Social Constructs of Hawaiian Land and Identity: Connections between Native Plants and Native People
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Using medical anthropological theories and methods, the purpose of this project was to investigate the culturally constructed models of a healthy native Hawaiian identity, focusing on the use of plants. I explored the relationship between the land and plants and the reconciliation of native Hawaiian identity within a multicultural environment. I conducted a case study of my Hawaiian roommate focusing on her, her family, and their friends as well as professors, public health officials, and kalo farmers. I attended cultural events such as the Global Public Health Conference, Federal Recognition Forum, Health and Well-being Seminars, language classes, A Taste of Honolulu, and assisted the cultivation of a lo?i. My interactions with native Hawaiians elucidated two common themes. A strong sentiment of frustration, fueled by a historic loss of sovereignty, permeated the responses to my interview questions. However, the prevalence of an emerging pride in the progress of revitalizing a healthy Hawaiian identity demonstrated the enthusiasm of native Hawaiians in opposing their cultural subjugation. Upon analysis of the interviews, the parallels between native plants and native people became more apparent. I formulated an Invasive Aliens Model, which summarizes these connections regarding land, diversity, globalization, competition, disease, and western attitudes. This interdisciplinary model may be used to engage scientists, social scientists, doctors, policy makers, and the Hawaiian people to find unique solutions to the problems of cultural and biodiversity loss.