Setting it in Stone

Public opinion sought for Kalaupapa Memorial.

By Dan Murphy

The Hansen’s disease patients at Kalaupapa will not be around forever. But their history and the history of thousands of others who have passed before them will not be forgotten. In March, President Obama signed a bill that allowed a memorial to be built in honor of all those who were sent to Kalaupapa. Now the monument’s details are in the hands of the community.

The National Park Service (NPS) and Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa held joint public meetings on several islands including Molokai last week to discuss the particulars of the memorial. The meetings are the first step in a three-step process to select a design and location for the memorial. After public mana`o is collected, the NPS and Ka Ohana will select three alternative sites and a preferred site for the monument. If the preferred site passes the necessary environmental assessments and does not disturb any burial grounds or sacred lands, construction can begin.

“There are certain processes that we are required to go through by law, but we want to get this done as fast as we possibly can,” NPS Kalaupapa Superintendent Steve Prokop said.

Speed was a major issue discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting. Many members of the public urged NPS and Ka Ohana to cut through the red tape as quickly as possible so that the few patients still living today will get a chance to see the monument.

“I know they have to go through a lot environmental work, but time is of the essence,” said Ka Ohana President Boogie Kahilihiwa, who has been a patient in Kalaupapa for nearly 60 years. “By the time they are done building, we may not be there.”

Ka Ohana and NPS still have to settle on a design for the memorial. Both groups decided that a long, linear wall would not be a good choice. They want the monument to create an atmosphere of contemplation by blending into its environment as much as possible. The group wants to hold a public contest to design the memorial.

Patients’ Voice
Many speakers showed their passionate support for the patients having a strong voice in selecting the site and design for the project.  

“We will be fully behind whatever the patients decide. We will back all the patients, especially those that have passed,” said Colette Machado, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee for Molokai and Lanai.

Prokop said NPS has already met with the patients and intends to speak with them again once statewide opinions have been collected.

“We want to make sure we have all the patients’ desires – that is a critical part of this planning process. It’s extremely important for us to consider that,” Prokop said.

Ka Ohana and NPS have narrowed the site down to four preliminary locations – two in Kalaupapa and two on the east side of the peninsula in Kalawao. They are the First Baldwin Boys’ Home, the Second Baldwin Boys’ Home, Judd Park and Papaloa (near Kalaupapa’s airport). Each site has several pros and cons that Ka Ohana will have to weigh in making a decision.

Kahilihiwa said that he and most of the patients want the memorial to be built in Kalawao because that is where patients first arrived. While that is certainly one of the options, NPS and Ka Ohana officials are concerned about building on a sacred site.

“We want to have it in Kalawao right across from Father Damien’s church,” Kahilihiwa said. “They are worried about it being a sacred site, but to us the whole peninsula is a sacred site.”

Ka Ohana and NPS are looking for any input from the public about issues surrounding the new memorial. If you were unable to attend last week’s meeting, you can still share your thoughts by logging on to or by contacting Prokop by telephone at (808) 567-6802.


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