Kalaupapa Memorial Efforts Gain Momentum
Monthly meeting discusses ongoing developments.
By Jennifer Smith
A long-awaited memorial honoring Kalaupapa residents may finally find a home in the peninsula. The Kalaupapa Memorial Act of 2007 (H.R. 3332) recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and now heads to the Senate for approval.
Kalaupapa residents were notified of the bill’s status during a monthly meeting, held last week Tuesday in McVeigh Hall.
Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, a non-profit organization promoting the value and dignity of individuals who were exiled to Kalaupapa, authored in 2002 the proposal for the memorial.
“This measure would authorize Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa to establish a memorial to honor those who were forcibly relocated to Kalaupapa,” U.S. Congressman and bill co-sponsor Neil Abercrombie said in a press release.
“Unfortunately, many of the residents who finished their life in Kalaupapa do not have recognizable graves or grave markers,” Abercrombie said, explaining that Kalaupapa is a living memorial. “The memorial established by this bill would serve as a permanent marker and reminder of all 8,000 residents who lived on Kalaupapa.”
Michael Maruyama, from the State Department of Health (DOH), said a similar bill was introduced to the Hawaii Legislature, but added that it can be better served on the federal level.
“We are not in the memorial business,” Maruyama said. “NPS (National Park Service) is in the business of preserving Kalaupapa.”
Maruyama said NPS would be able to provide the long term maintenance that the memorial would require.
The meeting also included updates from NPS and DOH.
National Park Service Updates
In a presentation to residents, Chief Ranger Tim Trainer said NPS leases Kalaupapa land from Hawaiian Homelands (HHL), and therefore possesses proprietary jurisdiction, including the ability to issue citations. The federal agency’s boundaries go up to a quarter mile off-shore, and officers usually enforce fishing, wildlife and vehicular laws.
“This is a very good thing for the patients,” DOH Dr. Glenn Wasserman said, explaining that NPS could assist in law enforcement in the community.
Acting Superintendent Steve Gibbons expressed an interest in working with the community to establish a memorial garden honoring Paul Harada.
A resident of Kalaupapa for 62 years, Harada served as a police officer and later as the sheriff. He passed away in Kalaupapa on Jan. 4, with his wife of over 50 years, Winnie by his side. Harada was 81.
A tentative meeting was set for the next week to discuss the memorial.
DOH Administrator Michael McCarten announced the central kitchen will be moved up to McVeigh Hall for about two months during a renovation in late March or early April.
McCarten assured residents that the hall will be made available for a May 10 Catholic Church celebration.
Kalaupapa employee Marco Jordan asked if kupuna traveling to Oahu for treatment could receive priority on flights. Since Air Shuttle discontinued service to the area, Kalaupapa flights have become increasingly more difficult to book.
Maruyama said inquiries had been made, but the only air service provider for Kalaupapa, Pacific Wings said nothing could be done.
While other airlines might consider providing accommodations to kupuna traveling, as long as Pacific Wings is willing to continue service without a government subsidy, no other airline can qualify for assistance, according to Maruyama.
Maruyama also mentioned that the DOH is in the process of trying to acquire an air ambulance for Kalaupapa, but that it was too soon to make a formal announcement.
Governor Lingle’s Kalaupapa Announcement
On the same day as the monthly meeting, Governor Linda Lingle announced the release of $510,000 for improvements to building 141 at Kalaupapa. The facility currently serves as a 14-bed care center for patients residing at the settlement.
“The state has a responsibility to ensure that the settlement’s buildings – and in particular the nursing facility – are safe and well-maintained,” Governor Lingle said in a press release.
Improvements include installing a new and larger-capacity emergency generator, repair and relocation of automatic fire doors, and repairs to a shower-room floor to ensure proper drainage.
Design of the project improvements is scheduled to be completed in September 2008. Construction is scheduled to begin in February 2009 and be completed in October 2009.
Next month’s meeting is scheduled for March 11 and will include an update on the block party, which is tentatively set for June 11, as well as provide an update on the next phase of pier repairs.