Social justice as a public health imperative for Kānaka Maoli
Kaholokula, J.K., Nacapoy, A.H. and Dang, K.L.
AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples
Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) have experienced drastic changes to their way of life and to the demography of their ancestral homeland over two centuries of US occupation.
We review 1) the current social status and health status of Kānaka Maoli; 2) the effects of social status on a person’s health status; 3) the major social changes in Hawai‘i affecting Kānaka Maoli social standing and well-being; and 4) the empirical studies suggesting a relationship amongst social, psychological, and physical factors affecting Kānaka Maoli health and well-being. We also examine the issue of social justice for Kānaka Maoli as a public health imperative. The major tenets of this paper are that 1) the drastic and rapid social changes in Hawai‘i and other societal issues have adversely affected the health and well-being of Kānaka Maoli and 2) a complex interaction exists between the social status and health status of Kānaka Maoli. E iho ana ‘o luna, e pi‘i ana ‘o lalo, e hui ana nā moku, e kū ana ka paia That which is above shall come down, that which is below shall be raised up, the islands shall be united, and the walls shall stand upright— A prophecy by the priest Kapihe Native Hawaiians or Kinaki Maoli1, the indigenous people of Hawai‘i, have experienced drastic changes to their way of life and to the demography of their ancestral homeland over the last two centuries of Euro-American influence. The United States (US) occupation of Hawai‘i and the compulsory acculturation toward the American way of life, and the migration of other ethnic groups to Hawai‘i, have adversely impacted the social status of Kānaka Maoli in their own homeland. The effects of these changes on the health and wellbeing of Kānaka Maoli have been immense. In this paper, we examine the relationship between the social status and the health indicators of Kānaka Maoli. What we intend to elucidate is how the social status of Kānaka Maoli has changed over time, and how this change has directly impacted Kānaka Maoli health and well-being. We conclude by exploring the issue of social justice for Kānaka Maoli as a public health imperative with larger, more far-reaching effects than medical and psychological interventions, which often focus on an already ill individual.