Nā hoa o ka pilikia (Friends of Affliction): Native Residents and Leprosy Patients in Nineteenth-Century Hawai'i

Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM
Superior Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Kerri A. Inglis, University of Hawai'i at Hilo
"nā hoa o ka pilikia (friends of affliction):  native residents and leprosy patients in 19th century Hawai'i"  

On the northern coast of the island of Molokai, Hawaiian Islands, lies the Makanalua peninsula.  Inhabited for centuries by Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), by the mid-1800s the peninsula was set-apart to be a place of quarantine (or exile) for those afflicted by the disease, leprosy.  Board of Health officials of the Kingdom of Hawai'i began to purchase the lands of Makanalua for their purposes of quarantine, but many of the kama'aina (native residents) refused to leave their homes and their lands.

Despite an “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy” which was intended to separate the sick from the “clean,” the first few decades of the leprosy settlement at Makanalua (1866-1898) consisted of a community that included patients, their kōkua (helpers), and the kama'aina.  Furthermore, from the onset of the leprosy settlement, kama'aina provided food and shelter to those who were sent into exile, and the boundary between those with disease and those without remained quite permeable.

The research offered in this paper examines the development of this unique community from the perspective(s) of Native Hawaiians.  Whether they were patients, their helpers, or the long-term residents of the land, they had challenges, successes, and a sense of belonging to their nation, despite their separation to a place of exile.  To better understand this community and its significance, Hawaiian connections to land will be analyzed, Board of Health records and Hawaiian language newspaper sources will be utilized, and the story of a people brought together in the face of affliction will be shared.

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