En­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment is ap­proved for memo­rial project

Com­ple­tion and open­ing tar­geted for Oc­to­ber 2020

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By COLLEEN UECHI, Staff Writer

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalau­papa has tar­geted Oc­to­ber 2020 as the open­ing date for a memo­rial hon­or­ing the es­ti­mated 8,000 peo­ple sent to Kalau­papa.

A dream of the com­mu­nity since the 1980s, the long-awaited memo­rial re­cently crossed an­other hur­dle af­ter the state ap­proved its fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment, which was pub­lished April 8 in the state Of­fice of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity Con­trol’s “The En­vi­ron­men­tal No­tice.”

“This is a big step for us, and we’re just go­ing to con­tinue to move on,” Va­lerie Monson, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalau­papa, said Thurs­day. “Hope­fully, we’ll get this ded­i­cated by 2020.”

The state Board of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources ap­proved the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment in Fe­bru­ary and is­sued a find­ing of no sig­nif­i­cant im­pact for the project.

Monson said the next steps in­volve fi­nal­iz­ing a lease for the land with the Depart­ment of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources, as well as an­other re­view process on the im­pacts of the project on his­toric prop­er­ties. Monson is “hop­ing that will go smoothly,” since Ka ‘Ohana has al­ready done plenty of work with the state His­toric Preser­va­tion Divi­sion.

An es­ti­mated 8,000 peo­ple — mostly Na­tive Hawai­ians — were sent to Kalau­papa be­tween 1866 and 1969 due to gov­ern­ment poli­cies on lep­rosy, also known as Hansen’s dis­ease, ac­cord­ing to the as­sess­ment. Of those, 951 have marked gravesites. The Na­tional Park Ser­vice also has iden­ti­fied 279 gravesites that “do not have iden­ti­fi­able names and are listed as ‘un­known.’ ” Thou­sands of oth­ers lie in un­marked graves.

That’s why res­i­dents found it ap­pro­pri­ate to place the memo­rial in a spot over­look­ing a field be­lieved to con­tain nearly 2,000 un­marked graves. The 5.9-acre plot where the memo­rial would stand once served as

the site of the Old Bald­win Boys Home.

The memo­rial is de­signed as two over­lap­ping cir­cles. The larger Mauka Cir­cle would be bor­dered by a large rock wall bear­ing the names of the 8,000 peo­ple sent to Kalau­papa. The smaller Makai Cir­cle rep­re­sents the fam­i­lies con­nected to Kalau­papa. The area where the cir­cles con­verge sym­bol­izes re­union and cre­ates a third cir­cle to com­plete the Hawai­ian con­cept of pikokolu, the triple piko. In Hawai­ian thought, the fig­u­ra­tive mean­ing of piko is “blood rel­a­tive.” The memo­rial also would of­fer benches and a lawn for quiet re­flec­tion.

Since the mid-1980s, res­i­dents have been ad­vo­cat­ing for a memo­rial at Kalau­papa, which is owned by the state but man­aged by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. Ka ‘Ohana formed in 2003 and has been work­ing to pre­serve the his­tory of Kalau­papa’s peo­ple and con­nect fam­i­lies with the records of long-lost rel­a­tives sent to the set­tle­ment.

The com­mu­nity’s hopes for a memo­rial won the sup­port of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who signed the Kalau­papa Memo­rial Act in 2009 that di­rected the sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior to au­tho­rize Ka ‘Ohana to cre­ate a memo­rial. Since then, Ka ‘Ohana has been work­ing to de­sign the memo­rial and com­plete a lengthy re­view pro­cesses with both the state and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. A Maui County grant helped the non­profit pull to­gether a de­sign and plan­ning team. Lo­cal plan­ning firm Munekiyo & Hi­raga pre­pared the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment for Ka ‘Ohana pro bono.

Monson said memo­ri­als can some­times take a while to turn into a re­al­ity. For ex­am­ple, the Mar­tin Luther King Jr. memo­rial in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., was pro­posed by King’s for­mer fra­ter­nity in 1984, ap­proved by Congress in 1996 and fi­nally ded­i­cated in 2011.

“Some­times you get frus­trated, but (the process) is re­quired, and you have to do it right,” Monson said. “The good thing is we con­tinue to reach more fam­i­lies. We get more well known. Our ex­hibits con­tinue to travel around the is­land . . . . We’re re­ally in­creas­ing aware­ness, so I think that’s go­ing to only help us.”

Monson said Ka ‘Ohana gets about 80 re­quests a year from fam­i­lies search­ing for an­swers on rel­a­tives who were sent to Kalau­papa. The non­profit has a dig­i­tal li­brary of 7,400 peo­ple, and Monson is usu­ally able to help fam­i­lies find some trace of their rel­a­tives, whether it’s a mar­riage or birth record or a let­ter left by the per­son.

In ad­di­tion to re­search­ing fam­ily ties, Ka ‘Ohana also has de­vel­oped a Kalau­papa Schools Out­reach Pro­gram to ed­u­cate stu­dents about Kalau­papa’s his­tory.

“We’ve just found so much in­for­ma­tion that we have in our dig­i­tal li­brary, so when peo­ple con­tact me, it’s amazing what we can find for peo­ple,” Monson said. “Peo­ple who have been dead for so many years — I feel like we’re bring­ing them back to life.”

All of the names that Ka ‘Ohana has records of would be in­scribed on the memo­rial, and Monson said the board is dis­cussing what to do should they dis­cover more names in the fu­ture.

Ka ‘Ohana plans to raise funds for the con­struc­tion and main­te­nance of the memo­rial. Con­struc­tion is es­ti­mated to cost $5 mil­lion, and the non­profit wants to raise an ad­di­tional $5 mil­lion for an en­dow­ment to cover up­keep at the site.

Un­for­tu­nately, many of the res­i­dents who first en­vi­sioned the memo­rial have since died, Monson said. But she hopes the re­main­ing res­i­dents will be in the front row when the bless­ing fi­nally takes place.

DEGRAY VAN­DER­BILT photo

An ahu sits in the spot where the piko of the memo­rial will be built. The ahu was built by mem­bers of the memo­rial de­sign team dur­ing a two-day plan­ning ses­sion at Kalau­papa, where the con­cep­tual de­sign was agreed upon.

WAYNE LEVIN photo

Mem­bers of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalau­papa gather at the site where a fu­ture memo­rial hon­or­ing the 8,000 peo­ple sent to Kalau­papa will be built. As part of a re­mem­brance cer­e­mony, each per­son spoke the name of a loved one who died at Kalau­papa. Ka ‘Ohana has set...

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