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Maʻi Aliʻi, Maʻi Pākē, Maʻi Hoʻokaʻawale

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on April 21, 1866.

Not only are people commonly known by different names, diseases often have more than one name as well. Maʻi aliʻi, maʻi Pākē, maʻi puʻupuʻu Pākē, maʻi hoʻokaʻawale (ʻohana), (maʻi) lēpera, (maʻi) lēpela, (maʻi) rēpero, and (maʻi) lēpero are all names for Hansen’s disease.

Here are two letters written by patients sent to Molokaʻi in the early days of the colony, describing the conditions.

Image: Waikolu Valley from head of trail, Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi. Photo by J. F. Rock. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 204605

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact, Bishop Museum Archives. 

Image: “No ko makou manao….” Ke Au Okoa, January 29, 1866, p. 2

(Because we thought the readers would really like to know how the life of the maʻi lēpera on Molokaʻi is, therefore, we are printing this letter below by one of those patients.


T. C. Heuck, Esq.,1 Aloha to you:

This is a good time to greet you, therefore, I extend my aloha upon you.

We, the maʻi lēpera, all landed safely, however, our sailing went very slowly, because there was no wind, and also because the ship we came on did not sail.

Another thing, I have met with our supervisor, the one who will take care of us, that being Louis. He is a kindly white man, and he takes good care of our livelihood here in this friendless land.

One more thing, if you think it is okay, I would like to request an ʻōʻō digging stick, a rake, and an axe, so that I can work the land, plant taro, sweet potato, and cotton. For I am lacking in those things—these tools are not at the palm of my hand at this time. I also want an iron pot to make stew. That is the request of your servant with leprosy to you, for there is no water now in this land. The canals are currently blocked by rubbish.

That is all, with aloha,
J. D. Kahauliko,2
Leprosy Patient.
Waikolu, Molokaʻi, Jan. 8, 1866.

(Au Okoa, 1/29/1866, p. 2)

Image: “Ua nele na lepera i ke kauka ole.” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, May 6, 1866, p. 2

The Lēpera are Without a Doctor!—We received at our office, a letter a muku3 in length from J. N. Hōkūwelowelo,4 one of the maʻi Pākē living in Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi. He calls out and questions, “Where is the doctor for the maʻi Pākē living in Kalaupapa?” They heard Dr. Hoffman say before they were taken to Molokaʻi that there was a doctor at Molokaʻi who would treat the maʻi Pākē. But when they went to Molokaʻi, they did not see hide nor hair of a doctor for them there. They are thinking of searching the mountains for that doctor, and if they do not find him, they will go until Kaluaʻaha thinking to meet with the doctor. They say, maybe the doctor is frightened of the maʻi Pākē, so he ran away to hide. They want the Legislature to consider them, and the propriety of leaving them without a doctor, when they nearly number a hundred. Two of them have died without medical treatment. What does the Legislature think about them? Perhaps to just let them be?

(Kuokoa, 5/26/1866, p. 2)

1Theodore C. Heuck, secretary of the Board of Health.

2J. D. Kahauliko was among the first group of patients sent to the colony on January 6, 1866.

3Muku is the distance from the tip of the fingers on one hand to the elbow of the other when both arms are stretched out.

4J. N. Hōkūwelowelo is likely a penname for J. N. Loe who was also in the first group sent to the colony on January 6, 1866.

Image: Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi. Photo by Albert S. Lyons, ca. 1893. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 203148

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact, Bishop Museum Archives.

Click here to be taken to the “Register of Patients at the Hansen’s Disease Settlement, Molokaʻi” search found on the National Park Service: Kalaupapa page.

This, for instance, is the information given when looking up Kahauliko:










Not recorded or unknown


January 6, 1866


Not recorded or unknown.


No civil state found.


Nov. 4, 1870






This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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