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Aloha mai kākou,

There is a hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, February 25, 2020, at 1:15 PM in room 016. Senate Bill 43, Senate Draft 1 (SB 43, SD1) proposes a statewide supplementary certification board for the practitioners of traditional native Hawaiian healing arts, where practitioners may be certified to practice.

We are sharing our testimony here because although we submitted it this morning, it did not make it into the posted testimonies.  It is not our intent to place blame as to why or how that happened, but to assure practitioners, student healers, our colleagues and the communities we serve that we care.  We have been involved in these discussions ongoing for 30 years; this is as important as it was in 1988.

So we present a bit of history and our testimony below.

Papa Ola Lōkahi is STRONGLY OPPOSED to the formation of a supplemental certification board for the certification of practitioners of traditional Hawaiian healing arts for three main reasons:  (1) the inappropriateness of State interference with Hawaiian traditions and customs, (2) the harm such State certification will impose on the most traditional practitioners of Hawaiian healing arts, (3) the inappropriateness of requiring all Kupuna Councils to adopt the standards of one particular council without courtesy of consultation.  Finally, POL would assert that the requirements in this bill are redundant, and that once we describe the policies and procedures around Kupuna Council coordination, some of the State’s questions will be satisfied.

The following documents are attached in support of our position:

  1. Kupuna Councils – An Overview, 2020;
  2. Kupuna Councils Eligibility and Application Policies and Procedures(approved August 2019); and
  3. Chronology of Policy Events Relating to Traditional Hawaiian Healing Practices since 1985.

Papa Ola Lōkahi has been engaged in discussions with the Legislature for more than 30 years, and we’re grateful for the ongoing consultation.  These discussions have also included kupuna practitioners, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems and the Hawaiian-serving community health centers, including Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. 

Our guidance in the matter of certification comes from the Kahuna Statement issued by Hawai‘i’s kupuna practitioners at Kailua-Kona on October 31, 1998, which in short asserts that it is inappropriate for the State of Hawai‘i to regulate traditional Native Hawaiian practices; the right belongs to the Native Hawaiian community, as provided by Article XII, Section 7 of the State Constitution. 

This group of kūpuna were convened by POL following the passage on Act 162 in 1998.  A report was filed with the State Legislature that included the following statement:

We, the Undersigned Kupuna Practitioners of Hawaiian healing, have counseled and agree:

  •  That we are only instruments in the healing process and that the true source of healing comes from the Almighty, known as Akua, Io, or God. It is this source that gives us our calling to practice;
  • That the Legislature of the State of Hawai‘i is not knowledgeable in the healing traditions of the Hawaiian people; and
  • That while we are grateful the Legislature has passed SB 1946, the blood quantum, licensure, and certification issues raised in the legislation are inappropriate and culturally unacceptable for government to ascertain. These are the kuleana of the Hawaiian community itself through kupuna who are performing these practices.

As a result of this strong statement from the masters of that time, the law was changed from one mandating POL to certify practitioners, to one requiring us to recognize Kupuna Councils of practitioners of Hawaiian healing traditions.  This is the language in HRS 453-2(c) and in Act 32, passed in 2019.

Certification of practitioners of Hawaiian healing arts would be like the State certifying kumu hula.  In both cases, the State lacks expertise in these Hawaiian customs, it is understood that the practitioners regulate themselves, and State regulation is in contempt of Article XII, Section 7 of the State’s Constitution.

Secondly, certification of practitioners would extend beyond students who take a few semesters and wish to offer services for third party reimbursement.  This measure would open the door to individuals who simply wish to be certified practitioners for commercial purposes to the detriment of perpetuating authentic Hawaiian practices.  Most damaging of all, this bill would outlaw kupuna practitioners who have been in lifelong apprenticeships, realizing the teachings of their grandparents or their kumu, serving their families and perhaps their communities.  Mandated certification would render them illegal practitioners.

Our third point is one that we believe will bring assurances, addressing both sections 2 and 3 of the bill. Involved in the recognition of Kupuna Councils for more than 20 years, Papa Ola Lōkahi did exactly what is called for in Section 2(a):  convened an ad hoc committee of practitioners from the traditional Native Hawaiian healing community, from multiple islands, and representing multiple practices to evaluate and codify policies and procedures around the recognition of Kupuna Councils.  These updated procedures were approved by our board in August 2019.  We subsequently disseminated the following to all seven recognized councils, including the Kupuna Council that is attached to Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, and three others that are currently exploring recognition: 

  1. Be attached to a Native Hawaiian Health Care System, federally qualified health center, federally designated rural health center, or federally designated lookalike.
  2. Develop guidelines for membership, authentication of practitioners and governance.
  3. Be willing to provide annual updates of members, activities, and the Hawaiian healing traditions covered by its members.
  4. Be willing to engage with other Kupuna Councils for the purpose of shared learning.

As this information has been conveyed to each of the seven Kupuna Councils, we are expecting that they have prepared or are preparing to submit reports to Papa Ola Lōkahi, as required in Section 3 of this measure.

Most importantly, each Kupuna Council defines for itself the criteria for recognition or authentication of Hawaiian healing practitioners, criteria for eligibility as a Kupuna Council member, and how it regulates or governs itself, as stated in Act 153 passed in 2005:  Each kupuna council shall (1) be independent; (2) not be a component of any state branch; (3) not be subject to chapters 91 and 92, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes; and (4) develop its own policies, procedures, and rules necessary or appropriate to certify traditional Hawaiian healers. 

Thus, it would be inappropriate to require that all Kupuna Councils’ certification standards synchronize with those articulated by Wai‘anae Community Kupuna Council because (1) each community is as different as are the different schools of teaching, and (2) Wai‘anae’s standards have not been shared with Papa Ola Lōkahi nor any of the other Kupuna Councils, according to our survey.

Papa Ola Lōkahi is coordinating Kupuna Councils that represent all islands and all healing practices. We took steps in 2019 to update and communicate, rendering Sections 2 and 3 of this measure redundant.

Let it be known that it is not necessary for a practitioner of Hawaiian healing traditions to be certified in order to practice.  Some whose testimonies are posted do earn a living through their healing practice. 

Practitioners who wish to be may apply to their nearest Kupuna Council to undergo the authentication process.

Hawaiian healing traditions are protected at the highest level constitutionally possible in Hawai‘i.  Indeed, Kupuna Councils exist not for practitioners to recognize themselves, but to provide the legislature a mechanism that satisfies concerns for standards of care, in a culturally grounded framework that was suggested by the kūpuna themselves.

Finally, we want to point out some of the cultural failings of this process:

  1. This measure was introduced without the courtesy of prior consultation with Papa Ola Lōkahi board, staff, nor any of those who have participated in evaluating or developing the Kupuna Council recognition process.  To our knowledge, there has been no consultation with members of E Ola Mau, Kupuna Lā‘au Lapa‘au o Hawai‘i, ‘Aha Kūkā Ho‘oponopono, Hawaiian Lomilomi Association, nor with any other body of Hawaiian healing practitioners that have engaged in such discussions with Papa Ola Lōkahi.
  2. Traditionally, Hawaiian healing practices have a strong spiritual component.  Given the separation of church and state, these distinctly spiritual practices cannot be legislated.

Papa Ola Lōkahi does not support this bill; therefore, we are also opposed to any proposed amendments.  Please know that we welcome the opportunity to engage in further discussions for mutual understanding.

We remain in strong OPPOSITION to SB 43 SD1


[Testimony, no attachment]

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 Inkedhee version LIThis week in keeping with Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawai’i, our Education & Training Assistant Kamaka’ike Bruecher shares her journey.

We are each on our own journey.

I grew up speaking English in Seattle Washington, not knowing much about my family history or culture. When I attended summer immersion camp between grades 5 and 9, I was taught that as young Hawaiians we are part of an age of revitalization and our kuleana is to continue taking care of our language, culture, homeland, and communities. I became more familiar with ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi by learning phrases, words, oli, and mele. After immersion camp sessions ended, I told my Tūtū that I wished to keep learning our language. She was very pleased, and so she gave me all she could.

Tūtū gave me Hawaiian language books, and stories of how she grew up with five generations of our family speaking Hawaiian in our ʻāina kulāiwi. She gave me time to practice speaking with her, and recollection of going to community college in old age to practice Hawaiian with students. She gave me corrections to my many mistakes, and encouragement to keep learning and practicing. I am not yet fluent, but I am on my language journey and thankful for all who have been a part of it or are on their own.

In Washington, there are not many opportunities to learn Hawaiian in person. There are many places Hawaiians are present in the diaspora including hālau hula, hui wa‘a, and cultural festivals. Language classes and resources, however, are not as accessible, so often times people turn to the world wide web to learn. Today it is the internet that keeps us connected. I have met other people who have been learning away from our islands, because no matter where in the world we are, we believe that it is our responsibility to keep our language alive. It takes all of us, everywhere, unashamed, to practice little by little and make our way back into our language together.

Learning our native language is not just about keeping our culture and values alive – it is a way of intergenerational healing. We speak Hawaiian for those who were not able to before us, and for the many who will speak into the future. From my Tūtū’s smile when I ask how her day was, to my mother’s pride in the new words she learns, from practicing oli in the car with my cousins, to the words that will some day flow from my keiki’s mouths with ease.

Ku i ka mana

 ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi belongs in our families and communities.

We are all on our own journey, but we are also part of a journey together.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Kamakaʻike Bruecher 

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NHHSP LOGO color trans taglineThe Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program (NHHSP), a program of Papa Ola Lōkahi (POL), is accepting applications from students in health and allied health professions for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Information may be found at www.nhhsp.org from February 1, 2020.  The deadline to apply online is March 15, 2020.

Students who are enrolled or planning to enroll in an accredited college in Hawai‘i or the continental U.S. are encouraged to apply. Applications are being accepted for students in clinical psychology, dentistry, dental hygiene, dietetics/nutrition, nursing, medicine, physician’s assistant, and social work.   

“This generous scholarship has been significant in assuring academic success among our students, all of whom have planned to give back to their communities,” Donna-Marie Palakiko, PhD, NHHSP operations coordinator and an alumna of the program describes the impact of the program.  “And, we are growing our own health workforce.”

The benefits of this merit-based scholarship include tuition, a monthly living stipend, and miscellaneous school related expenses. Upon completion of the degree and required training and licensure or certification, the recipient shall serve two to four years of full-time employment in designated medically underserved sites in Hawai‘i.

More than 290 scholarship awards have been made in 20 different health and behavioral health disciplines since 1991. 

“We are always looking at innovative ways to assure health care is accessible and affordable.  This program contributes to assuring a workforce that is acceptable,” explains POL executive director Sheri Daniels, EdD.  “And it moves the dial for improved parity for Native Hawaiians in health professions.”

For more information about the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program visit www.nhhsp.org.

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Contact:          Kim Ku‘ulei Birnie, Communications Specialist, (808) 597-6550 or 383-1651

                                                                         PDF News Release

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 Umi of Hawaii signed POL logo crop

Planning for Census 2020 provides the perfect opportunity to look at our traditions and remind ourselves of the brilliance of our ancestors.

Census-taking is not a new practice. As far back as 1500, ‘Umi-a-Liloa conducted a census of Hawai‘i Island to help him assess the resources of his realm. 

As chief, ‘Umi directed all citizens to bring a stone representing his or her stature to the slopes of Hualalai. Babies were represented by pebbles, smaller stones stood in for keiki, ʻōpio were represented by somewhat larger ones, and mākua larger still. Kūpuna offered stones according to their strength. Warriors placed the largest pohaku of all.

The latter information became important when ‘Umi needed to assemble his army to confront Maui forces.

Stones were placed in piles assigned to the districts of the moku, thus providing a quick assessment of the population of each district.

There are several 19th century accounts of these rock piles and the ingenuity of our aliʻi. Bingham recognized eight pyramids. Alexander described these pyramids with detailed dimensions. Some referred to the pilings as columns. Remnants of this earliest census remain today, as do the stories of this innovative method of counting.

A regular accounting of population informs how resources are allocated and programs are developed. The information will assist us in knowing our communities so that we can design and execute services, evaluate programming, and advocate for those we serve.  This is why Papa Ola Lōkahi is proud to encourage participation.

You Count!  Place your pohaku. Participate in Census 2020.


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Mahalo to Momi Imaikalani Fernandez whose research in behalf of Papa Ola Lōkahi contributed to this reprisal of ‘Umi-a-Liloa’s story.  These related articles were published in Ka Wai Ola in December 2009, January 2010, and in this 2010 Census newsletter.

Mahalo to Natalie Kamaka‘ike Bruecher for her original artwork.

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SCR 74 report cover page


Papa Ola Lōkahi assessed the social, financial and cultural impacts of mandating health insurance coverage for certain Native Hawaiian cultural activities, as requested by the State Legislature in 2018 legislative session.  Here is our report.

Mahalo nui to all the kumu hula, health plan professionals and others who contributed to this assessment.

Click on the image to download a copy of the report [PDF].

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