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Father Damien de Veuster is surrounded by many of the young boys and men he helped care for at Kalawao. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Catholic Herald.

“I want to see all the names”

Before the Kalaupapa Monument can be built, a list of the names of those who were taken from their families and forcibly isolated on the peninsula must be compiled.
Thanks to the generosity of the family of Henrietta “Bunnie” Reeser, other individual donors and the United Church of Christ, Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa was able to create a database of the first 5,000 names of those who were exiled to Kalaupapa between 1866 and 1896.
This registry names will serve as the foundation of the Kalaupapa Monument and become a valuable tool to family members in search of information about ancestors who they might know little, if anything, about. The database will be similar to the resource available at Ellis Island near the Statue of Liberty in New York where descendents of European immigrants to America can easily find their family names. The ‘Ohana believes this catalog will become a living document that will constantly grow as additional research reveals more information that families will come to cherish. The registry will provide an enormous contribution not only to the history of Kalaupapa, but to the history of Hawaii as families from all over the islands – and beyond – are able to learn more about their kupuna.
During the research of the names, information that has otherwise gone unnoticed has emerged with great emotion. According to the records, those who were sent to Kalaupapa were as young as 4 years old, as old as 109. They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends and community leaders.
Because of this database and other research efforts by the ‘Ohana, the people of Kalaupapa will be returned to their rightful place in history and live on forever.

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“You have to hear the voices to feel the people. You have to know their names. If you don’t say the names, it’s like something has been lost.”
—Bernard K. Punikai`a, 76, Honorary Chairman of the Board of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa who was sent to Kalaupapa in 1942. Mr. Punikai`a was talking about the importance of establishing a monument at Kalaupapa that would list all the names of the people who were sent there.

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“I want to see a monument honoring the people of Kalaupapa before I die. I want to see all the names. These people are my friends – even though many of them died before I came here and I didn’t know them personally, in spirit we are all together. I know their hearts and souls.”
— Olivia Breitha, 90, who was sent to Kalaupapa in 1937 and is the author of the book, “Olivia: My Life of Exile in Kalaupapa.” Mrs. Breitha died Sept. 28, 2006.

Photos of Bernard and Olivia by Valerie Monson


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