January recognized as Kalaupapa month, marking a solemn anniversary

Graves at Kalaupapa, Molokai.
Graves at Kalaupapa, Molokai.(HNN)
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 7:29 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thursday Jan. 6 marked a somber anniversary for leprosy patients in Hawaii.

The disease, known as Hansen’s Disease, led to the separation of thousands of people from their families to the remote area of Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Exactly 156 years ago, the first 12 patients were sent there. The first group included nine men and three women as medical experts of the time feared the disease would rapidly spread.

Over the next century, about 8,000 people — largely Native Hawaiians — were sent into isolation in the town.

It’s where Father Damien went to work with the patients and was later recognized as a Catholic saint for his dedication to them, and for performing at least two documented miracles.

[From the archives: Kalaupapa community celebrates Father Damien’s canonization.]

Kalaupapa became a National Historical Park in 1980. Recently, Governor Ige signed a law, recognizing January as Kalaupapa month.

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