken from their families and isolated on Kalaupapa Peninsula, first in Kalawao, and later in the town of Kalaupapa. Because of society's fear of leprosy, which we now call Hansen's disease, food was scarce, and shelter and health care were minimal for the new arrivals. The mortality rate for exiles in the first 5 years was 46 percent due to the poor conditions.

``An Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy'' was first signed into law in 1865 by Lot Kamehameha, the King of Hawaii. The act essentially criminalized the disease. Children, mothers, and fathers were forcibly separated. Children born to parents at Kalaupapa were taken away from their mothers and sent to live in orphanages or with other family members outside of Kalaupapa.

The policy was continued in the Republic of Hawaii after Hawaii was annexed by the United States and into statehood. Hawaii's isolation laws for people with Hansen's disease were not repealed until 1969, 10 years after statehood, even though medications to control the disease have been available since the late 1950s.

Nearly 6,700 of the approximately 8,000 people who have died at Kalaupapa, more than 75 percent, lie in unmarked or unidentifiable graves. Their names are known only in the official records, which are not easily accessible.

A memorial listing the names of those who were exiled to Kalaupapa and died there is a fitting tribute and is consistent with the purpose of the park, to preserve and interpret the Kalaupapa settlement for the education and inspiration of present and future generations.

Many have heard of the sacrifices of Father Damien, who is represented by one of Hawaii's two statues in this Capitol, as well as those of Mother Marianne Cope and Brother Dutton, who each gave decades of their lives to care for the patients at Kalaupapa. Fewer know, however, of the courage and sacrifices of the exiles who were torn from their families and all they knew to make a life in this isolated area. It is important that their lives be remembered.

The Kalaupapa memorial will bring these people back to their rightful places in their family genealogy and history. Many families have gone to Kalaupapa to search for the graves of their ancestors; but with only 1,300 marked graves, most are disappointed.

In a letter of support for the memorial, David and Chris Mahelona explained why they, as Native Hawaiians, feel an urgent need for a monument that would list the names of everyone sent to Kalaupapa.

I quote: ``The naming process and the giving of a Hawaiian name is an important and sacred component of traditional Hawaiian culture. It is said that names carry significant mana, spiritual power, and they are actually a part of the person, just like an arm or leg. In ancient Hawaii, a person's name was one of the most precious possessions unique to that individual, and most times related to an event, an ancestor, or a personality trait. In every case, the kapuna (elders) are always consulted. It was the responsibility of the bearer of the name to carry its weight. Therefore, it is important to remember these people by their names at their final resting place.''

I would also like to read the testimony that Kuulei Bell, president of Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, submitted to Congress. Kuulei, who contracted Hansen's disease at age 6, is now 74. And I recently visited her at Queens Hospital in Honolulu.

Kuulei testified: ``We need to remember the people who have dedicated their lives and came to Kalaupapa. Father Damien, who we love so much, came to take care of all those in Kalaupapa in the 1800s, and he became one of us, contracted the disease, and so we know how this is.

``And also we know that Mother Marianne gave her aloha and love with all the nuns to come and take care of the patients. They need to be remembered.

``These things are so important, and the monument is a big part of our history and our lives.

``So please consider what we are asking for is our history and for our children to know what happened to many of our patients. How sad it was for my mother, who had to wait for me to go and she could not even touch me because of the disease. And I could not even touch my children. These are the things that we should consider, how important it is. These are the memories. So please consider these things. I say these things from my heart and I hope that you hear it.''

Kuulei ended her testimony thus: ``Thank you for listening to this. Aloha and much aloha; much, much mahalo.''

Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization consisting of patient residents at Kalaupapa National Historical Park and their family members and friends, was established in 2003 to promote the value and dignity of the exiles of Kalaupapa and to make certain that the lives of these individuals are honored and remembered through establishment of a memorial or memorials within the boundaries of the park at Kalawao or Kalaupapa.

I want to thank House Natural Resources Committee Chair Nick Rahall and Parks Subcommittee Chair RAUL GRIJALVA for helping to move this important bill to the floor, and I also want to thank my cosponsor, Congressman NEIL ABERCROMBIE, for his strong support and assistance.

Most of all, I send my heartfelt aloha and mahalo to all the members of Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, to all the Kalaupapa patients and their families, and most especially to Kuulei on this momentous day.

I ask all of my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on H.R. 3332.


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