Following is an interview conducted by my good friend and fellow Haumana O Papa Henry Auwae, Kumu Hula, June Kaililani Tanoue of the Zen Life and Meditation Center.
I met Noeau eighteen years ago when I began Papa Henry Auwae's second La'au Lapa'au class in Waimea on the Big Island. She was in his first class and had begun a year before us. She was quiet and serious about her studies with Papa. Noeau is remarkable in her knowledge of plants and nutrition. She is a certified Nutritionist, Herbalist, Kinesiologist, Lomilomi Massage therapist, Herbal Medic and La'au Lapa'au (traditional Hawaiian medicine) practitioner. She also begun a healing food business called Taro Dream in Hawaii many years ago.
Noeau's ancestors are Native Americans from Utah (Paiute) and Oklahoma (Cherokee). Her great grandmother, Helen Morning Dove Arnold, was raised on a reservation in Oklahoma as the daughter of the chief of the tribe. Helen married John Day, an Irishman and their wedding was held on this reservation. They had 13 children.
Noeau has two children that she home schooled as a single mother. Both children now live and work in Morocco. Her husband Piikalama, is Hawaiian/Irish, was raised in a remote valley on Kauai and is part of a very large Hawaiian family.
I connected with her again at the annual gathering of Papa Henry's haumana (students) this November on the Big Island. Here's Noeau's story about her path of healing.
Noeau Heyoka Day: I was born in Idaho and spent much of my childhood on my pony and then later, my horse, riding through the foothills and forests among the deer, elk and rattlesnakes. I would eat herbs, plants, worms and insects that I somehow instinctively knew were edible but am not quite sure to this day how I didn't end up poisoning myself. My family and friends thought I was a very strange child and I suppose that this hasn't changed to this day.
I've always been drawn to plants, especially medicinal herbs and wild foods, but I'm especially passionate about the native foods and diets of indigenous people. I do nutritional counseling with people of all ages and did this for many years even before I began my work with Papa. I advocate the use of native foods and strongly oppose SAD, which is translated as the Standard American Diet.
I was born by the name of Pamela but was gifted the name of "Noeau" after completing a journey where I sailed traditionally on a 22-foot, 4 person, single hull, Hawaiian outrigger sailing canoe from the island of Maui to Kauai with overnight stops on the islands of Molokini, Kaho`olawe, Lanai, Molokai, and Oahu during this seven day journey. When asked by Papa Auwae if I could use this name he said, "I'll be watching you." After a few months in class with Papa he gave me the permission to use this name.
I received my final name after I had completed my studies with Papa by an Apache medicine man after I was able to assist him with Laau Lapaau to heal his life-threatening illness. This name "Heyoka" is the name that I relate to most and carry with me as the reason that I was placed on this earth.
June Tanoue: What does Heyoka mean?
NHD: There are literal translations and meanings behind the word and then of course, the hidden meaning similar to Hawaiian names. A simple translation would be literally, "Thunder and Lightning Medicine".
Heyoka is transformative and this can be as a lightning bolt that cuts to the heart of truth - truth that can often hurt or anger but inspires self and others to a higher place. Heyoka is a rebel, asks the difficult questions, does things differently and does not follow the rules. Heyoka's role helps people to think about matters not usually thought about, or causes them to look at themselves and life in a different way.
Heyoka's deepest desire is to always help others but this usually transpires in ways that are not entirely comfortable for anyone involved.
The giving of this name gave me great peace and helped me accept the role that I play in people's lives whether that role is 'ohana, relationships or as my role as health practitioner.
One does not become "Heyoka" but is Heyoka from birth. I remember as a child riding my pony backwards, always running while others walked and running or walking on my toes, standing in every lightning storm possible (struck by lightning once), eating bugs, wild plants and worms and just generally being completely strange and different from everyone around me.
As I began to grow older and had the desire to 'fit in' somehow, I modified my behavior but this only caused conflict within. After receiving my name, I no longer feel the desire to 'fit in' but accept my role as Heyoka as a gift.
A Heyoka's life does not belong to self but to the people that they serve. Heyoka is not an easy role or name to carry but finally understanding my purpose through this name transformed my thinking and acceptance of my life as it has been and continues to be.
JT: Why did you apply for Papa's class and what impressed you the most about him.
NHD: While living in Hawaii with my young daughters, I saw a poster advertising a talk that was being given by a Hawaiian healer. I saw Papa's picture on the poster and felt compelled to attend. The room was standing-room only and during the talk, I was asked to participate in making a Laau medicine called Hano.
I remember feeling like I was going to break down during the entire time and barely held it together long enough to complete the class. Papa was just such a powerful presence and I knew that he saw into my heart and soul as no one ever had.
As I was walking out of the building thinking that I may never see Papa again, I heard, "Hey you!" As I turned, a very imposing Hawaiian woman pointed and said to me, "Papa says that you are to apprentice with him! Go home and wait by the phone!" I did just that - I sat by the phone for three days before I got a call for an interview. Three interviews later, I was accepted into Papa's first Laau Lapaau Haumana training class.
In all my years of study and work with nutrition and herbs, I have never found anything to have the power of healing that the practice of Laau Lapaau has. I believe this is the result of the belief and philosophy that all healing is 80 percent spiritual (what cannot be seen) and 20 percent herbs, foods and the like (what can be seen).
For example, there are some instances where the patient is given specific protocols to gather their own medicine. Often, a specific journey becomes part of this process. The journeys, the gathering, pule (prayer), meditation, and preparation of the La'au - all this becomes part of the deep healing of this person. This is just one of many examples of "80 percent spiritual" healing.
For me, Papa changed my life and my life's purpose. He taught me to trust myself. Papa's faith in me has carried me through many difficult times and situations. I am deeply grateful to Papa for his love, compassion and willingness to pass down this invaluable knowledge. My gift to Papa and Ke Akua is to assist those in need with all my heart, mind, body and soul.