Professor, activist Dr. Haunani Kay Trask dies at 71

  • Contributd by Kapulani Landgraf

    Haunani-Kay Trask

HONOLULU — Haunani Kay Trask, a pioneer in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, devoted scholar and activist, has died at the age of 71.

As a founding member of Ka Lahui Hawai‘i, she was at the forefront of fighting for self-determination, providing numerous writings and speeches about Native Hawaiian rights, institutional racism, gender discrimination and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A 30-years tenured professor at the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, Trask was the founding director of the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, and is credited with influencing the study of Hawaiian studies for several generations of students over the last three decades.

“I will never forget when she was a guest speaker to my Hawaiian history class my junior year at Kamehameha,” said Brendon Kalei‘aina Lee. “Being able to debate the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty with someone so knowledgeable on the issue was a great honor, and helped to shape who I am today,” he said.

“Professor Trask was a fearless advocate for the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), and was responsible for inspiring thousands of brilliant and talented Hawaiians to come to the University of Hawai‘i,” said Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, dean of the UH Hawai‘inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

”But she also inspired our people everywhere to embrace their ancestry and identity as Hawaiians, and to fight for the restoration of our nation. She gave everything she had as a person to our lahui, and her voice, her writing and her unrelenting passion for justice will, like our queen, always represent our people. E ola mau loa e, Haunani Kay Trask, ‘aumakua of the poet warrior,” said Osorio.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we share the news of Dr. Haunani Kay Trask’s passing today,” said Kekuewa Kikiloi, director of the Kamakauokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies.

”Dr. Trask was a visionary leader of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the founding director of Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH at Manoa.

“She served her career as tenured professor in our department, inspiring critical thinking and making important contributions in areas of settler colonialism and indigenous self-determination,” said Kikiloi.

”More importantly, she was a bold, fearless and vocal leader that our lahui needed in a critical time when Hawaiian political consciousness needed to be nurtured. Our center mourns her passing and sends our aloha and to the Trask ‘ohana. Our department remains committed to carrying on the legacy of Professor Trask in educating and empowering the lahui,” Kikiloi said.

5 Comments
  1. RGLadder37 July 4, 2021 12:21 am Reply

    Did she die from COVID-19? I don’t know much about her. She must have been one of those protesters against the 30 Meter telescope in Mauna Kea. That must have been something else. Where did she stand on those feelings?

    Tough feelings to have.


    1. Victor July 6, 2021 4:12 pm Reply

      She should’ve passed away years ago. You can’t fight for native people while sleeping with the same people you are fighting against. Native women have always had that issue with sleeping with white men. This is why natives will always struggle. You sleep with the enemy and there is no progress


  2. RGLadder37 July 4, 2021 10:14 am Reply

    Now I remember her. She was still in college in 1974. I think she was involved in the 1973 riots at Wailua. Hotels there were picketing. Some land being used for hotel use. I cannot remember the name of it now. But that was it. It was a big deal for Hawaiians. This and other events. Also the H3 freeway. She was also involved in that incident. Nukol’i. That’s it. Kaua’i. I think she was going for her doctors degree yet. Anyway now I remember her.

    I never did met her. Just what I read in the papers. Awhile back. And I am from Pakistan. My parents were from there. When they were about 2 years old.

    Now I remember. I started reading Hawaiian culture. Ghost stories and novels. Punahou. So that was it.


  3. joe biddin July 5, 2021 12:36 pm Reply

    Yes! she was at the Maunakea protest blocking the road to the summit. She died from something.


  4. True Patriot July 6, 2021 2:18 pm Reply

    She died an American. Thanks to her Americans know what it means to be American. Hawaiians are Americans. Hawaii still benefits from capitalism and first world conditions…you are welcome Dr. Trask. RIP


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