The University of Hawaii at Manoa has joined forces with two New Zealand universities — the University of Auckland and Massey University — to engage in multidisciplinary, collaborative research relevant to indigenous populations.

The institutions’ partnership agreement revolves around one main mission: “To uplift the mana and aspirations of indigenous peoples.” 

In other words, the research has to benefit the needs of native populations across the Pacific, said Everdina Fuli, who oversees Maori and Pacific research at the University of Auckland, in a statement.

“Our researchers want to help not only their own communities, but the wider indigenous global community,” Fuli said.

Two departments within UH Manoa — the College of Social Sciences’ Department of Ethnic Studies and the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health — are spearheading the partnership on Hawaii’s end. 

“We seek to honor our different genealogies as we bring our kupuna with us to the table,” said Ty Kawika Tengan, ethnic studies department chair. “We want to do those things that are positive to uplift the collective mana that comes when we pool this indigenous knowledge—these practices based in place that distinguish us as people of the Pacific.”

Meanwhile, JABSOM and the University of Auckland, along with the University of Washington’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, have already secured a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health that is helping support a 12-week research training program in New Zealand for UH and UW students. 

Keaweaimoku Kaholokula, who chairs JABSOM’s Native Hawaiian health department, said the program will help indigenous students in the medical school become biomedical and behavioral scientists. 

Photo: A halau in Lahaina, Maui, in 2008. (Courtesy of pescatello via Flickr.)

— Alia Wong