(Kaka‘ako, O‘ahu) Halalū ka Na‘au. There is an emptiness deep within. For the many decades, Senator Daniel K. Inouye has been the pouhana, main post, for those of us who have partnered with the federal government’s contributions to improving the health and wellbeing of nā kānaka maoli.

Senator Inouye worked tirelessly with fellow Congressional members and Hawaiian leaders, including his dear friend Myron “Pinky” Thompson, to pass and ensure the viability of the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act. That work alone has provided access to health care, disease prevention and lifestyle and wellbeing programs to tens of thousands of Native Hawaiians; trained more than 220 Hawaiian health professionals in nearly 20 different health professions, including 47 physicians, 43 social workers, 59 registered nurses, 16 clinical psychologists, 16 public health nurses and nurse practitioners, 8 dentists, public health professionals, pharmacists, and more; developed targeted programs addressing the concerns of traditional Hawaiian healing practices and practitioners, veterans, and health policy; established and maintained the Native Hawaiian Institutional Review Board, the Native Hawaiian Census Information Center; and the Native Hawaiian Epidemiology Center.

Additionally, the Senator was very much interested in the “wise practices” identified and implemented by Indigenous communities for Indigenous communities in health care and policy. He encouraged the exchange of information and efforts among Indigenous Peoples in the United States—American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians—and among the Maori of New Zealand and other Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific.

Keiki o ka ‘āina himself, Senator Inouye was driven by early experiences of his mother, hānai by a Hawaiian family, who passed on the values of aloha, kōkua, laulima, kuleana, and others.

Indeed, a great statesman, advocate, and personal friend leaves us bereft. However, his legacy surrounds us – in the growing cadre of young Native Hawaiian health professionals; among those who freely seek healing through traditional healing practices; among the thousands who have maintained, or have restored, their health and wellbeing within the Native Hawaiian health care system; and in all those individuals and organizations whose lives are guided by the Hawaiian values upheld within the context of malama Hawai‘i.

Make no ke kalo a ola i ka palili. The taro may die but lives on in the young plants that it produces.

Our aloha goes out to Mrs. Inouye, and Ken Inouye and his family. May the above proverb provide comfort in the wake of the loss of their husband, father, grandfather, and paragon of leadership for us all. Aloha a hui hou aku. 

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