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Ma‘i Lepera

Ma‘i Lepera: A History of Leprosy in Nineteenth-Century Hawai‘i

Copyright Date: 2013
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    Ma‘i Lepera
    Book Description:

    Ma'i Leperaattempts to recover Hawaiian voices at a significant moment in Hawai'i's history. It takes an unprecedented look at the Hansen's disease outbreak (1865-1900) almost exclusively from the perspective of "patients," ninety percent of whom were Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian). Using traditional and nontraditional sources, published and unpublished, it tells the story of a disease, a society's reaction to it, and the consequences of the experience for Hawai'i and its people.Over a span of thirty-four years more than five thousand people were sent to a leprosy settlement on the remote peninsula in north Moloka'i traditionally known as Makanalua. Their story has seldom been told despite the hundreds of letters they wrote to families, friends, and the Board of Health, as well as to Hawaiian-language newspapers, detailing their concerns at the settlement as they struggled to retain their humanity in the face ofma'i lepera. Many remained politically active and, at times, defiant, resisting authority and challenging policies. As much as they suffered, the Kānaka Maoli of Makanalua established new bonds and cared for one another in ways that have been largely overlooked in popular histories describing leprosy in Hawai'i.AlthoughMa'i Leperais primarily a social history of disease and medicine, it offers compelling evidence of how leprosy and its treatment altered Hawaiian perceptions and identities. It changed how Kānaka Maoli viewed themselves: By the end of the nineteenth century, the "diseased" had become a cultural "other" to the healthy Hawaiian. Moreover, it reinforced colonial ideology and furthered the use of both biomedical practices and disease as tools of colonization.Ma'i Leperawill be of significant interest to students and scholars of Hawai'i and medical history and historical and medical anthropology. Given its accessible style, this book will also appeal to general readers who wish to know more about the Kānaka Maoli who contracted leprosy-their connectedness to each another, their families, their islands, and their nation-and how leprosy came to affect those connections and their lives.18 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6579-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note to Readers
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Mō‘ī of the Hawaiian Kingdom
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Significant Events in the History of Leprosy in Hawai‘i
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This is a book about a people, a place, and a disease. It is not an easy story in which to engage oneself, but it is an important story. Filled with social and cultural challenges of a feared disease, displacement, and death, this microhistory metaphorically mirrors the history of nineteenth-century Hawai‘i as a whole. It is a mo‘olelo—the Hawaiian term used for history, story, tale, myth, tradition, literature, legend, or record—a term carefully chosen, as it is understood that mo‘olelo contain metaphors, lessons, and layers of meaning; it is no different with this particular mo‘olelo.¹ The main focus...

  8. Chapter 1 A Land and a Disease Set Apart
    (pp. 17-45)

    The Hawaiian Islands began to form several million years ago, and they lie some three thousand kilometers from the nearest continent.¹ They are the most geographically isolated archipelago in the world, and, as one writer has noted, “more than any other factor, it is the isolation of these islands . . . that has shaped Hawai‘i’s natural history.”² Indeed, it might also be said that more than any other factor, the remoteness of these islands has shaped Hawai‘i’s cultural and social history as well.

    All plant and animal life had to come from somewhere else, blown by the wind or...

  9. Chapter 2 The Criminalization of Leprosy in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 46-77)

    Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) had the longest reign of any monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and oversaw some of the most significant and complex political changes of the nineteenth century. Ka‘ahumanu’s influence on him had been great, but upon her death on June 5, 1832, the eighteen-year-old Mo‘i had the opportunity to assert his independence. Kauikeaouli codified and synthesized traditional law and Western concepts of governance in the Declaration of Rights of 1839 and the subsequent Constitution of 1840, wherein his government became a constitutional monarchy.

    The king’s efforts to maintain Hawai‘i’s independence were challenged more than once. In 1839,...

  10. Chapter 3 Accommodation, Adaptation, and Resistance to Leprosy and the Law
    (pp. 78-108)

    Lota Kapuāiwa’s (Kamehameha V’s) reign encompassed a new constitution, growth in industry and business, increase in immigrant labor, and a synthesis of traditional and Western concepts and institutions. A prime example of this merging of tradition and Western ideas was the establishment of the Papa Ola Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Board of Health) in 1868 and the licensing of kahuna lapa‘au (medical practitioners). ‘Oihana lapa‘au (medical practice) in Hawai‘i was a well-developed and complex system that, prior to encounters with infectious diseases introduced by foreigners, dealt primarily with injuries or wounds, child birthing, and the complications of aging.¹ Following the introduction of...

  11. Chapter 4 Living with Disease and Death at Makanalua
    (pp. 109-140)

    Lot Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V) died in December of 1872, and because a successor had not been named, an election was necessary to select a new Mō‘i. Two front-runners emerged, William C. Lunalilo and David Kalākaua. Lunalilo was a cousin to Kapuāiwa and a descendant of a half-brother of Kamehameha I; his genealogy and popularity led to a unanimous vote for “ke ali‘i lokomaika‘i” (the kind chief).¹ Soon after Lunalilo took the oath of Mō‘ī on January 12, 1873, he was confronted with efforts to secure a reciprocity treaty with the United States that would have given the sugar industry duty-free...

  12. Chapter 5 The Journey into Exile
    (pp. 141-168)

    David Kalākaua became Mō‘ī on February 12, 1874, after defeating Queen Emma in a special election. The new king had the support of sugar planters and businessmen who wanted the monarch to support their financial endeavors and ties to the United States. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 benefited the business elite but was of great concern to many Kānaka Maoli. Although trade and international relations dominated the Mō‘ī’s governance, he was also concerned about the kingdom’s independence and its people. In his efforts to “ho‘oulu lahui” (increase the nation), Kalākaua oversaw the revitalization of many traditional practices and encouraged the...

  13. Chapter 6 Ma‘i Ho‘oka‘awale—The Disease That Separates
    (pp. 169-195)

    When Lili‘uokalani ascended the throne after the death of her brother, King David Kalākaua, her priority was simple—to preserve the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i.

    Of primary concern was the desire for a new constitution to replace the 1887 (Bayonet) Constitution. In her writings, the queen stated, “Petitions poured in from every part of the Islands for a new constitution; these were addressed to myself as the reigning sovereign,” and she added, “no true Hawaiian chief would have done other than to promise a consideration of their wishes.”¹

    Indeed, two-thirds of registered voters had signed the petitions. Soon...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 196-198)

    From 1866 to 1969, seven to eight thousand people who suffered from or were suspected of having leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease) were sent to Makanalua (Kalaupapa peninsula); the majority of those sent arrived prior to 1900. While the conditions at the leprosy settlement continued to improve with each passing decade, the isolation and stigma associated with the disease continued to increase, and leprosy became known more and more as ma‘i ho‘oka‘awale ‘ohana (the disease that separates family). The Molokai leprosy settlement was held up to the world as a model of the “success” of quarantine. Changes in medical...

  15. Appendix A: He Kanawai—E Kaohi Ai I Ka Laha Ana O Ka Mai Lepera
    (pp. 199-202)
  16. Appendix B: An Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy
    (pp. 203-206)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 207-242)
  18. Glossary
    (pp. 243-246)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-258)
  20. Index
    (pp. 259-268)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-271)