The Office of Hawaii Affairs (OHA), the Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status of Women, and state legislators from the Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus held a press conference on Dec. 14 at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol to launch Holoi ā nalo Wāhine ʻŌiwi: Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force Report (Part 1), the first official report on the epidemic of missing and murdered Native Hawaiian women and girls in Hawaiʻi.
Advocates and members of the task force attended the press conference dressed in red, symbolizing the blood of Indigenous women who are missing or were murdered.
The report contains findings from more than a year of data collection and analysis by the Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls (MMNHWG) Task Force.
The task force, created by the State Legislature in 2021, is administered through the Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status of Women and OHA and is comprised of individuals representing over 22 governmental and non-governmental organizations across Hawaiʻi that provide services to those impacted by violence against Native Hawaiians.
The report found that the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (“MMIWG”) crisis documented in Canada and the continental United States is also devastating Hawaiʻi. More than a quarter of missing girls in Hawaiʻi are Native Hawaiian – although Native Hawaiian females represent only 10.2% of the total population of Hawaiʻi.
The average profile of a missing child in Hawaiʻi is a 15-year-old, female, Native Hawaiian missing from Oʻahu. In addition, the majority (43%) of sex trafficking cases are Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) girls trafficked in Waikīkī, and 38% of arrests made for soliciting sex from 13-year-olds have been active-duty military personnel, according to Operation Keiki Shield.
The task force believes that these and other lessons warrant cooperation from a broader pool of participants – including the military and tourism sectors during the second phase of the task force’s work in 2023.
The MMNHWG crisis extends beyond Oʻahu. From 2018-2021, there were 182 cases of missing Kānaka Maoli girls on Hawaiʻi Island – which is higher than that of any other racial group.
“The spirits of our stolen sisters are slipping through the pukas in our system. This report is a modest step in addressing violence against Kānaka Maoli women and girls,” said Dr. Nikki Cristobal, principal investigator and author.
Even among service providers reporting of data is limited. While these findings are incomplete, it is clear that Native Hawaiian women and girls experience violence at rates disproportionate to their population size. In the wake of the report, the group plans to produce a second report based on in-depth qualitative research in the community.
Cristobal identified data collection as one of the biggest obstacles to moving forward with reform-minded efforts as public and private agencies don’t always collect statistics on race. Also, because Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are sometimes grouped together, it’s difficult to identify the degree to which Hawaiʻi’s Indigenous people are affected. About 20% of the state’s population is Native Hawaiian.
“This report begins to unravel the complex historical trauma of sexual violence towards Indigenous women here in Hawaiʻi and the socio-political climate that allows this travesty to persist,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey. “The scarcity of information due to inconsistent data collection across law enforcement, state and community organizations is a huge concern. Major systemic changes need to be made to ensure that Indigenous women, and all women, can live safely here in our kulāiwi.”
To view Holoi ā nalo Wāhine ʻŌiwi: Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force Report (Part 1), the report is available at www.oha.org/resources/research/demography/.