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Transnational Pacific Islander Americans and Social Work
Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drum
Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi and Meripa Taiai Godinet, Editors
ISBN: 978-0-87101-449-8. 2014. Item #4498. 184 pages.
Book Type:
Transnational Pacific Islander Americans and Social Work: Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drum serves as a voice for Pacific Islander American communities that have long been subdued in the hope that it will assist in dispelling misunderstandings, misconceptions, and misrepresentation of Pacific Islander Americans.

A first of its kind, this book attempts to bring Pacific Islander Americans to the forefront of transnational conversations, particularly in the profession of social work. It contains accounts of real-life experiences of transnational Pacific Islander Americans and issues such as colonization, immigration, and dual/multiple identities.

To highlight both the unique and shared experiences, editors Vakalahi and Godinet invited native authors from several Pacific Island groups to tell their stories. Included are authors from groups with the highest density in the United States, such as Native Hawaiians, Samoans, and Chamorros, and native authors about whom little information is available, such as Chuukese and Yapese.

Transnational Pacific Islander Americans and Social Work specifically covers immigrant groups in the Pacific Islands that are invisible and yet growing exponentially in the United States. More and more Pacific Islander Americans, due to adjustment difficulties, are faced with challenges that bring them to the attention of social and health services. This book fills gaps in the literature by providing practitioners with information on the historical background, cultural knowledge, and practices of various Pacific Islander groups that will help improve services for these populations.

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Foreword by Dr. Noreen Mokuau
Preface

Introduction: The Drums of Our Ancestors
Meripa Taiai Godinet and Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi

Chapter 1: A Different Drum: The Transnational Experience
Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi and Meripa Taiai Godinet

Chapter 2: Chamorro Visibility: Fostering Voice and Power in a Colonial Context
LisaLinda Natividad and Tricia Atoigue Lizama

Chapter 3: The Chuukese Canoe
Jocelyn Howard and Theresa Kreif

Chapter 4: Pathways to Healing the Native Hawaiian Spirit Through Culturally Competent Practice
Tammy Kaho`olemana Martin, Lynette K. Paglinawan and Richard Paglinawan

Chapter 5: Ulithi, Yap: Navigating the Seas of Cultural Tradition and Change
Joliene G. Hasugulayag

Chapter 6: Maintaining Fa’a Samoa: Transnational Samoans in the United States
Jay Gabbard

Chapter 7: Double Bind: The Duality of Tongan American Identity
Moana P. Hafoka, Moana Fololini ‘Ulu’ave, and ‘Inoke Hafoka

Chapter 8: Considerations for Social Work Practice with Pacific Islander Americans
Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi and Meripa Taiai Godinet

Epilogue: Moving Forward: 100 Percent of the Future
Meripa Taiai Godinet and Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi

About the Editors
About the Contributors
Index
Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi and Meripa Taiai Godinet are ideally suited to construct the story of transnational Pacific Islander Americans because their own lives are intricately anchored in the experiences of transnational peoples. As transnational Pacific Islander women who walk with strength and conviction in the United States and Tonga or American Samoa, they balance commitment to their cultural roots with dedication to Western success as social work scholars and educators. In doing this, they demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and values for walking with honor and respect in different nations. Ultimately, I believe this is the fundamental requisite for the transformative potential of social justice in the global community.

This book is about the stories of Pacific Islander Americans. This population has historic and contemporary origins in the Pacific Ocean, which encompasses approximately 64 million square miles and 20,000 to 30,000 islands. The people in these Pacific nations are diverse and deeply rooted in their cultures, and those who are transnational may experience complexity in their lives because of their multiple cultural identities. Despite the diversity, early historical Pacific migration patterns show some commonalities, and thus there are shared themes in cultural values and practices. To highlight both the unique and the shared experiences, Vakalahi and Godinet have invited native authors from several Pacific Island groups to tell their stories. They have included authors from the groups with the highest density in the United States, such as Native Hawaiians, Samoans, and Chamorros, but they also have broadened the scope to include native authors from Chuuk and Yap (both part of the Federated States of Micronesia), and Tonga. The editors’ invitation to native authors to tell their stories is intrinsic to their effort to raise the voices from within the groups of a complex Oceanic community rather than speaking for them.

The voices of Pacific Islanders in this book yield stories of challenges and opportunities and provide direction for the profession of social work and other allied fields. In the island nations, we hear of multiple challenges related to the derivatives of colonization, including poor health, loss of land, and the eradication of religious and spiritual institutions. In the United States, we hear of multiple challenges related to the acquisition of Western values and practices that are critical to acculturation but divergent from Pacific values and practices. We also hear of opportunities to improve circumstances for Pacific Islanders through an open regard for cultural roots and legacy, the dissemination of culturally driven knowledge, and the systematic reform of practices, policies, and research for an evolving multicultural global community.

Although this book identifies the challenges and opportunities of transnational Pacific Islander Americans, a notable feature for me is Vakalahi and Godinet’s emphasis on cultural strengths as fundamental to solutions for change. Cultural strengths – whether in values, knowledge, or practices – will arguably improve services for Pacific Islanders if they are embedded in interventions. In addition, the cultural strengths of Pacific Islanders may also frame new knowledge and provide a platform for solutions and models for helping other diverse groups of people.

Social work and other allied health fields have begun to recognize the importance of the interconnections of a multicultural global community in promoting social justice. Social problems such as poverty, health disparities, addictions, and child abuse and neglect are worldwide, and solutions require partnerships between nations. The commitment of social work to cultural and ethnic diversity has been formalized in documents such as the National Association of Social Workers (2008) Code of Ethics and the Council on Social Work Education’s (2012) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. These documents codify the profession’s commitment to cultural competence and social diversity and emphasize the importance of understanding how diversity characterizes and shapes the human experience. Although such documents provide a foundation on which to build, the profession has more work to do in understanding the background circumstances and realizing solutions for transnational Pacific Islander peoples.

By disaggregating Pacific Islanders into their constituent groups rather than presenting a single racial and ethnic classification, this book provides distinctive as well as shared experiences that will enable social workers to more accurately create solutions for change. In addition, by examining issues specific to the transnational experience, this book provides substance for understanding the intersections of a global community. This book is seminal because it responds to the profession’s guiding documents by making visible a population that has been largely invisible in the American landscape of diversity, and it furthers the conversation on social justice in a global community. It is a book that captures Pacific Islander wisdom that will move us forward in the 21st century.

Lawe i ka ma’alea a kû’ono’ono.
Take wisdom and make it deep. (Pukui, 1983, p. 211)

Noreen Mokuau, DSW
Dean and Professor
Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work
University of Hawai’i at Mânoa
This work is a small but, we hope, bold step forward in the movement begun by Pacific Islander forebears. It is a commitment to the collective good of the Pacific Islander American community built on the pioneering work of Pacific scholars such as Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, Albert Wendt, Pa’u Tafaogalupe III Mano’o Tilive’a Mulitalo-Lauta, Mary Kawena Pukui, Kekuni Blaisdell, Lilikalâ Kame’eleihiwa, Teresia Teaiwa, Epeli Hau’ofa, Konai Helu Thaman, Futa Helu, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Mason Durie, Linita Manu’atu, and ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, to name a few. It celebrates the strengths of Pacific cultures yet recognizes the urgency of responding to their needs as transnational people in the 21st century. Although Pacific Islander Americans have been overlooked because of their relatively small numbers, wide geographic dispersion, and low research priority, culturally accurate and relevant knowledge and practices are needed. This work brings Pacific Islander Americans to the forefront of transnational conversations, particularly in the profession of social work. In addition to filling gaps in the existing literature and emphasizing the need for culturally based paradigms in social work practice, this book attempts to give voice to Pacific Islander American communities that have long been subdued in the hope that it will assist in dispelling misunderstandings, misconceptions, and misrepresentations of Pacific Islander Americans.

This edited book, although limited in its representation of the large number of unique Pacific Islander American communities in the United States, contains accounts of the lived experiences of transnational Pacific Islander Americans and issues including colonization, immigration, and dual or multiple identities. Not all Pacific Islander American communities are represented in this book; however, we believe the common experiences and stories of all such communities are shared by those who have contributed to this initial effort. Each chapter provides historical background, describes cultural strengths and challenges, and offers considerations for social work practice with transnational Pacific Islander Americans. Grounded in systemic and ecological social work perspectives, this work addresses issues a social worker must consider to better serve transnational Pacific Islander American clients and provides a critical frame of reference for these clients’ history, background, and worldview (culture).

More than ever, the profession of social work needs informed, compassionate, and culturally competent professionals. Social workers are in a prominent position to make a positive difference in the lives of people who have suffered from both historical trauma and current stressors. It is a time of great hope and progress in global, transcultural, and transnational relations, presenting opportunities for growth and contribution for the profession of social work. It is the collective hope of the authors in this book that readers will be inspired to embrace the call to action for partnerships between social workers and transnational Pacific Islander American communities in moving forward.
Meripa Taiai Godinet, PhD, is an associate professor with the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i. She has been a principal investigator of numerous research projects that focus on the impact of various systems and institutions on Pacific Islander adolescents and their families. Her scholarship includes issues of disproportionality and overrepresentation of Pacific Islanders in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems; risk and protective factors involving juvenile delinquency among Pacific Islander adolescents; and contributions to the advancement of cross-cultural resonance in social work practice.

Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi, PhD, is the daughter of Moana and Faleola Ofahengaue, immigrants from the island Kingdom of Tonga. She was born in Tonga and raised on the Northshore of ‘Oahu, Hawai’i in a large family support system that included people from across Oceania. Currently, she is an associate professor and associate dean in the School of Social Work at Morgan State University, Baltimore. Her areas of teaching interests include social policy, human behavior and the social work environment, cultural diversity, and organizational leadership. Her research interests are in Pacific American communities and cultures, and women of color in academia. She has published extensively in her areas of research interests. She earned a BS in business management from BYU-Hawai’i, an MSW from the University of Hawai’i-Manoa, and an MEd and a PhD from the University of Utah.