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  • Kalaupapa Place Names: Waikolu to Nihoa by John R K Clark
  • Charles Langlas
Kalaupapa Place Names: Waikolu to Nihoa, by John R K Clark. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2018. isbn hardback, 9780824872717; isbn paperback, 9780824872724; 398 pages, map, index. Hardback, us $75.00; paperback, us $32.00.

The name Kalaupapa refers to the area established by the Kingdom of Hawai'i on the north coast of Moloka'i in 1866 as a leprosarium to house patients who had contracted Hansen's disease (leprosy), in order to isolate them from the general population and reduce the spread of the disease. Kalaupapa continued to be used as a leprosarium until 1969, when the State of Hawai'i ended its program of forced segregation of patients with Hansen's disease after the development of antibiotics that rendered them noncontagious. [End Page 506]

John R K Clark's book on Kalaupapa is not what the title would lead you to expect: less than one-third of its pages deal with place-names, and it is not a comprehensive examination of the available information on Kalaupapa place-names. The book consists primarily of translations of approximately three hundred Hawaiian language newspaper articles about Kalaupapa published between 1836 and 1924. It might better have been titled something like "Glimpses of Kalaupapa." What we get is a potpourri—expressions of grief at the death of a loved one taken to Kalaupapa, patients' complaints about inadequate food and the lack of a physician, stories of attempted escape, and accounts of Kamehameha Day celebrations at Kalaupapa and of visits by ali'i (chiefs). For a reader like myself, who likes a clear narrative or analytical thread, the book is frustrating. But the reader who does not require that may simply find it interesting.

Clark found the articles by searching Papakilo, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs database of digitized Hawaiian language newspapers, using Kalaupapa place-names known to him as the basis for his search, and then he had them translated. Locating and translating the articles was a major effort, one to be applauded. The translations are grouped into three sections, "Kalaupapa Place Names," "Kalaupapa History," and "Kanikau" (mourning chants). Many of the articles were submitted by residents of Kalaupapa, including letters that make complaints about their treatment or give the current news of the place. Other articles were submitted by the Board of Health, by reporters, or by other nonresidents who accompanied official investigations to Kalaupapa. A brief final section contains notes on place-names from Clark's 1977–1978 interviews with five Kalaupapa patients and retired Kalaupapa superintendent Elmer Wilson.

The "Kalaupapa Place Names" section has fifty-seven alphabetized entries, including both traditional Hawaiian names that predate the establishment of the Hansen's disease settlement and names for the settlement's built features, such as Bihopa Home (Bishop Home). Most of the traditional names are located on a map (xii), but not the built features. Some of the articles included under a given entry describe the place, while others merely mention it in passing. For the latter, Clark often provides supplementary descriptions. He clearly has knowledge from other sources, but he generally does not cite them.

Use of the Hawaiian language newspaper articles as a source for traditional place-names is important, as they often pre-date other sources and provide more trustworthy versions of the original names. The earliest map showing place-names, an 1895 map of Kalaupapa by the government surveyor M D Monsarrat, is relatively recent. However, by restricting his sources to the newspapers, Clark lost the chance to write a comprehensive study that would have included those additional traditional place-names found in other sources and would have highlighted the shift from traditional Hawaiian names in the mid-nineteenth century to mostly new names connected to patient experiences by the twentieth century. For [End Page 507] example, as Clark's notes on his 1978 interview with two patients indicate, "Kamahana Point, Jack Miyoshi Point, John Davis Point, and Shinsato Point are all named after patients" (354).

The Kalaupapa History section is longer, taking up more than half of the book. The newspaper articles included here are grouped into four chronological...