Exploring ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and the Mental Health of Native Hawaiians

Feb 20, 2024

In the context of mental health, language holds a profound significance our culture as Native Hawaiians. ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian Language), not only serves as a means of communication but also embodies the essence of ancestral wisdom, cultural identity, and spiritual connection. Understanding the interplay between language and mental health is crucial for appreciating the holistic approach to well-being our kaiaulu (community).

The Significance of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

  • Cultural Identity: ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is more than just words; it is a reflection of centuries-old traditions, values, and experiences. For us as Native Hawaiians, speaking and preserving the language of our Kūpuna (ancestors) is a way to honor them, reclaim our heritage, and reaffirm our cultural identity.
  • Spiritual Connection: ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is deeply intertwined with spirituality, with each word carrying the mana (life force) of the land and ʻike Kūpuna (wisdom of the ancestors). Through ʻoli (chants), pule (prayers), and traditional ceremonies, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi fosters a profound spiritual connection that nurtures mental and emotional well-being.

Language and Mental Health

  • Expressive Therapy: Language serves as a powerful tool for self-expression and healing in our community. Through moʻolelo (storytelling), mele (poetry and song), and hula (dance), we can articulate our emotions, experiences, and aspirations, facilitating a deeper understanding of ourselves and our pilina (connections)- pilina with kanaka (humankind), pilina with Akua (divinity), and pilina with ʻaina (nature).
  • Cultural Resilience: In the face of historical trauma and cultural oppression, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi embodies resilience and resistance. By reclaiming and revitalizing our language, we are reclaiming our narrative, asserting our ea (sovereignty), and promoting healing and empowerment within our ʻohana (families) and kaiaulu.



  • "Hawaiian Language and Mental Health" by Dr. Sam Ohu Gon III - This article explores the connection between language revitalization efforts and mental health outcomes in Native Hawaiian communities.
  • "Nā Wahi Pono: A Sourcebook on Hawaiian Values" by Malcolm Nāea Chun - This book provides insights into traditional Hawaiian values and their relevance to contemporary issues, including mental health and well-being.
  • "‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Language) as a Way of Life: Past, Present, Future" by Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier - This research paper examines the cultural significance of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and its role in preserving indigenous knowledge and practices.
  • "Ho‘oponopono: A Traditional Hawaiian Problem-Solving Process" by Dr. Tamara Ticktin - This article explores the therapeutic aspects of ho‘oponopono, a traditional Hawaiian conflict resolution practice, and its implications for mental health and healing.

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