Abstract: Shadow Codes: Beyond (and behind?) the Historical Loss Scale with Native Hawaiians (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Shadow Codes: Beyond (and behind?) the Historical Loss Scale with Native Hawaiians

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Antonia Alvarez, PHD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Kalei Kanuha, PhD, Assistant Dean for Field Education, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
This study explores the use of a historical trauma-informed framework to understand Native Hawaiian and LGBTMQ Native Hawaiian experiences of colonization. Native Hawaiian people, and especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or māhū (LGBTQM) Native Hawaiians, face health issues that are disproportionate when compared with other racial and ethnic minorities in Hawai`i, and when compared to the United States as a whole. Native Hawaiians have the highest mortality rates for numerous biomedical diseases, including higher rates of substance abuse, diabetes, and even asthma, of any ethnic group in the state of Hawai`i (Andrade et al., 2006; Liu & Alameda, 2011). Suicide rates, in particular, have been rising since Hawai`i began collecting data in 1908 (Else & Andrade, 2008), and continue to represent a major public health concern in Hawai`i (Goebert et al., 2018). Applying learnings from historical and intergenerational trauma theorists (eg: Brave Heart & DeBruyn, 1998; Duran, 2006; Evans-Campbell, 2008; Walters & Simoni, 2002), suicide and other health risks can be examined as a social and community-level response to colonial oppressions.

Methods: Through the crossover implementation of a widely-used quantitative instrument, the Historical Loss Scale (HLS), this study makes direct connections between historical losses survived by Native Hawaiians and mental health. Specifically, qualitative data from a qualitative phenomenology study (n=22 Native Hawaiians, 82% LGBTQM, 18% cisgender and heterosexual)were analyzed through the application of the HLS as theory-driven codes. To investigate questions such as How are historical losses experienced and described from a Native Hawaiian perspective? What additional themes emerge from uniquely Native Hawaiian perspectives?, the HLS items were iteratively re-defined and re- contextualized within the specific cultural, historical, and social context of Hawai`i. Throughout the iterative coding process, HLS items were interpreted in the context of the broader narratives in order to examine the utility of the codes (DeCuir-Gunby et al., 2010). Simultaneously, during this phase of the analysis a number of themes were identified through iterative processes of reduction and comparison, and were formalized in conversations with experts from the Native Hawaiian community.

Results: In a process of “Shadow Coding,” the researcher explored themes from the data that were beyond (or sometimes behind) the codes associated with the Historical Loss Scale. These shadow codes: (1) Militarization of land; (2) Adoption of Christianity by Native Hawaiian ali`i; (3) Overthrow of sovereign Hawaiian monarch; and, (4) Māhū and LGBTQ perspectives; will be described, presented with illustrative examples, and discussed as indicative of historical processes of colonization.

Conclusions/Implications: By considering the impact of the colonial context of Hawai`i on the mental and overall health of Native Hawaiian peoples, this study brings to light both internal and structural ramifications of colonization on the minds, hearts, and bodies of the Native Hawaiian people. Presented by a queer, mestiza Pinay-American scholar and Licensed Social Worker in Hawai`i, and her mentor, a lesbian Hawaiian scholar activist, there will also be discussion about how and when and whom should participate in research with and for Native Hawaiians.