Haunani-Kay Trask (born October 3, 1949) is a Hawaiian nationalist, educator, political scientist, author, and professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Trask is the producer of the award-winning documentary Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation (1993), winning nine different awards in three different countries. Trask helped to establish the Gladys Brandt Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Trask is the Author of two books, Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory (1984), and From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (1993). She has also published two books of poetry, Night Is a Sharkskin Drum (1994) and Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1999). Trask co-wrote and co-produced the award-winning documentary, Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation and developed an educational CD-ROM on the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement entitled Haunani-Kay Trask: We Are Not Happy Natives (2002). In March 2017, Hawaiʻi Magazine recognized her as one of the most influential women in Hawaiian history.
Haunani-Kay Trask was born the first daughter of Haunani Cooper Trask and Bernard Kauka`ohu Trask. Trask and her family are descendants of the Pi'ilani line of Maui and the Kahakumakaliua line of Kaua'i. She was born in California, grew up the Ko`olau side of the island of O`ahu, in the islands of Hawaiʻi, and comes from a politically active family. Her paternal grandfather, David Trask Sr., was chairman of the civil service commission and the police commission in 1922, served as the sheriff of Honolulu from 1923 to 1926, and was elected a territorial senator from Oahu in 1932. Mililani B. Trask, her younger sister, is an attorney on the Big Island and was a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs created by the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention to administer lands held in trust for Native Hawaiians and use the revenue to fund Native Hawaiian programs.
Politics and education
Early politics and education (1960-1984)
Trask graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1967. Before transferring to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Trask attended the University of Chicago where she completed her bachelor's degree in 1972 and also received a master's degree in 1975 and a PhD in political science in 1981. Her dissertation was revised into a book entitled Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory and was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1986.
Trask attended the University of Chicago, and during her time in Chicago, she learned about and became an active supporter with the Black Panther party. During her time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trask also participated in student protests against the Vietnam War. Because of these experiences, Trask wrote that, as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she "began to understand how capitalism and racism sustained each other."
During her time studying politics in her graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trask began to engage in feminist studies and in a feminist world. During this time, she even considered herself to be a feminist. Trask wrote that "in the feminist imagination, life was honored and power reshaped into an enabling force for the protection of both the human and the natural world." This belief around feminism lead Trask to write her first publication titled Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory which was a revised version of her doctorate dissertation.
Later politics (1990-2004)
Later in Haunani's work, she denounced her role as a feminist. She wrote: "I recognized that a practicing feminism hampered organizing among my people in rural communities. Given our nationalist context, feminism appeared as just another haole intrusion into a besieged Hawaiian world."
Trask opposed tourism to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. military's presence in Hawaiʻi. In 2004, Trask spoke out against the Akaka Bill, a bill to establish a process for Native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition similar to the recognition that some Native American tribes currently possess. Trask felt that this bill did not do justice for Native Hawaiian people because it allowed the U.S. Government to control how it is that Native Hawaiians are able to engage with their statehood without recognizing Hawaii as a nation of its own. Trask also claimed that hearings were not being held on the bill with the intention of leaving out important native voices and opinions.
Haunani-Kay Trask was a founding member of the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She served as the Director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies and was one of its first tenured faculty members. During her time at the University, Trask largely helped to secure the building of the Gladys Brandt Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, which would become the permanent center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2010, Trask retired from her Director position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but still teaches native political movements in Hawai‘i and the Pacific, literature and politics of Pacific island women, Hawaiian history and politics, and third world and indigenous history and politics as an Emeritus Faculty member.
In 1990, a University of Hawaiʻi philosophy major named Joey Carter wrote in an editorial in the Ka Leo O Hawaii student newspaper against the use of the Hawaiian word haole, claiming that the term was derogatory and that the word 'haole' is used the same way that the 'n-word' has been used against African Americans in United States history. Trask wrote an article in the Ka Leo O Hawaii in response to Carter's claims: "Mr. Carter is a privileged member of American society because he is haole, whether he acknowledges his privilege or not. His very presence in Hawai'i, and before that in Louisiana, is a luxury provided him through centuries of white conquest that visited genocide on American Indians, slavery on Africans, peonage on Asians and dispossession on Native Hawaiians."
Trask is the longtime partner of University of Hawaii professor David Stannard.
Trask's uncle, Arthur K. Trask, is an active member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of Hawaiian rights. David Trask, Jr., another uncle, was the head of Hawaii's white collar public employees' union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, an affiliate of AFSCME, and an early proponent of collective bargaining for Hawaiʻi's public employees. Trask's grandfather, David Trask, was a member of the legislature of the Territory of Hawaii for twenty-six years as a Democrat. He was a key proponent of Hawaiʻi Statehood.