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January is Now Kalaupapa Month

Governor David Ige hosts Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, State leaders and Department of Health officials at the bill-signing ceremony that designates January as Kalaupapa Month annually across Hawai`i. Kalaupapa resident John Arruda stands to the right of the Governor along with Senators Roz Baker (left of Ige) and Lynn DeCoite (next to Arruda). Photo: Greg Lau (copyright)

“. . . Kalaupapa Month will be a time to think about all our people who were sent here, all that we went through and who we are.” — John Arruda

January has officially been designated as “Kalaupapa Month” annually across Hawai`i Nei after a bill proposed by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa was passed by the Hawai`i State Legislature and signed into law by Governor David Ige.

“In dedicating January of each year Kalaupapa Month, we hope to inspire the people of Hawaii to remember the estimated 8,000 patients who were sent to Kalaupapa,” said Ige during the bill-signing ceremony in June as reported by Kacie Yamamoto of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “And … despite the odds against them, came together to build a community of caring, respect and aloha for each other, and for the broader community.”

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa selected January as the time to remember the history of Kalaupapa and honor the people because of the number of significant dates that occurred in that month throughout the history of Kalaupapa (see below). Between 1866 and 1969, an estimated 8,000 people were taken from their families and forcibly isolated at Kalaupapa because they were diagnosed with leprosy, now also called Hansen’s disease.

Following the ceremony, John Arruda reflected on what the commemoration means to him.

“Freedom was taken away from us and it means a lot that the State — the Legislature and the Governor — want to honor our people in this way,” said Arruda, a youthful 97 years old who stood next to Ige when he signed the bill. “To me, Kalaupapa Month will be a time to think about all our people who were sent here, all that we went through and who we are.”

Ka ‘Ohana hopes that teachers will use Kalaupapa Month to include Kalaupapa in their classrooms and that the general public will remember the people of Kalaupapa and how so many of them overcame the challenges of a misunderstood disease and separation from family to find happiness, love and accomplishment.  

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Kalaupapa Month celebrated on the lawn of Bishop Home at Kalaupapa.
Photo courtesy: Sisters Alicia Damien Lau and Barbara Jean Wajda

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Photo: © Richard Schmidt

Significant Dates in January Throughout the History of Kalaupapa

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa proposed designating January as Kalaupapa Month annually in Hawaii as a time to celebrate and honor the people of Kalaupapa and remember their important history. Ka ‘Ohana hopes that teachers will include Kalaupapa in their classrooms, that church leaders will pay tribute to the people of Kalaupapa who shared their faith in God and that family members will remember their ancestors in various ways.


The reason the ‘Ohana selected January was because ‘Ohana leaders realized that a number of important events took place in January throughout the history. These dates bring in the contributions made by so many people over the years.


Some of these events and dates:

The first 12 citizens of Hawai‘i Arrive at Kalaupapa

January 6, 1866

Nine men and three women – arrived at the Kalaupapa peninsula because of government policies regarding leprosy. They were the first of an estimated 8,000 people who were taken from their families and forcibly isolated at Kalaupapa, most of them never seeing their loved ones again. There was a child with those first 12 people as well as some family members, showing how kokua were important to Kalaupapa from the very beginning.

Father Damien 

January 3, 1840

Jozef De Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium. He later became a priest known as Father Damien who arrived at Kalaupapa in 1873. He spent the next 16 years of his life as a religious leader, human rights advocate and friend, working with the people of Kalaupapa to make life better for everyone. He was canonized as Saint Damien in 2009. 

Mother Marianne Cope

January 23, 1838

January 23, 1838 – Barbara Koob was born in Germany and soon immigrated to America with her family. She joined the Sisters of St. Francis and became a respected health administrator in New York who became Mother Marianne Cope. In 1883, she answered the call initiated by King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani through the Catholic Church to help people affected by leprosy in Hawai`i. She spent 30 years at Kalaupapa, supervising The Bishop Home for Single Women and Girls and serving as a leader for the community. She was canonized as Saint Marianne in 2012.

Ambrose Hutchison

January 5, 1879

Ambrose Hutchison arrived at Kalaupapa, sent there because he had been diagnosed with leprosy. He lived at Kalaupapa for the next 53 years and served as Resident Superintendent for a total of 10 years, longer than any other person who was also facing the challenges of leprosy. He worked alongside Father Damien and Mother Marianne and helped with visits of the ali`I to Kalaupapa. Ambrose left his unpublished memoirs which are now the focus of a soon-to-be-published book by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa.

Kama‘aina (original residents of Kalaupapa) forced to leave

January, 1895

January, 1895: The final kama‘aina (original residents of Kalaupapa) were forced to leave the peninsula during this month. The kama‘aina played a key role in helping the early residents of Kalaupapa who were provided with very little support or supplies by the government when they arrived on the first ships in 1866. If not for the kindness and compassion of the kama‘aina, life would have been even worse for those early residents. When the settlement became overcrowded, the government told the kama‘aina they would have to leave the land where they had lived for generations. The last of the kama‘aina were evicted in January of 1895, a year after the Republic of Hawai‘i was established.

The Wedding of Jack and Mary Sing

January 24, 1931

The wedding of Jack and Mary Sing, two important and much-loved leaders of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Kalaupapa and respected leaders of the community. The Sings went on to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1981—they were one of just three couples in the history of Kalaupapa to observe their Golden Anniversaries along with the first such couple, David and Annie Kupele and, the most recent, Paul and Winnie Harada.

Hale Mohalu Residents Forced to Leave

January 26, 1978

January 26, 1978: Eight residents of Hale Mohalu in Pearl City—an alternative to Kalaupapa established in 1949—were relocated to Leahi Hospital against their wishes. Twelve others refused to leave and remained behind, including Bernard Punikai‘a, Clarence Naia, and Frank and Mary Duarte. It was the beginning of more than five years of Kalaupapa residents occupying Hale Mohalu and, together with their many supporters, protesting government-imposed policies opposed by the people. The Hale Mohalu ‘Ohana held weekly rallies in front of the State Capitol. Punikai‘a, Naia and several of their supporters were arrested on September 21, 1983, when the buildings of Hale Mohalu were razed.

Kalaupapa Sunday

January, 2014

Kalaupapa Sunday—Fourth Sunday of January: Beginning in 2014, the Hawai`i  Conference for the United Church of Christ began observing Kalaupapa Sunday where the HUCC churches across  Hawai‘i would remember  the  people of Kalaupapa— particularly the 35 men and women who founded Siloama Church less than six months after the first people had been sent to Kalaupapa in 1866.

Preservation Award

Kalaupapa Month
Preservation Award

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa was presented with a preservation award by Historic Hawai‘i Foundation last month for their efforts in designating January as Kalaupapa Month annually in Hawai‘i.


“Kalaupapa Month will be a way to bring the people of Kalaupapa back into their own history and to make sure their legacy lives on,” wrote Kiersten Faulkner, Executive Director of HHF in informing Ka ‘Ohana of the honor. “We congratulate Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa on their exemplary preservation efforts.”


It was the seventh preservation award bestowed upon by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa by HHF in the past 10 years. Ka ‘Ohana was among the organizations and individuals across Hawai‘i that were singled out at the annual awards banquet hosted by HHF in Honolulu last month.


Details about the theme of Kalaupapa Month 2023 and events associated with that will be coming up in the next few weeks.

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Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa honored for Kalaupapa Month at the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation awards banquet, Oct. 20, 2022. From right: Kehaulani Lum, Roy Catalani, Lorna Catalani, Hitoshi Hida, DeGray Vanderbilt, Charmaine Woodward, Solomon Woodward, Monica Bacon.
Photo: Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

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