Hawaiian people lived in this special place for 900 years. Age-old rock walls and rock house platforms speak to the generations of Hawaiian families who made the Kalaupapa Peninsula their home. Living within traditional ahupua`a, or land divisions, Hawaiians managed the land and its bounty to sustain life. Isolated from other humans by almost 2,400 miles of ocean, and from the first Polynesian arrivals by thousands of years, people on Moloka`i and throughout the Hawaiian Islands developed a shared, distinct cultural community.
After European contact, people from all over the world immigrated to this isolated island archipelago to live and work. China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, the United States, European and other nations saw their sons and daughters immigrate to this island paradise. With them came diseases, which impacted the indigenous people most of all. After 1866 a different human community developed on the Kalaupapa Peninsula—people from many cultures and races reflecting Hawai`i’s immigration history, bound together by a shared affliction.
Today the Kalaupapa community remains isolated by geography, but not from society. Members of the Hansen’s disease community come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, and they retain their individuality. Some choose relative seclusion at Kalaupapa while others travel around the world—regularly. But together they, with their families, share a history that binds them with other Hansen’s disease patients around the world.