Pouhana O Nā Wāhine Opens Oahu Office and Welcomes Staff

By Paula Julian, Filipina, Editor, Restoration Magazine & Senior Policy Specialist, NIWRC

The Pouhana O Nā Wāhine (PONW) serves as the statutorily created Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NHRCDV) to reduce domestic violence disparities facing Native Hawaiians. The award is administered by the Family Youth and Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which is responsible for administering programs funded by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). On April 23, the PONW organized an opening ceremony for their new office on Oahu and welcomed new staff introduced below.

Based on experiences in our Native Hawaiian communities, we see the devastating impact of domestic violence and how our people struggle especially with non-Native Hawaiian services and system responses—both government and nonprofit. “The Pouhana represents the voices of the Native Hawaiian grassroots organizing to restore our culturally appropriate practices passed down through generations that will end the disrespect and violence against our wāhine (women) and our ʻāina (homelands). The seed we’ve planted with the Pouhana will only grow across all of our communities in the state and stateside. We can achieve what we want for ourselves, our families, and Ka Lahui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Nation) together and with our American Indian, Alaska Native, Indigenous and non-Indigenous relatives around the world,” said Wanette Lee PONW Founding Member and NIWRC Board member, who represented the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) April 23rd.

PONW is committed to enhancing the capacity of its stakeholders to be versed in culturally appropriate responses to domestic violence—Native Hawaiian (NH) communities, domestic violence programs, state and federal governments, policymakers, and others. PONW is dedicated to restoring NH traditions, beliefs and ceremonies that help increase survivors’ safety through technical assistance and training (TA/T), partnering at the community, state, and national levels, and developing policies and resources. None serve as resource centers that are designed, led, and managed by NHs or rooted in NH solutions like PONW that contribute to the fulfillment of the federal trust responsibility to assist NHs in safeguarding women’s lives. Join NIWRC in celebrating their opening and meeting new staff on our webinar on July 24. More information to come via niwrc.org/events.

Nikki Cristobal is from the island of Kauaʻi. She holds her Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy. Nikki is the Co-Founder and Executive Director for the grassroots NH culture, education, and public arts nonprofit, Kamāwaelualani. Nikki is also the Principal Investigator for the Missing & Murdered Native Hawaiian Women, Girls, Māhū Report, a ka pae ʻāina wide report mandated by the Hawaiʻi legislature and part of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and  Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S) international movement. Nikki serves as the Policy & Research Specialist for Pouhana O Nā Wāhine.

Jaki Knaus is a skilled graphic designer and illustrator based in Oahu. After graduating from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa with a B.A. in Psychology, Jaki developed a successful career in marketing and started a design company in 2015. With over 10 years of experience in the field of design, Jaki has cultivated a robust skillset in various areas of creativity and technical know-how. One of Jaki’s most notable accomplishments was his part in the development of the University of Hawai’i STAR GPS application which is currently used across all campuses by both students and faculty. A vast majority of his skills are self-taught and he continues to learn new forms of technology. During his free time, he enjoys fishing, training jiu-jitsu, playing video games, training his therapy dog, and spending time with his friends and family. Jaki is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), an Audio/Visual Technician for the Cathedral of St. Andrew, an Episcopal Church founded by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV, and a proud advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights across the nation as an openly Queer Transgender Man. Jaki serves as the Communications Specialist for Pouhana O Nā Wāhine.

Dr. Dayna Schultz, Psy. D., LSW, CSAC (Kanaka ’Ōiwi) is the founder and Executive Director of Pouhana O Nā Wāhine. “To understand with your heart is Aloha.” Dayna believes that everyone has a story to tell and possesses the ability to change their narrative as they grow. Being in the field for over 20 years, she has had the privilege to work with and serve individuals and families from diverse backgrounds and circumstances such as suicide and crisis intervention, domestic violence, trauma and addiction, along with the incarcerated population and those dealing with housing insecurities.  Dayna welcomes individuals to share their stories with her in a safe space and at their own pace. She provides a sense of warmth, compassion, and Aloha that fosters a “Kākou” (together) effort.  As a Native Hawaiian Survivor of various traumas, Dayna continues to be guided by her na’au and ancestors daily in efforts of working toward ending violence from and within her people that will lead to peace, harmony, and sense of Aloha in all ways, always.

Vernon Viernes was born and raised on the island of Oahu with a passion to serve and help others. With over 20 years of experience in social work, he has touched the lives of individuals that come from diverse backgrounds. Vernon has worked in the field of addictions and incarceration, while primarily focusing on the NH family unit. He has volunteered with prison ministries, Hawaiian health groups, Camp Agape which serves children of incarcerated parents, and malama ʻāina (respecting and caring for the land) work. His latest journey is with Pouhana O Nā Wāhine as their Training and Technical Assistance Specialist. His desire and love for the NH culture lead him to Malama aina work which includes growing malama kalo (taro). Malama Haloa (protect the taro) above all — Vernon believes in gratitude and guidance from his ancestors. “I need to mahalo ke Akua and numerous kumu/teachers, kupuna, mentors and role models who helped me develop my abilities and gifts so that I can serve and malama communities and ka Lahui (the Hawaiian nation). Live aloha aku, aloha mai (give aloha, receive aloha).