Holistic Honu Wellness Center
by Suzi Ko
April 2009 Workshop
Native Hawaiians are more at risk for developing and dying from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases than any other single ethnic group.
Factors contributing to poor health outcomes among Native Hawaiian include cultural barriers, limited access to health care, poor nutrition and lifestyle.
In an attempt to combat this problem, The US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health developed the National Partnership for Action program. This program trains medical persons in cultural competency and encourages recruiting, educating and training Native peoples in the medical fields, however, it fails to address one of the main reasons current health care services are underutilized by Native peoples.
Current health care services are fundamentally based on concepts of western medicine. Many Native peoples mistrust western health practitioners and western curative techniques, so to train Native youth in western practices is not going to solve the problem of under-utilization of the western medical system.
Western medicine is based on a linear mindset, traditional healing is based on an organic mindset. If we only think with one-half of our brain, we become inherently unbalanced.
Traditional healing is a broad term that includes healing beliefs and practices of indigenous persons worldwide. It combines religion, spirituality, herbal medicine, touch therapy and rituals that are used to treat people with medical and emotional conditions.
The communal support provided by this approach to health care has been proven to provide worthwhile physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.
From the traditional healer's perspective, medicine is more about healing the person than curing the disease. Traditional healers aim to "make whole" by restoring well-being and harmonious relationships with the community and the divine.
Traditional healing is based on the belief that everyone and everything on earth is interconnected, and that every person, animal, and plant has a spirit or essence. Even an object, such as a rock, or a river and even the earth is considered to have this kind of spirit.
Many traditional healing practices were driven underground or lost because they were banned or deemed illegal in the United States until 1978, when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. Even now, there are difficulties with acceptance of traditional healing ceremonies and rituals on sacred sites.
These activities are sometimes forbidden because the land now serves other purposes and the rituals practiced are misunderstood/feared (because of lack of education) even at times within their own culture.
Because of the mistrust of Western medical practitioners, Traditional healers are, for the most part, still practicing underground. However, we, at the Holistic Honu Wellness Center are trying to bring traditional healing back to the forefront, not only for our own culture, but for the community at large.
The Holistic Honu Wellness Center, a California, 501(c)3, not-for-profit Hawaiian traditional healing and education provider has provided traditional healing services to, and developed a comprehensive traditional healing training program for the Central California Hawaiian community for the past five years.
The programs and services follow the old traditional protocols including those of gifting or reciprocity. The Holistic Honu Wellness Center regularly conducts community outreach and educational programs for interested parties and the community at large.
Our staff Traditional Hawaiian Healer has logged over 12,698 in out-call treatment hours, traveled over 187,970 miles in her personal automobile, spent over $38,995 on just gasoline and over $42,685 in hotel room fees in the service of our clients. As payment, our clients have given a total of $22,612 in cash, 37 live chickens, three live large pot belly pigs, four live peacocks, two live pigmy goats, seven crates of toys, 112 baskets of fruit, 36 bouquets of flowers, 18 garden plants, 29 large garbage bags of used clothing, 36 pounds of fresh fish and countless plates of excellent food.
To date, over 79 students have matriculated through our Level One 130 hour introductory program; 10 have gone on to our Level Two apprenticeship training program and 7 are actively pursuing the title of Kumu Hoola or practitioner through our Level Three practitioner training program.
We are proud to maintain traditional protocols through all aspects of our work. For most traditional practitioners throughout the continental United States, and in Hawaii, following the old protocol of hookupu or gifting is outdated, and they insist on monetary payments only.
If we were to follow this line, we could easily bill our clients $60 to $150 per hour for treatments; however, in our opinion, this practice only serves the practitioner, violates a community and helps to extinguish a culture.
Our education programs teach people how to care for themselves and their families using traditional, holistic remedies, allowing them to use their money more efficiently. Our outreach programs send student practitioners and instructors out in the communities to make house calls and to assist community members with hands-on healing applications as well as coaching in self-care.
All of our services are offered to the community in accordance with traditional protocols. Although the community members gift back to us it is not always in the form of money. They do not have much to give, but they give from their heart what they can; and for us this is its own reward. The down side to this practice, however, is that our workshops are expensive, our bills numerous and banks will not accept fish and poi as a form of payment for rendered services.
It is our belief that both western and traditional practices have a place in medicine today. It is our hope and desire that through our programs we can help to restore that balance, not only for the Native Hawaiian community, but for others who may also benefit from this practice. By training members of the community to be conduits or bridges between traditional Native practices and the western medical system, we feel that we can better address the issue of health disparities within Native communities.