Following the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii revolt broke out in Kalalau Valley on the Island of Kauaʻi, against the forced relocation of all infected by the disease to the leper colony of Kalawao on the island of Moloka’i.

Legend of Ko’olau

The Leper War on Kauaʻi also known as the Ko’olau Rebellion, Battle of Kalalau started because of one Hawaiian man’s love and devotion of his family. Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy) Kaluaiko‘olau or Ko’olau was a rancher on the Island of Kaua’i. He had a reputation as a marksman and leader among the island paniolo. Ko’olau was married to a Hawaiian woman named Pi’ilani, in 1883 she gave birth to a son named Kaleimanu.


Sadly, in 1892 after learning that he and his young son had contracted leprosy (Hansen’s Disease), Koolau fled with his family to a leper colony deep into Kalalau Valley. Authorities from a foreign government knew of Ko‘olau’s leprosy condition planning to ship him off to the leper settlement in remote Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai Island. Ko‘olau warns foreign authorities he will kill anyone who tries to separate him from his family.

Ko’olau vowed never to be taken alive and became a powerful symbol of resistance for many Hawaiians in the years following the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

On June 27, 1893 six months after the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i on Jan 17, 1893 foreign authorities attempt to enforce the 1865 “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy”. Deputy sheriff Louis H. Stoltz attempted to force the leprosy colony in Kalalau Valley, Kauaʻi to be deported. Instead, he was shot and killed along with two of his soldiers by the paniolo sharp-shooter Ko’olau.

The foreign government then sent an army of soldiers and deputies with a Krupp cannon to capture Ko‘olau. Martial law was declared on Kaua‘i Island. Over a weeks span, three waves of assault were attempted. From a mountaintop cave, Ko‘olau single-handedly repels the troops. The foreign government gives up and leaves the valley, but not before capturing twenty seven lepers sending them to Kalawao. Ko’olau, his family, and remaining lepers remained unharmed, never to be harassed again. Still fearful of being captured, the Kalalau lepers lived in the original valley in which they were hiding for many more years. Both Ko’olau and son Kaleimanu eventually died of Hansen’s Disease in Kalalau Valley. Wife Piilani left the valley following their deaths and shared her story which, later published became part of Hawaiian history.