Haunani-Kay Trask (born October 3, 1949) is a Hawaiian nationalist, educator, political scientist and writer whose genealogy connects her to the Piʻilani line on her maternal side and the Kahakumakaliua line on her paternal line. She grew up on Oʻahu and continues to reside there. Trask worked as a professor of Hawaiian Studies with the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa until her retirement and has represented Native Hawaiians in the United Nations and various other global forums. She is the author of several books of poetry and nonfiction.
Early life and education
Trask was born in California, grew up in Hawaiʻi, and comes from a politically active family. 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.
Trask graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1967. She then attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, earning her bachelor's degree in 1972, 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 opposes tourism to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. military's presence in Hawaiʻi. More recently Trask has spoken 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 is professor emeritus on Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
As a poet, Trask believes in and utilizes the "art as an anvil" approach in her writing. Believing that Native Hawaiians have been shunted off to the margins of society, she employs the words of her "works as weapons against the oppressor."
Trask considers the United States and its citizens her enemy and the enemy of the Hawaiian people, saying "The Americans, my people, are our enemies." She stated to her students that "We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it." She has referred to non-indigenous Hawaiians, whether they be of Asian or white descent, as "settlers". Trask has stated that "I am NOT an American. I am NOT an American. I will DIE before I am an American." This statement has been criticized by some as she was born in the contiguous United States and is thus a U.S. citizen.
Trask's argument is that Hawaiʻi is not America, despite what some may think; it is in fact, Polynesian by location and culture and remains so indefinitely.
Allegations of racism
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has condemned Trask for her anti-American statements, stating that such vitriol helps fuel racism in Hawaiʻi.
Trask's book From A Native Daughter has also been controversial as it's seen by many as justifying hatred against white people by Native Hawaiians. Trask also justified violence against white people in a poem titled Racist White Woman, part of which read "I could kick/Your face, puncture/Both eyes./You deserve this kind/Of violence./No more vicious/Tongues, obscene/Lies./Just a knife/Slitting your tight/Little heart."
In 1990 when a University of Hawaiʻi student named Joey Carter wrote an editorial in the student newspaper against the use of the Hawaiian word haole Trask publically wrote "Too bad, Mr. Carter, you are a haole and you always will be…" while in the same message also stating "If Mr. Carter does not like being called haole, he can return to Louisiana. Hawaiians would certainly benefit from one less haole in our land." Both editorials, and numerous articles related to ensuing developments, can be found in back-issues of Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, the university student newspaper.
At a guest lecture at Stanford University, Trask said that she embraced the label 'racist', saying "In Hawaii, I am probably the most famous racist." She added that she believed it impossible for a Native Hawaiian to not be considered racist in Hawaiʻi unless "you dance in a hotel" as well as saying that if she could have her way non-Hawaiians would have no property rights in a sovereign Hawaiʻi.
Trask is the longtime partner of University of Hawaiʻi 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.