Hawai'i State News

Big Island advocates for missing, murdered Indigenous women and girls in Hilo

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Big Island advocates waved signs bringing attention the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on Sunday. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiʻi County Committee on the Status of Women

Dozens of Big Island advocates held a sign-waving event Sunday to bring attention to the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The event, held on the lawn facing Kanoelehua Avenue outside the Hilo Ross store, was intended to “address the systemic issues that contribute to the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls,” said Kimi Palacio of Going Home Hawai‘i.

“Today, as we stood in solidarity for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls Awareness Day, Going Home Hawai’i reaffirmed our commitment to advocating for all individuals, including those affected by or at-risk of becoming victims of human and sex trafficking,” said Palacio.


The sign waving was organized by the Hawaiʻi County Committee on the Status of Women, in collaboration with Going Home Hawai’i and He Ho’omaka Hou Ana O’ Puna. Attendees included domestic violence survivors, members of nonprofit organizations, government employees, the Hawaiʻi County Police Department and community members. Some activists had signs and flags, and several had red handprints painted across their faces. 

Aurora Leonillo, who carried a sign reading “No more stolen sisters,” said the red handprint symbolizes an abuser’s hand used to silence a person. “We will not stay silent under the abuser’s hand,” she said.  “We rise for our sisters and we stand together for each other.” 

Shana Kukila, vice chair of the Hawaiʻi County Committee on the Status of Women, said her office spearheaded today’s event as a part of their Laulima Series, geared at creating awareness around the intersections of domestic violence.


“Today is Red Dress Day, a day to remember Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” Kukila said.

According to the organizers, on the Big Island, Native Hawaiian children ages 15-17 represent the highest number of missing children’s cases, with the most children reported missing within the Hilo zip code area of 96720.

From 2018-2021, there were 182 cases of missing Native Hawaiian girls on the Big Island, higher than any other racial group. Both statistics are attributed to the Hawai‘i Island Police Department in  2022, and are cited in the  Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force Report published by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 2023.


“We would like to see the community, as well as the government, reestablish the task force for Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls, to make sure we have enough information so we can go forward and tackle this problem together as a community,” said Kukila.

“Together, we strive to raise awareness, amplify voices, and drive meaningful change for all those impacted by these injustices,” said Palacio.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the Hawaiʻi County Committee on the Status of Women may contact hawaiicountycsw@gmail.com or visit the committeeʻs Facebook page at facebook.com/CSWHawaiiCounty.

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