Published on June 30, 2014 by Amy
Haunani-Kay Trask (born October 3, 1949) is a Native Hawaiian academic, activist, documentarist and writer. Trask is a professor of Hawaiian Studies with the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa 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.
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Trask was born in California, grew up in Hawaii, 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 is the longtime partner of University of Hawaii professor David Stannard.
Arthur K. Trask, an uncle, 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 Hawaii’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 Hawaii Statehood.
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 the tourism industry and the United States military presence in Hawaii. 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 heads the Hawaiian Studies Program at the University of Hawaii.
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.”