History & Culture
Kalaupapa serves as a reminder of a nation in crisis when Hawaiian people were exposed to diseases for which they had no immunities. Options for preventing the spread of contagious diseases were few. Isolation for leprosy seemed like the best solution but came at a high personal price.
Kalaupapa, once a community in isolation, now serves as a place for education and contemplation. It is a place where many families in Hawai'i can reconnect with a grandparent or relative once considered "lost". It is a place where past suffering has given way to personal pride about accomplishments made in the face of great adversity. It is a place where we can reconsider our responses to people with disfiguring disabilities or illnesses. It is a place where the land has the power to heal - because of its human history, natural history and stunning physical beauty.
On the History and Culture page you can learn about the people, places, and stories of Kalaupapa. Here you can learn about the museum collection of thousands of artifacts, all stored in the park's museum collections facility, Hale Malama. These resources are meant to expand your knowledge about the thousands of people who were sent here and foster public understanding of Hansen's disease.
About Hansen's Disease
Hansen's disease, more commonly known as leprosy, is one of the world's most misunderstood and feared diseases. For centuries people have shunned the those afflicted and forced those with the disease to live in isolation. Now it is known, the disease is one of the least communicable of all diseases and is easily treated. Learn more about Hansen's disease.
Hawaiians lived at Kalaupapa 900 years before Hansen's disease settlements were established. Generations of families had developed spiritual and subsistence connections to the 'aina, or land. Learn more about the Hawaiians and their culture.
A Brief History of Kalaupapa
Kalaupapa is a place with a rich and complex history spanning numerous eras. From the ancient Hawaiians to today, people have been inhabiting Kalaupapa peninsula. Read about the History of Kalaupapa and the different peoples that have contributed to this history.
Na Kokua - The Helpers
Hansen's disease patients were not the only people who went to Kalaupapa. Friends, family, and others who wanted to ease the emotional and physical suffering of the patients also came to Kalaupapa. Read more about the kokua - the people who came to help.
Since the very first patients arrived at Kalaupapa records and their stories have been recorded. This data offers a detailed view into what a life in isolation at Kalaupapa was like. Learn about the patient experience through their own testimonials.
Archaeology of Kalaupapa
Kalaupapa peninsula is rich with archaeological resources, some dating back more than 1,000 years. Learn more about the archaeological sites and what they teach us about the past.
The buildings of Kalaupapa help tell the stories of the people that lived here. The National Park Service preserves and restores many of these buildings so future generations may learn from them. Learn more about the buildings and how they are being maintained.
For people in Kalaupapa, life is a little quieter than other places. There are no restaurants, no movie theaters, no shopping malls, and only a few miles of road to drive. But in many respects it offers more fellowship and opportunities for people to come together as a community than in many American towns. Learn about what life is like today in Kalaupapa.
Did You Know?
Father Damien's life and death among his people at Kalaupapa focussed the attention of the world on the problem of leprosy and the plight of its victims. After Damien's death in 1889, the people of England established a fund and a commission for the scientific investigation of the disease.