He Ala Kuikui Lima Kānaka: The Journey Toward Indigenizing a School of Social Work

Susan Nakaoka, Lana Sue Ka‘opua, Mari Ono


This article focuses on decolonizing, or specifically Indigenizing, a school of social work that has a stated focus on Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and Asian populations in the Pacific region. Armed with Kanaka ‘Ōiwi critical race theory (CRT), a recent theoretical model that centres Native Hawaiian Indigeneity, we reflect on lessons learned after the 10th year of an articulated process of Indigenization and discuss the implications for future decolonization projects in social work education. Mo‘olelo, or narrative stories, are provided to analyze this journey through a Kanaka ‘Ōiwi CRT lens. Believing that Indigenization is dynamic and ever-changing, we provide our mana‘o, or thoughts, on challenges and successes. Key lessons learned advise social work educators to: (a) acknowledge and push through the complexity of fitting Indigenous protocols and values into a Western institution; (b) understand the distinction between form (technical knowledge) and essence (embodiment); and (c) value co-learning from students and community practitioners, thus validating Indigenous ways of knowing.


Native Hawaiians; Kanaka ‘Ōiwi; critical race theory; Indigenization; decolonization; social work curriculum

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