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American Indians Learn Native Hawaiian Ancient Healing Practices on Oahu Retreat

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American Indians will travel off the tourist path on the island of Oahu to learn about traditional medicines and healing practices first-hand from Native Hawaiians on a retreat, "Personal Wellness in Hidden Hawaii," November 3-9.

Authentic "Kupuna" (Native Hawaiian elders) who are also Master Practitioners, will share little known ancient healing methods, Ann McCommas, founder of AIM (Attitude, Insight, Motivation) Seminars, told Indian Country Today Media Network.

The cultural excursion is organized by AIM, a Tempe, Arizona-based company that launched in 1980 and offers additional training workshops and programs on landing a job, building leadership skills and inspiring personal motivation and wellness, amongst other things. AIM facilitators, who are primarily American Indian or Native Hawaiian, according to McCommas, have lead the retreat to Hawaii since 2001, although the most recent trip to explore Indigenous wellness traditions in Hawaii took place in 2008.

There approximately 10 to 15 retreat participants—most of who are Navajo or Tohono O'odham, according to McCommas—will stay at a resort in Waikiki for six nights and tour the island for seven days with Hawaii's indigenous elders, teachers, Storytellers and healers. Participants will trek through the Island's natural beauty to sacred sites—many of them not open to the public. For instance, on day two of the retreat, participants will head to the center of the island to a sacred spot, where Queens gave birth to the highest Princes or Princesses. "That's where we'll be saying our prayers," McCommas told ICTMN. "The purpose is to align us with our natural selves—being by the ocean and surrounded by amazing people with 'mana' [the spiritual power and energy that Hawaiians believe inhibit all things and creatures]."

During a visit to the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, a traditional healing center specializing in diabetes care, participants will learn long-term practices for chronic disease management and healing techniques for diabetes, as well as other health-related issues affecting indigenous people, according to an AIM press release.

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After visiting the center, AIM co-facilitator Jo'lin Kalimapau (Native Hawaiian) will take the group 20 minutes away to the ocean to perform a healing ceremony as the sun sets, McCommas told ICTMN.

AIM facilitator Celina Mahinalani Garza (Native Hawaiian) emphasizes the power of the healing techniques "lomilomi." The Hawaiian traditional massage involves an exchange of energy and nurtures the person as a whole. "In Hawaiian, when you say something more than once, it is more powerful; there is more meaning behind it," Garza told ICTMN of lomilomi. "When someone is sick, we lay our hands on them and massage them," she said, noting examples of chronic pain, such as women in post-pregnancy suffering from a distended stomach.

Throughout the course of the retreat, American Indians will learn of “Ho'oponopono,” a Hawaiian tradition of engaging in family or group counseling. Garza translates “Ho'oponopono” as "Hawaiian psychology." Garza explained, "Ho'oponopono” is the practice of putting things back together, making it right out in the open, like a counseling session."

Retreat goers will also visit landmark cultural sites, including the Bishop Museum and the Polynesian Cultural Center. An Indigenous Storyteller will guide participants through the Bishop Museum, a natural and cultural history institution representing the interests of Native Hawaiians, according to its website. A Native Hawaiian's knowledge and perspective on the museum's collections enhances the visitors' experience, McCommas told ICTMN.

Throughout the week-long stay, participants will likewise explore the beautiful adventurous of Hawaii. One day, they will tour the lush green valleys of Oahu's North Shore to Waimea Falls, a waterfall that drops 45 feet into a pool. Kalimapau will then explain how Hawaiians use water for spiritual cleansing known as a "kapu kai" cleansing ceremony before diving in. Hawaiian's believe that the ceremony helps them reconnect to the water, sustaining them and giving them more “mana."