Volume 53, Number 4 Fall 2020

Prevention and Promotion

Edited by Susana Helm and Jackie Ng-Osorio, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

The Prevention & Promotion IG column of The Community Psychologist highlights P&P resources as well as the P&P work of community psychologist and allied professionals. We invite submissions from SCRA members, from people who present on P&P topics during SCRA and other conferences; and from leading and emergent scholars, including students. Please refer your colleagues and friends in academia and beyond to our interest group and column. Please email me if you would like to submit a brief report or if you have resources we may list here.

Mahalo to my colleague Dr. Jackie Ng-Osorio for guest co-editing our column this quarter to highlight an indigenous approach to youth substance use prevention and community-based health promotion through the lens of emerging indigenous scholars. Jackie and I both work on the Puni Ke Ola (PiKO) project and serve as mentors for the three emerging scholars whose reflections are shared here, and with a brief introduction by Jackie. PiKO is a youth drug prevention program serving as a state model and is situated on the island of Molokai where 60% of the total population identifies as indigenous, and over 80% of school-aged children identify as indigenous. This set of submissions is written in Hawai`i’s two official languages – English and Hawaiian (see Table 1 for a glossary).


Pūpūkāhi I Holomua. Unite in Order to Progress

Written by Jackie Ng-Osorio, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of Psychiatry

At the core of communities are their youth. Statistics in rural areas show higher rates of substance use and suicide. In Hawai`i this is no different, especially on the rural islands which largely excludes O`ahu. On the island of Molokai, the community saw a problem they wanted to change – youth substance use.  To address the problem, they created the Puni Ke Ola (PiKO) program, which uses culture as an intervention. Therefore, the program utilizes Native Hawaiian culture and leads haumana through culturally relevant huakaʻi and hoʻala to share their experiences and learnings through the use of a photovoice-inspired pedagogy. The sharing of the haumana’s thoughts through the hoʻala discussions and the culminating community event, referred to as a hōʻike, allows growth to be shown. The following brief articles share Native Hawaiian emerging scholars’ perspectives (Adolpho, 2020; Alden, 2020; Yamane, 2020) on how their personal experiences as research associates on the PiKO project have shaped their insights on indigenous ways of knowing. Rebecka Adolpho earned a BA in Psychology (2019) and is a current Master of Public Health student, Nanea Alden earned a BS in Psychobiology (2019); and Cherry Yamane earned a BA in Public Health (2018) and will enroll in graduate school in Fall 2020.

My Huaka`i to Finding Purpose

Written by Rebecka Adolpho, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of Psychiatry and Office of Public Health Studies

I naturally gravitated towards Puni Ke Ola because it fits me and my idealism so perfectly. We are taught in research to depersonalize studies to avoid biases and control for various factors. But for me, Puni Ke Ola is as far from impersonal as it possibly could be. Being a Native Hawaiian, growing up on Molokai, and being a graduate student in public health, I have been subject to many researchers and research projects on both ends of the research continuum – first as the researched and then now the researcher.

As a community member, I knew of many studies that were situated on my island focusing on diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, and other preventable diseases. Molokai has been a prime place to conduct these studies because of its dense population of Native Hawaiians (60% total, 80% youth). As a community member now in western academia, I have sat in university classrooms while health professionals presented on studies detailing all the health disparities and negative aspects of my community. I knew what they were saying was true because we were still dying from the very things these researchers were studying. I also knew there was more to the story, yet no researcher had taken the time to find or understand our strengths. These health inequities associated with Native Hawaiians were a common part of my daily life, and minimizing them is what drives my passion. I knew each study was set with the best intentions, but I left each class feeling that my community was unseen or overlooked.

When I found PiKO I found the type of research I knew I wanted to be a part of. PiKO asks haumana and the community to build on strengths that already exist in their daily lives that may be leveraged to create positive change. It doesn’t ask the community to change themselves, it simply asks them to bring to light values and traditions that are known. PiKO empowers us as indigenous people. It places our cultural knowledge on the same level as western academia.

For a long time, I struggled with my place as an indigenous person in western academia because I didn’t understand how my Hawaiian heritage would be valued in a western system. I honestly believed that to be a successful student and to succeed in a health career there could be no space for my Hawaiian identity. I thought I would have to conform to the western model and suppress the cultural aspects of my thinking for the sake of success. PiKO changes that narrative. It bridges the gap between the cultural knowledge my community gave me and the western knowledge the university continues to give me. PiKO didn’t ask me to choose academia or culture like I feel these two communities often demand. It allowed me to be completely whole and in turn, I am able to give back more of authentic self to my community. As I move forward in my career, it is my hope that I will be able to create space for the future kanaka to thrive in my field - creating space for our indigenous people to be unapologetically whole.

Huakaʻi through Native Hawaiian Literature:  Place as a Leader

Written by Nanea Alden, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of Psychiatry

As a seventh grader, I discovered the promising field of dentistry. For the next ten years, I worked assiduously for my dental school admission. But in the tenth year, as a recent college graduate and novice dental assistant, I realized my passions resided in something other than dentistry. Reluctant to abandon what was once my dream, I felt lost and uncertain. However, an opportunity to work with Puni Ke Ola (PiKO) has reconnected me to my Hawaiian culture and allowed me to find my new path as an emerging Hawaiian scholar. My experiences with Hawaiian youth on Molokai have impelled me to determine ways youth leadership can promote healthy well-being. My role in the PiKO project has been to investigate historical and contemporary Hawaiian literature for insights into leadership through a cultural lens.

Historically, chiefs maintained traditional positions of power with the responsibility to uphold order and prosperity. The story of ‘Umi describes a chief who cared for all without discrimination. As he gained respect for his kind deeds, “an aged kahuna said, ‘He is wise in caring for a chief as he is doing. His bones shall live.’” (p. 12, Kamakau, 1961). Thus, it was a cultural belief that chiefs could enhance their mana through pono leadership, such as sustainable resource management. Actions that were not pono diminished mana. When a chief did not lead with pono intentions, they often lost the right to rule (Crabbe, et al. 2017; Kamakau, 1961).

While chiefs ruled due to their genealogy and inherited mana, the ability to embody mana was not exclusive to those of chiefly status. The moʻolelo of Papa and Wākea named Hawaiian people as the younger siblings of the kalo and ‘āina. The moʻolelo instructed that kānaka of all ranks inherited the responsibility to nurture and care for their elders. Living in accordance with the cultural instructions of mālama ‘āina and aloha ‘āina, one actualized their inherent mana through their connection to land (Crabbe, et al. 2017).

Today, communities who live by these cultural precepts demonstrate resilience in the face of colonization. Na Kuaʻāina by Davianna McGregor imparts the value of cultural kipuka and the kuaʻāina who preserve and perpetuate them. Cultural kipuka are culturally sacred places that have “withstood destructive forces of change” (p. 7, 2007) perpetuating traditional practices, beliefs, and ways of life. Once a derogatory term that regarded rural folk as unsophisticated, the kuaʻāina of rural Hawaiian communities are now revered for their intimate connection to land, subsistence lifestyle, and practice of Hawaiian culture. Kuaʻāina carry with them old moʻolelo and knowledge that underline the historical significance and mana of a place (McGregor, 2007), providing us with the right tools to care for the land. In return, the land nourishes us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Given the deep importance of land to Hawaiian identity, I cannot ignore the potential of a place as a leader. Part of being a leader is to pass mana and ‘ike on to others. Moreover, it is a leader’s responsibility to teach others to lead (Kaulukukui, 2016). The land and ocean have served and continue to serve as primary sources of learning for all Hawaiians. Puni Ke Ola, born out of the cultural kipuka Molokai, immerses youth in culturally significant places and grows their mana through experience. Molokai Nui a Hina - Great Molokai, Child of Hina – describes a land of abundant resources with a need to be cultivated and sustained (McGregor, 2007). If Hawaiian youth have the opportunity to cultivate the land so important to our culture, they will inevitably cultivate their minds and values. Just as kalo takes two years to grow, they will learn that personal growth takes time and diligence. From the lasting walls of loko iʻa made of rocks that had been passed over mountains from person to person, they will understand the value of hard work and collective effort.

PiKO is a community-based program with an influence that reaches beyond the youth who participate. My experiences with Puni Ke Ola have solidified my decision to pursue other passions and anchored me in my Hawaiian ancestry. Equally important, they confirm the promise of cultural kipuka to build Hawaiian leaders. As the ‘ōlelo noʻeau “Mōhala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua” (#2178, Pukui, 1983) implies, when the land flourishes, the people flourish.


Crabbe, K., et al. (2017). Mana Lāhui Kānaka: Mai nā kūpuna kahiko mai a hiki i kēia wā. Honolulu: Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Kamakau, S.M. (1961). Ruling chiefs of Hawaii. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press

Kaulukukui, T. (2016). Hulili, Vol. 10. Honolulu: Kamehameha Publishing

McGregor, D. (2007). Nā Kuaʻāina: living Hawaiian culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Pukui, M. K. (1983). ʻŌlelo Noʻeau. Honolulu: Bishop Musuem Press.

ʻIke pono i ka huakaʻi: Our Path is Clear

Written by Cherry Yolanda Ekelakela Wright Yamane, (formerly) University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of Psychiatry

The Hawaiian archipelago includes more than 130 islands spread across 1,500 miles, and comprises a rich culture that has developed over hundreds of generations (US Department of Commerce, & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010). Hawaiʻi was a kingdom until the illegal overthrow in 1893, and became a republic in 1894. The overthrow remained despite the Kūʻē Petition of 1897 through which a majority of Hawaiians opposed the illegal annexation of our Kingdom to the US (Kameʻeleihiwa, 1992; Silva, 2004; Beamer, 2014). It wasn’t until 1959 that Hawaiʻi became a US state - decided by majority votes cast by the non-Native populace. Colonization did not end with annexation and statehood. Rather, these events symbolize the continued, contemporary trauma endured by Native Hawaiians on all levels of the socioecological model.

I share our history to highlight the disruption of our Indigenous ways of being in our homeland to contextualize what I understood as a Native Hawaiian growing up in one of the most densely populated Native Hawaiian communities. Waiʻanae is recognized as a rural community on Oʻahu, which prioritizes things differently from the tourist areas of the island: community over commercialization, understanding over talking. Like others in my millennial generation, I have overcome a childhood which included various forms of abuse - substances, physical, sexual. My personal experiences underscore some of the disadvantages Native Hawaiians endure, and about which we are subjected to the duress of being labelled under a statistic or studied through a microscope; colonizing practices that have become an industry in the academic world which profits (Anyupa, 2020) from the disparities of our people. The repercussions of colonization and cultural trauma is a settler inheritance (Tallbear, 2016) we did not ask for. From personal experience, I am here to increase visibility across generations that we are strong, passionate, and resilient because we are the product of our ancestors and of the land.

Being a part of the Puni Ke Ola (PiKO) project when I was an undergraduate research assistant helped me build research skills in data management, data analysis, and systematic literature reviews (Yamane, et al. 2018). I developed a profound qualitative research background that gave me a better understanding of problems facing my community. I have immersed myself in the loko iʻa that the haumāna participated in for their huaka`i, and learned from our respected cultural practitioners. The connectedness to one another, to the land, our indigeneity, and cultural pride was as beneficial to the haumāna as it was for me. Being alongside my people was invaluable because it gave me the grounding to hoʻi hou i ka piko of harnessing my own mana and recognizing the collective mana we share. Decolonization is not a metaphor (Tuck and Yang, 2012) and sovereignty must be centered in all work with Indigenous communities.

I realized that my skills would be useful in developing an ‘āina-based program for abuse survivors to become thrivers, to borrow from Maya Angelou. I intend to develop a program that would build on my field experience, and would have a culture-as-intervention, community-based, integrated health care approach for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. It will be centered around the sovereignty of Native Hawaiians. I intend to start in my community since my connections here are strong, with the hopes of expanding these services throughout Hawaiʻi. My community’s voice and ancestral consciousness will be privileged. We will advocate for our own health, even when other practitioners have not taken the time to listen. Culture-as-intervention deviates from adapted interventions that utilize a Hawaiian word and say it’s a Hawaiian intervention. Instead, look to the source - our kūpuna, to the kumu in our community whose guidance we seek, to those who have spent their lifetime helping our beloved home.

To my sources and foundational supports, I have shared my story to see if this proposal would be feasible and necessary for our community. I expressed my intention that there needs to be access to our cultural practices, community unification, as well as trauma-informed psychiatric, and integrated care since these are not widely accessible. I have been diligently establishing new connections to cultural practitioners and kupuna who maintain our sacred sites to see if they were interested in helping to facilitate “talk story” sessions grounded in the translation of our indigenous ways of knowing and cultural practices in connection with the land and our spirituality. While I have a lot of support, my community members are aware that academic credentials are required to lend legitimacy to this work. They have encouraged me to seek higher education, so I am enrolling in a graduate program in the fall 2020 so that I may further develop the necessary academic skills to help marginalized communities and ultimately help my Native Hawaiian people survive, thrive, and invoke our mana.


Anyupa. 2020. “Aboriginal disadvantage has become an industry for many people & organisations to profit off of the oppression mob in remote communities. Created jobs for outsiders to “fix” the problem but no real community empowerment or emerging leadership programs. Where’s the change? Nothing.” Twitter, 20 May 2020. 2:35PM.

Beamer, K. 2014. No mākou ka mana: Liberating the nation. Kamehameha Publishing.

Kameʻeleihiwa, L. 1992. Native Land and Foreign Desires. Bishop Museum Press.

Silva, NK. 2004. Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian resistance to American colonialism. Duke University Press.

Tallbear, K. 2016. “ʻVirginity” is a settler inheritance. Stop shaming our girls with virginity. Make a world in which they have the power to consent.” Twitter, 25 July 2016. 5:49PM.

Tuck, E. and Yang, K.W. 2012. Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society. Vol 1, No 1, p 1-40.

US Department of Commerce, & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2010. How did the Hawaiian Islands form?

Yamane CYEW, Helm S, Tanqueco R. (2018). Culture-As-Intervention Approaches to Reduce Health Disparities Amongst Indigenous Populations: A Systematized Literature Review. Poster presented at the Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) Undergraduate Summit, Honolulu, HI. 11/2018.