Ma'i Ma Ka 'Oihana Mauli Ola: Understanding the Ancient Hawaiian Health System and Indigenous Perceptions of Disease through a Sociocultural History

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Kealoha Fox, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
There is a deep and rich history in the philosophy of health and biomedical sciences that is ancestrally tied to the traditional medical practices of Native Hawaiians. This includes the Polynesian concept of mana, the human spiritual power that flows through ka ‘oihana mauli ola, the traditional health care structure. Within this lineage, Hawaiians are spiritually connected to their life force, their mauli ola, as an integrated source for health and wellbeing. Maʻi and the Hawaiian perceptions of ailment, illness and disease, therefore, are characterized by the imbalance of the Hawaiian ability to maintain or acquire one’s mana. This review creates an initial research framework relating to ancient Hawaiian records on this structure, their customs, rituals, and practices. This review presents an initial research framework to rebuild the structure of traditional medicine for kānaka ʻōiwi wellbeing to once again thrive. Here, Hawaiian health concepts are no longer understood as exclusively conventional or Western-based. This ethnohistory compares, evaluates, and critically analyzes literature that investigates or documents Hawaiian health pre-contact. The following search terms were used: Hawaiian illness; Hawaiian disease; Maʻi; Native Hawaiian health; Hawaiian healing; Hawaiian culture and disease. Search terms were entered into the data collection tools of National Library of Medicine’s PubMed, EBSCOHost and Google Scholar. Additionally, comparative research methods was applied to better capture historical documentation from primary and secondary sources, while extracting evidence of mauli ola from original archival records. Major themes were generated to develop an evidence-base for further investigation. These four themes are: 1) The Spiritual Life Force of Mana and Hawaiian Health, 2) Ka ‘Oihana Mauli Ola: The Traditional Hawaiian Health Structure, 3) Hawaiian Healing of Maʻi and Kāhuna Disciplines, 4) Maʻi and Hawaiian Perceptions of Disease.
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