In partnership with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Papa Ola Lōkahi presents the 14th Annual Hawaiian Health award to community legends Aunty Pele Hanoa and Dr. Claire K. Hughes.

Congratulations to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement on the occasion of its 14th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention taking place September 22-24, 2015 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.  And mahalo to executive director Michelle Ka‘uhane, and the CNHA board and staff who always save space at the annual meeting to bring attention to Hawaiian health and well-being.   This is the 14th occasion that POL has partnered with CNHA to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the health and well-being of Kānaka Maoli.

Test imageBringing the famous ‘ili‘ili of Kōloa Beach to educate other women with lumps in their breasts is just one example of how Aunty PELE HANOA has shared her culture and desire to help others.

Aunty Pele was the catalyst that brought the Ka‘ū community together to organize, speak out, and to advocate for what was best for them, a community organizer before we used the term.  In the 1970s, she was instrumental in establishing ALU LIKE, which was the launch pad for so many other Hawaiian-serving organizations, such as Papa Ola Lōkahi and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems.

Aunty Pele was one of the first DOE kūpuna.  She was willing to share the stories of Ka‘ū in Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina’s The Caretakers of Ka Lae and Kapu Ka‘ū, eventually founding the Punalu‘u Preservation Society, which is now the Ka‘ū Preservation Society.   Aunty Pele was an early protector of the land when she supported Wao Kele o Puna against geothermal development, and more recently, Mauna Kea from further development.  The organizations on Hawai‘i Island and statewide in which she has been involved are too numerous to mention, but Aunty Pele has been widely recognized:  The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the State of Hawai‘i have honored her for her work in the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture; she was one of the first Burial Commissioners, appointed to the Hawai‘i Island Burial Council by Governor John Waihe‘e; and she was honored by Governor Linda Lingle, who proclaimed Sept 1, 2007 as “Winifred Pele Hanoa Day”.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she found solace at Kōloa Beach in her district of Ka‘ū, which, by the way, means the breast.  But then she turned her healing into education, support, and comfort of other women in need.  She served on the Community Advisory Committee for ‘Imi Hale – Native Hawaiian Cancer Networkfrom 2000-2005 and is featured in its Breast Cancer video with other breast cancer survivors.  Aunty Pele is a charter member of Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‘Ōiwi, the Native Hawaiian Health Care System that serves Hawai‘i Island, and she continues to serve there, remaining interested in the well-being of Hawaiians everywhere.

Our second honoree is also a pioneer in the Hawaiian health movement.  You may be familiar with her monthly column in Ka Wai Ola on Hawaiian well-being, where Claire Hughes blends the latest science and kupuna wisdom to encourage us to be as excellent in body, mind and spirit as were our ancestors.

Raised on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, graduated from the Kamehameha Schools, Claire returned home from Oregon State University in 1959 as the first Native Hawaiian registered dietitian.

When Drs. Kekuni Blaisdell and Emmett Aluli looked to traditional eating habits to address chronic disease and overweight on Moloka‘i, Claire was called upon to design and implement a diet utilizing traditional Hawaiian foods and shunning the common processed and high-fat foods.  The success of that first diet—called Ho‘oke ‘Ai—led to the establishment of:  Na Pu‘uwai, which is now the Native Hawaiian Health Care System serving Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i; and to what she has since coinedTHDs, or Traditional Hawaiian Diets, such as the Wai‘anae Diet, the Hawai‘i Diet, ‘Ai Pono, and more.

They also collaborated with other Hawaiians and allies looking to improve Hawaiian health status on the landmark E Ola Mau Hawaiian Needs Study (1985).  She spearheaded the Nutrition and Dental Health report with Dr. Mark Greer, long-time chief of the Dental Health Branch.  The findings, and congressional support, led to federal recognition of our plight followed by the establishment of Papa Ola Lōkahi, the five Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems, and the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program.

At the age of 63 she returned to school for her doctorate in public health.  Those first involved in the budding Hawaiian health movement were often invited to national “minority health” discussions, but Claire understood what was necessary to be assured a “seat at the table.”  She has been able to inspire other young Hawaiians to go to school, stay in school and even go back to school.

In addition to her monthly column, Dr. Hughes has published extensively in academic journals on diet, nutrition, diet’s relationship to chronic disease, minority health research, and ethnic health databases.

She brought cancer screenings and health topics to the annual Hawaiian Civic Clubconventions.  At the American Cancer Society, she organized the first committee dedicated to addressing cancer in the Hawaiian community.  After spending years improving health education and research protocols around breast cancer, which involved mostly women, she called on Hawaiian men to organize and set up kane-only talk story sessions until they felt comfortable developing programs and reaching out to other men to get involved in their own health care.  Dr. Hughes was the Chief of the Nutrition Branch of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, retiring after more than 30 years.

Claire could be considered a founder of Papa Ola Lōkahi, but within POL, she has helped to steer nearly every program we have managed from our ‘Imi Hale Native Hawaiian Cancer Network, to diabetes in the Pacific, to Native Hawaiian research protocols.  She currently serves on the board of Ke Ola Mamo, the Native Hawaiian Health Care System on O‘ahu.

Claire has earned numerous awards, including POL’s Ka‘ōnohi Award (1996), Honpa Hongwanji’s Living Treasure (2011), and ‘Aha Hīpu‘u’s recent Kalani Ali‘i award (2015).  In 2001, Claire Hughes was described with an ‘Ōlelo No‘eau (Pukui) that suits her still:

Hānau ‘ia ka pō Lā‘au, lā‘au na iwi, he koa.

Born was she on a Lā‘au night for her bones are hard and she is fearless.

While she attributed passion for service with excellence to her mother, Aunty Violet Hughes, Claire Ku‘uleilani Hughes is recognized for her vision, her fortitude and her fearlessness.

Mahalo nui to Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement for the opportunity to focus on Hawaiian health and well-being, and two extraordinary women, Aunty Pele Hanoa and Dr. Claire Hughes.


For more on Aunty Pele Hanoa:

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