The Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee recommended appropriating $100,000 in the fiscal year 2015 budget for the planning and design of the Kalaupapa Memorial.
With your support, this memorial will honor the 8,000 people who were exiled to Molokai's remote peninsula of Kalaupapa and died from effects of Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy.
Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization on Molokai, organized in 2003 at the request of Kalaupapa kupuna, made it a priority to establish the Kalaupapa Memorial. The memorial will list the names of all those sent to Kalaupapa, 90 percent of whom were Native Hawaiians.
Kalaupapa was founded as a settlement for leprosy patients by the Hawaiian government when the disease was incurable, and was thought to be spreading rapidly. The first patients were sent to Kalaupapa in 1866, and the isolation laws did not end until 1969.
The settlement is now part of Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Testimony provided to the committee at several meetings last month provided the simple, poignant intent behind this project.
As one testifier on Molokai stated, "The idea for the memorial at Kalaupapa began more than 25 years ago. Many of us were concerned that those without tombstones at Kalaupapa - most of the 8,000 people who were sent there - would not be remembered for their sacrifices and strength to persevere."
Fewer than 1,300 marked graves have been identified. Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa has worked to compile the names of the deceased, and has preserved precious photographs and records with more than 7,000 names in its digital library.
The memorial will create a place of pride and healing for families of those at rest in Kalaupapa, and for our state and nation.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation authorizing Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa to establish the memorial. The organization has received a 65-year lease for the memorial site, which will be issued upon completion of the state's environmental compliance process.
Community members have been working with the National Park Service, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and consulting firm Munekiyo and Hiraga on compliance requirements for the memorial.
This project is very close to my heart and the hearts of many others.
I may not be able find the right words to describe my emotions when the names of our brothers and sisters are unveiled. It will bring great honor to the affected families and to the entire Maui Nui community.
Kalaupapa lives beyond the tall cliffs that isolate the peninsula. Many from all over the world have found inspiration in learning of the hardships, injustices, personal triumphs and entire history of the sacred land. The memorial will symbolize our shared history, humility and aloha.
I support this project and urge you to do so too. Testimony will be accepted when the budget is heard on first reading on May 27 at 9 a.m.
* Stacy Crivello holds the County Council seat for the Molokai residency area. She is the chairwoman of the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee. "Chair's 3 Minutes" is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.