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Siloama Church Time Capsule Reinstalled

July 24, 2013

How will future generations understand life in Kalaupapa today?  The members of the Siloama/Kanaana Hou Church addressed that question by inviting Kalaupapa residents to contribute photographs and written documents for inclusion in the time capsule which was placed on July 17, 2013, at Siloama Church, Kalawao.


Photo Caption: Residents, friends, family and workers of Kalaupapa gathered at Siloama Church to commemorate the time capsule’s re-installation.


In January 1866, the first people exiled to the Kalaupapa peninsula under “The Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy” were cast into unimaginable isolation and deprivation.  Yet within that first year a church group was formed.  Three years later a church building was erected.  That church group, although small in numbers now, has continued since its formation.


Photo Caption: Siloama Church at Kalawao, c. 1885.


Forty-eight years ago, the church group commemorated its centennial by constructing a concrete stronghold for a bronze time capsule, which was placed with the hope for opening in fifty years.  The capsule was opened in March of 2012 in a ceremony jointly hosted by church leaders and the superintendent of Kalaupapa National Historical Park.  Materials taken from the capsule at that time are on loan in safe storage at the Park’s curatorial storage facility.


Photo Caption: The Siloama time capsule and plaque.


Photo Caption: One of the objects found in the 1966 Siloama time capsule was this Hawaiian Bible, which belonged to former patient-resident, Ben Pea.  


The National Park Service has partnership agreements with the United Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Diocese, in which the Park Service has taken on stewardship of the churches, the historic stone walls which surround the churchyards, the gravemarkers and tombs, and historic documents and artifacts.


Photo Caption: Event attendees look at the objects and photos to be placed in the new time capsule.


After opening the capsule in 2012, church leaders expressed a desire to re-place the time capsule, filling it with contributions reflecting the lives of those now living in Kalaupapa.   Approximately seventy people attended this placement ceremony which included prayers in both Hawaiian and English, songs by two visiting choir groups, hula, and testimony by church leaders, patient residents of Kalaupapa, and Park Service and Department of Health officials.  Photographic contributions were on display, sparking poignant moments of remembrance and introspection.  Culminating the emotionally charged event was the closing of the time capsule.  All present joined hands for the singing in Hawaiian of the final hymn.


Photo Caption: Singers and Dancers bless the time capsule through song and dance.


Inherent in the actions of the event are the hope, faith, and confidence that there will be interest in the story of Kalaupapa way beyond the fifty years until the capsule is opened again.  As one of the speakers said, “It is not the suffering or the injustice which makes the story of Kalaupapa so compelling; it is the triumph of the human spirit over those terrible difficulties which inspires us to remember. ”


- Richard Miller, Exhibits Specialist

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

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