Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine Joins Hawai‘i State MMIW Task Force
Pouhana, NIWRC, and AKNWRC Launch New Organizing Curriculum Project
“The Pouhana joined the Task Force to center the voices of families of missing and murdered Native Hawaiian women and grassroots Native Hawaiian advocates in the Task Force’s findings and recommendations,” said Rosemond “Loke” Pettigrew, the Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine’s Board President. “We know that the violence against Native Hawaiian women that we see today is a direct result of the overthrow of our Hawaiian monarchy, the disrespect of our customs and traditions, and a reflection of the U.S. claiming our homelands as a part of the U.S. We must balance the solutions to the violence between reforming the state and federal responses to violence against Native women and restoring Native Hawaiian protections for our women, our people, our land and resources, and our spirituality and ways of living,”
The Task Force was created by a resolution passed in May 2021 by the Hawaii State Legislature to conduct and submit a study to the legislature including:
- Identification of the cause of the problem;
- Identification of current databases and data collection methods;
- Identification of barriers to data collection and information sharing;
- Creation of partnerships to increase reporting and investigations; and
- Recommendations for any legislation necessary to improve data collection and sharing to eliminate harm to Indigenous women and girls.
“We attended the first meeting of the MMIW Task Force on August 19, 2021,” said Pettigrew. “It is a step forward, and we are hopeful our voice will make a difference and increase the response to MMIW.”
Since 2013, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) has worked closely with Native Hawaiian advocates to identify how best to coordinate activities to address the needs of Native Hawaiians that experience domestic violence and gender-based violence. Like American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians experience the highest health, social, and economic disparities, including domestic/dating violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.
This partnership created the Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine (Pouhana), translated to Pillars of Women, a group of long-time Native Hawaiian advocates from across Hawaii. The collective selected “pouhana” because the pouhana is the central wood pole used in traditional Native Hawaiian homes. Without the pouhana, the house falls apart, and wahine, like pouhana, are the strength of the family. The Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine is dedicated to helping Native Hawaiians address domestic violence and related injustices through restoring their Native way of life rooted in their cultural beliefs, practices and ceremonies (or voices, languages, and teachings) and securing resources for a Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence. The Pouhana’s mission is to provide technical assistance and training; partner at the community, statewide and national levels; and develop policies and cultural resources to stop, prevent, and eliminate domestic violence and help victims and their family members increase their safety.
To assist with developing Native Hawaiian specific solutions to domestic and gender-based violence, NIWRC and the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) are excited to announce that we have partnered with the Pouhana to develop an organizing curriculum. Through this partnership, we expect to support the development of the Pouhana’s organizational capacity to lead, organize and partner for social change within Native Hawaiian communities and moku (districts/land divisions). The curriculum is titled “E hoʻoulu pono ka manaʻolana, ka mauli ola a me ka ʻikena no ka lāhui i ka leo kalahea aloha: No ka wā i hala, ka wā nei a no ka wā e hiki mai ana,” which means “Using the voice of our people to bring hope, healing and knowledge for our people: Past, present and future.”
“We know that the violence against Native Hawaiian women that we see today is a direct result of the overthrow of our Hawaiian monarchy, the disrespect of our customs and traditions, and a reflection of the U.S. claiming our homelands as a part of the U.S. We must balance the solutions to the violence between reforming the state and federal responses to violence against Native women and restoring Native Hawaiian protections for our women, our people, our land and resources, and our spirituality and ways of living.”
–Rosemond “Loke” Pettigrew, Board President, Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine
The curriculum will serve as a roadmap to support community organizing efforts to address the unique challenges facing Native Hawaiians responding to violence against women, and the crisis of MMIW resulting from this spectrum of violence. Specific topic areas include but are not limited to:
- using Kanaka Māoli (Native Hawaiian) voices, language, and teachings to address victim/community safety and abuser accountability,
- grassroots organizing and systems advocacy and social change, including participating in the Hawaii MMIW Task Force,
- understanding federal and state laws and policies and the history of violence against Native Hawaiian women, and
- Indigenous, federal and state responses to violence against women.
“Just as NIWRC partnered with Alaska Native advocates and Tribes to support the creation of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center which has served as the Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence, we are now partnering to support the creation of a Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence through the Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine. Elevating Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian issues as issues of national concern and not solely local or state concerns have and will help shift the culture and hold the federal and state governments accountable,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center.
This partnership and curriculum project provides the unique opportunity to develop and actualize the following point from the national 6-point action plan released by NIWRC, the Pouhana, and five other sister organizations this past May: “Recognizing and respecting Indigenous responses of Native Hawaiian communities and organizations to protect Indigenous women, including through the support of a Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence.”
“We are excited to begin organizing discussions with our sisters at NIWRC and AKNWRC. This is the beginning of a long overdue journey of healing and restoration for our people,” said Rosemond Pettigrew, Pouhana ‘O Na Wahine’s Board President.