In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

  • Introduction
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  • Specialized Organizations
  • Education
  • Economics

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Social Work Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
Robin L. Davis, Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0185


Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are inclusive in the racial group that refers to any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. According to the 2011 US Census Bureau estimate, there are roughly 1.2 million Native Hawaiians / Pacific Islanders residing within the United States, representing about 0.4 percent of the US population. The term “Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders” (NHPIs) as referred to in the 2000 and 2010 US Censuses refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, the Marshall Islands, or other Pacific islands. Life in the Pacific islands changed dramatically in the 1700s, when European explorers discovered the islands. Even more-drastic changes came about in the following century, when Christian missionaries came to the islands. In the 20th century, NHPIs began to experience migration. Continual migration (movement of cultures to, from, and within the Pacific) has gravely influenced peoples of the Pacific. It is critical for social workers to understand that the majority of migration has not respected or helped maintain Pacific Islander culture. This dynamic was evident in the colonialism period, and migration has continued to bring influences from other areas of the world, primarily Western, that have created conflict within Pacific culture. NHPIs have lived experiences with colonization, and often-negative consequences of migration. In congruence with the strengths-based approach of social work, the research identified in this article provides resources identifying that NHPIs have demonstrated individual and collective resilience in the face of colonial invasion, while often being invisible, underestimated, or misunderstood in the national and global landscape. This invisibility is due to two primary dynamics. First, given the history of oral communication, there is a lack of written documentation that represents the complicated past of NHPIs. Second, NHPI populations were previously aggregated into broader racial groupings. These changes in identifying which populations are included in the NHPI population have led to several problems regarding accuracy and cohesion in research, and NHPIs are often misrepresented in academic and governmental research. Reference sources in this article identify the ability of NHPIs to adjust to problems, intelligence, talents, skills in cultivating the land, commitment to family and culture, spiritual and religious connectivity, flexibility in migration, and ability to survive stereotypes.


Journals relevant to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders include Amerasia Journal, Aotearoa NZ Social Work Review, Contemporary Pacific, Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, Oceania, and Sociological Perspectives.

  • Amerasia Journal.

    Published by the University of California Los Angeles Asian American Studies Center, Amerasia is an online journal of Asian American and Pacific Islander issues, with an emphasis on education and community collaborations.

  • Aotearoa NZ Social Work Review.

    International quarterly journal published by the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, providing both academic and practice-based articles of interest for social workers. Yearly, one issue is published as Te Komako, focusing on Tangata Whenua social-work practice, and, on the Pacifica issue, Tu Mau is published from time to time.

  • Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs.

    With editorial offices at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, the Contemporary Pacific covers a wide range of disciplines, with the aim of providing comprehensive coverage of current developments in the entire Pacific islands region, including Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

  • Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

    The Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work is published by Taylor and Francis and is focused on multicultural issues in relationship to social-work practice, research, and policy. It has an emphasis on understanding the impact of culture, ethnicity, and class in relationship to micro, macro, and mezzo service delivery.

  • Oceania.

    Published by Wiley Blackwell on behalf of Oceania Publications, this journal provides articles regarding the primary regions of Australia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia, and insular Southeast Asia. Oceania is largely a publication focused on cultural and social anthropology.

  • Sociological Perspectives.

    Previously the Pacific Sociological Review (1958–1982), this journal is published by the University of California Press and is available online. Sociological Perspectives publishes articles related to research, theory, practice, and scholarship in regard to sociology and related disciplines. It is the official quarterly of the Pacific Sociological Association. Abstracts in different languages are available in each issue.

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