Intro Lesson About
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Lesson 5: Health

Lesson at a glance

You will learn about the natural environment using indigenous terms, and in some places comparing these with modern interpretations.

Key Concepts:


Your own knowledge and the knowledge of your family and friends comes from centuries or millennia of careful observation and interpretation. Your knowledge is invaluable and irreplaceable.

Lesson Outcomes: You will:

  • gain a sense of how Pacific Islanders distinguished between health and disease, and different types of disease
  • learn about the various types of traditional medical in their area, and how these compares to other Pacific Island areas

For these exercises you will want:

  • An atlas or maps that show environmental themes for your region
  • Topographic map for your area
  • Otherwise, climatic data for as close to your area as possible
  • Any historical maps or material on your area
  • Internet access

Endangered Species of Hawai‘i is an excellent site:
Endangered Species of Hawaii: A Webliography also has extensive links:
Hawaiian Streams: The Mauka to Makai Connection:


This lesson explores aspects of climate and terrestrial ecosystems. As with other topics in this project, these issues may be considered from both “Western” scientific and indigenous scientific approaches. Pacific Worlds focuses on values and on world-view: how to island people understand and classify the systems and zones of their ecosystem?

The preservation of indigenous environmental knowledge is important for the good of humanity, and for engaging in locally appropriate environmental action. This is one area where modern and traditional approaches should work together hand in hand, drawing on the strengths of each.




Exercise 1: Being Human
Website: Health >Being Human

“Areas” can mean different things in different parts of the Pacific. In some cultures, there are specific terms for elevation zones, regardless of where they're found. In other cases, “areas” is a matter of specific place names for portions of the land division.

Exercise 2: Health and Disease
Website: Health>Health and Disease

Exercise 3: Internal Treatments
Website: Health>Internal Treatments

Depending on how much change of elevation there is in your area, there will be a range of vegetation zones, starting with the shoreline and going inward (or vice versa)


Exercise 4: External Treatments
Website: Health>External Treatments

Exercise 5: Spiritual Treatments
Website: Health>Spiritual Treatments

Different islands of the Pacific focus on different crops. And even though the same crops appear in many locations, the emphasis can differ, with taro being very important in some places, breadfruit being more important in others.

Exercise 6: Language
Website: Health>Language

Pacific Island languages discuss land and climate in terms that reflect their physical geography and their cultural practices. Hence these terms tell us about the combination of environment and culture.

Go to the Language page of any Health chapter and compare terms on the different topics:

These terms are best understood within the context of the individual cultures. But at the same time, you can compare this terms across different places to learn more about commonalities and differences in the region.



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