Frequently Asked Questions

A black and white image of three people, two young boys, and an adult.
Boys with Hansen's Disease with Brother Dutton.

Hawai'i State Archives

About Hansen's Disease

What causes Hansen's disease (leprosy)?
Hansen’s disease (named for Norwegian scientist Gerhard Armauer Hansen) is a chronic, infectious disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. This disease usually affects the nerves, skin and eyes.

Why is leprosy called Hansen’s disease?
There is a strong negative association with the derogatory term "leper." In the United States the disease's name has been changed officially to Hansen's disease.

How contagious is Hansen’s disease?
Hansen’s disease is one of the least contagious of all communicable diseases. Only 5% of the world’s population are susceptible to the disease. It is very difficult to contract.

Can the disease be treated?
In 1941 Dr. Guy Faget used a sulfone drug, promin, to treat Hansen’s disease patients in the US Public Health Service National Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana. Additional drugs were developed and today three drugs—dapsone, rifampin, and clofazimine—are used to render cases non-infectious. This treatment, lasting from six months to two years, is known as Multi-Drug Therapy.

Does Hansen’s disease still exist around the world?
There are approximately 1.15 million registered cases of the disease according to the World Health Organization. Hansen’s disease can be found in 55 countries around the world.

About the Park

Where is Kalaupapa National Historical Park?
The park is on the north shore of the island of Moloka`i, Hawai`i, in Kalawao County. It is a unit of the National Park System.

When was the park established?
President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-565 establishing the park on December 22, 1980.

How is the park managed?
Nearly all of the land within the 10,700+ acre authorized boundary remains in non-federal ownership, managed by the National Park Service through several cooperative agreements. Land owners include the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; and the State of Hawai`i departments of Health, Transportation, and Land & Natural Resources. The National Park Service owns the Moloka`i Light Station and 22 acres surrounding it. The U.S. Coast Guard still oversees operation of the light.


About the Peninsula History

Were there people living on the Kalaupapa Peninsula before the isolation settlement at Kalawao was established in 1866?
This peninsula, surrounded on three sides by ocean and on the fourth by steep sea cliffs, was inhabited for at least 900 years by Hawaiian people. The peninsula and its valleys supported a population that was known for its sweet potatoes, fishing grounds, salt deposits, and varieties of kapa (tapa, bark cloth). Under Kamehameha IV, Liholiho, the Kingdom's Board of Health acquired three land divisions. In 1865 they began removing people who lived there. Archeological evidence of this habitation includes house sites, agriculture walls and terraces, religious heiau (temples), and burials. Kalaupapa National Historical Park contains rich and undisturbed archaeological preserves.

Where was the first isolation settlement in Hawai`i located?
The first settlement was established on the east side of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, north shore of Moloka`i. Kalawao was located at the foot of the sea cliffs.

When did the first patients arrive?
The first group arrived at Kalawao on January 6, 1866. This group contained three women and nine men.

When did Father Damien arrive in Hawai`i?
Father Damien, originally named Joseph de Veuster, arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864. He was ordained on May 31 in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

When did Father Damien arrive at Kalawao?
Father Damien arrived on May 10, 1873 on board the steamer Kilauea with 50 leprosy patients and a cargo of cattle.

When did Father Damien die?
Damien’s leprosy was diagnosed in 1884; he died on April 15, 1889 from effects of the disease.

Where is he buried?
At Father Damien’s death he was buried next to his church, Saint Philomena, at Kalawao. In 1936 his body was exhumed and taken to Belgium where he was reburied in Louvain. In 1995 the relic of Damien’s right hand was returned to Kalawao and reburied in the original grave.

A black and white image of a church building, a few people on horseback, and tall sea cliffs in the background.
Siloama Church, 1885.

Hawaii State Archives

What Churches were represented at Kalawao and Kalaupapa?
The first Calvinist meetinghouse was built in the Hawaiian fishing village of Kalaupapa in 1839. It was replaced by a second church in 1847 and by a third structure, built in 1853, which is still standing. During the first year of patients arriving at Kalawao in 1866, church members came together and formed a Congregational church they named Siloama, Church of the Healing Spring. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also had a congregation at Kalawao. Jonathan N. Napela, a Mormon elder, came to Kalaupapa on August 7, 1873, as kokua (helper) for his wife, Kitty. Kitty arrived as a patient on May 2, 1873. In October 1873, Jonathan Napela was appointed president of the Kalaupapa Branch of the Maui, Moloka`i, and Lana`i Conference. He eventually contracted Hansen’s disease and died at Kalaupapa.

Which Catholic religious orders worked at Kalawao and Kalaupapa?
Mother Marianne Cope (Barbara Koob) and Sisters Leopoldina Burns and Vincentia McCormick of the Third Order of St. Francis, Sisters of Charity arrived on November 14, 1888. They managed the Charles R. Bishop Home for Unprotected Leper Girls and Women, which opened at Kalaupapa in 1888. This religious order is still represented in Kalaupapa today.

Five girls in light-colored clothing and one nun.
Girls and Sister, Bishop Home.

National Park archives

Several sisters also ran the Home for Boys at Kalawao, which opened in spring 1890. In 1892 philanthropist Henry P. Baldwin provided funding for the Baldwin Home for Leprous Boys and Men at Kalawao, which opened in May 1894. Four brothers from the Sacred Hearts Congregation arrived to operate the Baldwin Home on December 1, 1895. This religious order is still represented at Kalaupapa today.

When was the isolation settlement moved from Kalawao to Kalaupapa?
People and facilities moved to the west side of the Kalaupapa Peninsula by the 1890s where the weather was warmer and drier. In 1895 the last of the non-patient Hawaiian residents living in the village and on the peninsula of Kalaupapa were removed.

When were the isolation policies in Hawai`i abolished?
Hawai`i’s isolation laws, dating back to 1865, were abolished in 1969. Thousands of people in Hawai`i were separated from their homes and families and sent to Kalawao and Kalaupapa during these years.

Where were the facilities for treating and researching Hansen’s disease in Hawai`i?
The Kalihi Hospital and Detention Station on O`ahu opened in 1865 for the admission of Hansen’s disease patients. Operating until 1875, it served as a hospital for people with milder cases of the disease, and as temporary detention for people with advanced cases. The latter were usually sent eventually to Kalawao and Kalaupapa on Moloka`i. The Branch Hospital at Kaka`ako on O`ahu opened in 1881 as a "receiving station" for people suspected of having the disease. This hospital closed in July 1888. In 1885 the Kapi`olani Home for Girls opened in Honolulu as a home for disease-free children whose parents were in Kalawao. The Kalihi Hospital reopened in 1889. From 1909-1913 the US Leprosy Investigation Station, the first hospital authorized by Congress for research on a specific disease, operated at Kalawao. In 1949 Hale Mohalu, in Pearl City, replaced Kalihi Hospital and emphasized rehabilitation. Hale Mohalu closed in 1978, and today people receive medical treatment at the Hale Mohalu wing of Leahi Hospital in Honolulu.

About the Park's Natural History

How was the Kalaupapa Peninsula formed?
The peninsula was formed much later than the rest of the island of Moloka`i. A small shield volcano named Pu`u `Uao formed a relatively flat triangle of land through continuous flows of pahoehoe lava. The volcano's Kauhako Crater contains a lake more than 800 feet deep.

Does the park provide habitat for any native species of plants and animals?
Within the park boundary are a range of habitats, including ocean waters, a coastal spray zone, off-shore islands, lava tubes and caves, a perennial stream, and rain forest on top of the sea cliffs. Nearly 20 federally-listed threatened and endangered species of plants and animals have been identified within the park. Learn more about the animals, plants, and research at Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

Are there any non-native plants and animals in the park?
Invasive, non-native plants and animals are a severe problem at Kalaupapa and throughout the state of Hawai`i. These aliens threaten the remaining native and endemic vegetation and animals. Vegetation such as Christmas berry, koa haole, and lantana predominate, and axis deer, feral goats and pigs, mongoose and rats threaten what remains of Hawai`i's natural heritage at Kalaupapa.

How to Learn More

Where do I go for further research?
Please see the Bibliography page.

How do I arrange for a visit to Kalaupapa National Historical Park?
Please visit the Plan Your Visit page.

Where do I write or call for more information?
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
PO Box 2222
Kalaupapa, HI 96742
email: email us

Last updated: December 14, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 2222
7 Puahi Street

Kalaupapa, HI 96742


808 567-6802

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