Traveling exhibit makes its first Hawaii stop at Sullivan Family Library
Among medical librarians, the “Native Voices: Native Peoples Concepts of Health and Illness” art exhibit is its own version of Taylor Swift’s “The Era Tours,” having traveled across the U.S. for more than a decade now. Officially opened at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) on October 5, 2011, the multi-media interactive exhibition explores the interconnectedness of wellness, illness and cultural life for Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.
With a keen and long-held desire to help improve public understanding of Native American health challenges and honor the culture, tradition and healing ways of Native Peoples, Donald A.B. Lindberg M.D. (National Library of Medicine’s director from 1984-2015) interviewed more than 80 Native American health and community leaders, resulting in over 250 video clips, the largest such collection of Native American videos known to exist.
While the exhibition’s usual iPad stands didn’t make the trip to Hawaii, you can still watch the videos online. The traveling exhibition that’s on display at Sullivan comprises six free-standing banners: the title banner introduces the exhibition; and each of the other five banners focuses on one of the main themes of Individual, Community, Nature, Tradition and Healing. The categories touch upon such topics as Native views and definitions of health and illness, Native views of land, food, community, the earth/nature, and Spirituality as they relate to Native health and illness, and contemporary and historical roles of traditional healing in Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native and Native American cultures.
“I think this exhibit will resonate with Chaminade students, and the community in general, because they might see parts of themselves reflected back to them in the panels of the exhibit,” says Krystal Kakimoto, ’22 (MBA), Sullivan Family Library’s liaison librarian and director of library technical services. “For too long, Native knowledge surrounding health has been dismissed. This exhibit gives viewers a chance to reflect and critically think about health and wellness while learning about the resilience and adaptation to change inherit to Native communities.”
Stories drawn from both the past and the present examine how the determinants of health for Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives and American Indians are tied to community, the land and spirit. Through personal interviews, Native Peoples describe how individual and community wellness were affected by the political and cultural events of the 19th and 20th centuries. Individual reflections show the impact of epidemics, federal legislation, the loss of land and the inhibition of culture on the health of Native individuals and communities today. Collectively, these stories convey how Native people use both traditional and Western methods to enhance wellness, ultimately presenting an inspiring account of renaissance, recovery and self-determination.
Indeed, indigenous art often serves as a powerful medium for expressing cultural values, beliefs and experiences related to health and illness. Many indigenous cultures also hold holistic views of health that encompass physical, mental, spiritual and community well-being. “Native Voices” lays bare these interconnected aspects, emphasizing the importance of balance and harmony.
“I think the special twist on the Native part is that it’s so embedded in the land,” says one of the exhibit’s early key collaborators Marjorie Mau, M.D., physician and Chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, in one of the 250 video clips. “It’s like if the land is abused or misused or not cared for, the people are reflected by that. Hopefully, future generations will understand at least when Native people are talking about who they are, and how they can take ownership of their wellness, that they’ll understand their wellness can spring from their homeland and from where they come from.”
“Native Voices: Native Peoples Concepts of Health and Illness” will be on display at the Sullivan Family Library until January 19.
“Chaminade University connects academic learning with the local community, environment and culture, creating a unique college experience for our students,” says Kakimoto, chairwoman of the Hawaii-Pacific Chapter of the Medical Library Association, an organization of consisting of professional librarians, individuals and institutions in health sciences libraries. “This philosophy takes learning beyond the traditional classroom and aims to make learning more relevant, engaging and applicable to the real world. I hope this exhibit continues our tradition of place-based learning to contextualize health in relation to the ʻāina.”