JULY 13, 1893


Also known as the Ko’olau Rebellion, it followed efforts by the government to enforce an 1865 Act to stop the spread of Leprosy by forcibly relocating lepers to the colony of Kalawao on Molokai.  The War began when a deputy attempting to enforce the law in Kalalau Valley was killed by a leper named Kaluaikoolau known as “Ko’olau” in June of 1893.  In response, the government sent the Kalalau Expedition–a National Guard platoon.  Ko’olau’s armed band went into hiding. For the group’s safety, Ko’olau took his wife, Piilani, and son and hid in a cave.  After 3 failed assaults on the cave resulted in the deaths of expedition members, the soldiers left.  The remaining lepers were never harassed again.  Ko’olau and his family stayed in hiding in the valley.  After son and Ko’olau died, Piilani emerged and wrote about her experience in Ka Moolelo oiaio o Kaluaikoolau (The True Story of Kaluaikoolau, 1906).  The event inspired The Folding Cliffs by W. S. Merwin, as well as Jack London’s Koolau the Leper.

  “Thirat Atthiraride.”  Retrieved 5/26/2020, https://thirat-atthiraride.tumblr.com/post/88484225329/the-leper-war-on-kauaʻi-also-known-as-the-koolau
Photo:  Unknown, 7/1893.  Public Domain.

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