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Hawaii Says "Sorry" to Leper Colonists

Apologies Abound: Hawaii Says "Sorry" to Leper Colonists

The state of Hawaii has apologized to the former leprosy patients that were forcibly confined to a remote peninsula on the island of Molokai. State Sen. J. Kalani English said in front of 12 former patients, "We're sorry. We're sorry for the treatment. We're sorry for the suffering that you've been through. The entire state is with me today as I say this."

Many families were torn apart when 8,000 lepers were sent to the compound in an effort to control the disease. The containment went on for over a century until 1969 when the requirement was ended. Though curing medicine was introduced in the 1940s, some patients chose to stay because it had become their home.

One of the brother's of the patients who didn't live long enough to see the apology said, "I know they're watching and nodding. All of these people. They're all agreeing. They're just saying 'at last.'"

To see who's in the picture,


Pictured above is Father Damien, the priest who went to the island to minister to the lepers and devoted his life to them. During his 16 years, he built six chapels, a home for boys and one for girls, dug graves and bandaged wounds. Father Damien eventually succumbed to the disease himself. He is one of Hawaii's two statues in the National Statuary Hall.

Are official apologies (like to the Aborigines and for slavery) a progressive step in the right direction? Will we see more to come?


Join The Conversation
chicobo chicobo 9 years
The apology may not be a fix it all but its a step in the right direction. Father Damien, is on his way to become a saint, being beatified by the Vatican was we speak. He is finally being honored for the work and sacrifice he made. People still tour the site at Kalaupapa, Moloka'i today. I think it's a worthwhile trip to make!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Dear John Arlington, I would like to officially apologize for my grandfather. It has recently come to my attention that when he was a child, he used to beat up your grandfather. Let me know how much money I should be sending to you. Sincerely, Grandson of a bully :oy:
organicsugr organicsugr 9 years
I love an official apology. I think our elected officials should spend more time making me feel better. It's good to know that they're officially sorry. Next time, I would like flowers, though.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
When we went to Hawaii we went on a trampoline boat tour. The guide took us around this place and showed us the cliff that they would actually push people off of when it got overcrowded. He just told horror stories about the place.
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
The USofA quarantined Japanese and German families during WWII, too, as I recall. Now do apologies work? I'm not sure. They certainly don't help those who have died because of someone's lack of empathetic concern. Look at ol' Abe Lincoln. He frees the slaves but doesn't provide for them and tens of thousands died as a direct result. Where is the apology for that? Look at the Native Americans. Practically from day one, the Spanish, the French, the English, the Portuguese, the Dutch, everyone who considered this Continent (including Central & South America) as a "new" world is guilty of all types of heinous crimes against humanity. But by classing the Natives as "sub-human" the perpetrators felt justified. W-R-O-N-G. WHERE are all the apologies? Where are all the "let's make this right by . . . " statements? Give the Natives back their land, give them back their mineral rights, admit that Reservations were nothing more than concentration camps and "Indian Schools" were nothing but places of destruction, where "non-natives" tried to remove all vestiges of Native culture from the Native American children. How about some apologies followed up by acts of repentance and contrition? In 1988, the US government paid eight Sioux Indian tribes 122 million dollars for tribal lands illegally seized in 1877. WHAT ABOUT THE LAND TAKEN BY THE FIRST NON-AMERICAN SETTLERS??? It'll never happen because "non-Natives" have seared their souls against the original peoples who lived on this land. Mitakuye Oyasin!--We are all related!
kikidawn kikidawn 9 years
wow I had no idea this had happened.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
It's scary that I didn't know about this. 8,000 people in quarantine for a century? This was not in my U.S. History text...
tatiana21 tatiana21 9 years
There is a great book, I think just called Molokai about this... it was a great book if you are interested in learning more about this!
stephley stephley 9 years
A true apology never hurts the situation and if there are enough of them, maybe people who get authority over others will think twice before they abuse their power over others.
SomethingWicked SomethingWicked 9 years
Wow...had no idea that this happened....I a glad that they are finally apologizing!
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