Author(s): Oneha MF
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Abstract Ka Mauli O Ka 'Aina A He Mauli Kanaka: The Life of the Land is the Life of the People. A sense of place has been directly linked to spiritual well being for all indigenous peoples. Yet, there is minimal evidence that demonstrates understanding and awareness of indigenous health issues from this perspective. Health, or the lack of it, appears to be related to place or the loss of it. Issues of Hawaiian health are inseparable from issues of land, water, and atmosphere. The purpose of this research study was to explore the experience of a sense of place and its relationship to health as perceived and experienced by Hawaiian participants living in Wai'anae, Hawai'i. Thirteen adult men and women, ranging in age from 36 to 80 years, participated in this ethnographic study. Two interviews conducted with each participant addressed the research question, "What is the experience of the relationship between a sense of place and health for Hawaiians?" Participants were also asked to photograph how they experienced this relationship. The qualitative data analysis computer software, Atlas.ti, was used to assist in data analysis. The findings suggest that the relationship between sense of place and health embodies four categories: (1) relationship to akua (god, spirit), (2) relationship to natural elements, (3) relationship to self and others, and (4) belonging to a particular place. Three major traditional Hawaiian concepts, which defined how the relationship between sense of place and health are experienced, were pono, mana, and kuleana. The relationship between these concepts revealed five cultural themes. Health for Hawaiians: I. is having a spiritual connection to their ancestral place; II. relates to the past, present, and future; III. is experienced with intention and understanding; IV. means an openness to the flow and use of energy; and V. is experienced as a pu'uhonua or safe place. These themes suggest implications for Hawaiian health education, practice, and further research, including that health professionals provide care from these perspectives in order to raise the health status of Hawaiians to the highest possible level. The limitations of the study suggest the uniqueness of Hawaiian communities and diversity of cultural traditions. Although responses from other communities will be valuable, an ethnographic study of one community (i.e., Wai'anae) provides the depth to understanding its people, place, patterns, and history. This study also engaged the community in selecting the participants. This allows for active involvement in the research process, particularly for this community, which has been a victim of this process in the past. The use of photography provided an excellent medium to capture the visual aspects of "place" creating a profound image of the relationship a person has with the land. Ka Mauli O Ka 'Aina A He Mauli Kanaka: The Life of the Land is the Life of the People.
This article was published in Pac Health Dialog
and referenced in Arts and Social Sciences Journal