Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Birthing a nation: Ka Lahui O Ka Po (#409)

Kaiulani Odom 1 , Puni Jackson 1
  1. Kokua Kalihi Valley, ROOTS/Ehuola Program, Honolulu, HI, USA

Introduction: Cultural methods and practices of childbirth empower women and their partners/families to actively be part of building a pathway for their child to travel into the world with a solid foundation. In the past, we knew how to read signs, to listen to our dreams, to take of our bodies and our kuleana (responsibilities) to protect our women and babies from negativity. In Hawai’i, these practices included lomi lomi (massage), laau lapau (traditional medicine), aipono (cultural foods), hooponopono (conflict resolution) and more. With colonisation, our births took place in hospitals instead of on our ancestral lands. Our traditional knowledge and practices started to fade away. Many hospitals did not respect our wishes to incorporate traditional practices such as laau lapaau or the protocols around placement of placentas into familial lands.

Description: Ka Lahui O Ka Po is a group of Native Hawaiian women who gather together to collect data, stories and history from our kupuna (Elders). Our goal is to restore our native birthing practices and rights across our lands in order to ensure that our children emerge into a world that is filled with the loving arms of their heritage. We currently offer a series of classes to help expectant parents open up to ancestral wisdom to have the birthing experience they desire. Participants are taught how to utilize cultural practices such as lomi lomi, aipono and laau lapaau. Although word of mouth, our classes fill quickly. In response to this need, we also provide practitioner trainings several times a year. 

Results: Evaluation efforts so far have shown that our parents feel more confident and prepared, have increased depth of communication, are stronger as a couple, feel more spiritually grounded and are implementing traditional practices into their birthing experience. We hope to positively change the environment of Western medicine and hospitals to allow this engagement of Native Hawaiians with traditional birth practices to occur. Nevertheless, our priority is empower Native Hawaiian families to use cultural methods and practices of childbirth as the first step to building a stronger, healthier Native Hawaiian lahui (nation).