Obituary: Haunani-Kay Trask – Hawai’ian poet, activist (71)(2021)

Photo: Haunani-Kay Trask in an undated photo. As a professor, poet and activist, she pushed for the recognition of Hawaii’s Indigenous people. “I am not soft, I am not sweet, and I do not want any more tourists in Hawaii,” she said.Credit…Kapulani Landgraf

HaunaniKay Trask was a visionary leader of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. She decried the colonization and despoliation of her native land who once said: “We are not American! We will die as Hawaiians, we will never be American!”

++ Please note. If you are new to HKT, as I’m afraid I was until I read her obituary, I highly recommend watching the video listed below. It is wonderful. Lord knows it is exceedingly rare to find anyone who does not only have strong convictions but also the power in words and emotions to fully articulate those ideas. Not an easy watch for none-Hawai’ians, but of course that is the point. I am sure there are other videos are articles worth sharing as well. Please pass them along if you wish. James ++

In memoriam: Haunani-Kay Trask, exemplary Native Hawaiian scholar

03 July 2021 | Moanikeʻala Nabarro | University of Hawaiʻi  News

Hearts are heavy across Hawaiʻi and the world as many mourn the death of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask. Loved ones confirmed the exemplary Native Hawaiian scholar died on Saturday, July 3.

Trask who retired in 2010, started her extensive academic career at UH Mānoa in 1981 as an assistant professor in the American studies department with expertise in feminist theory and Indigenous studies. She is credited with co-founding the contemporary field of Hawaiian studies and went on to become the founding director of the UH Mānoa Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Haunani-Kay Trask and David Stannard protesting staff firings at Bishop Museum, 1985. (Photo credit: Ed Greevy)
Haunani-Kay Trask and David Stannard protesting staff firings at Bishop Museum, 1985. (Photo credit: Ed Greevy)

“Professor Trask was a fearless advocate for the Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and was responsible for inspiring thousands of brilliant and talented Hawaiians to come to the University of Hawaiʻi,” said Dean Jonathan Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio. “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 Lāhui 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, ʻaumakua of the poet warrior.”

“Dr. Trask was a visionary leader of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the founding director of Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Mānoa. 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. More importantly, she was a bold, fearless, and vocal leader that our lāhui 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 ʻohana. Our department remains committed to carrying on the legacy of Professor Trask in educating and empowering the lāhui,” Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies Director Kekuewa Kikiloi said.

“The Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office mourns the tremendous loss of Kumu Haunani-Kay Trask. We pause and reflect on her leadership and honor her as one of the founders of this office; as one of the members of the seminal 1986 Kaʻū Task Force and its subsequent report, the first of four Native Hawaiian reports to recommend and advocate for the creation of an office such as ours,” said UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Affairs Program Officer Kaiwipuni Lipe. “Furthermore, UH Mānoa’s designation as a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center—a campus that shows the potential to be a major player in jettisoning racism and preparing the next generation of leaders who will do so—builds on the foundation that Kumu Haunani helped to set at this university. She had an unwavering commitment to speaking truth to power and was a leader in normalizing that on our campus and throughout our communities. She was and continues to be a lamakū—a leading light—for all of us. Aloha wale ʻoe e Kumu Haunani, ē. E moe mālie aku ʻoe i ka pō loloa.”

In April, Trask was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. The induction, set for spring 2022 will place her alongside other notable lifetime members including John Adams, Charles Darwin, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. It is one of the highest honors bestowed in academia.

“The University of Hawaiʻi mourns the loss of Professor Haunani-Kay Trask, a profound mind who was one of our most influential teachers and scholars,” said UH President David Lassner. “She provided all of us at UH and in Hawaiʻi with opportunities to learn and grow as we each reconsider our roles and kuleana in Hawaiʻi. Her relationship with the University of Hawaiʻi was complex, and we are a better institution for her passion, insights, criticisms, advocacy, contributions and influence. My deepest condolences to her life partner, Professor David Stannard, her ʻohana, the generations of students she taught and mentored over the years, and all who loved her.”

Trask, a Windward Oʻahu native was a critical voice in what she called, “the modern Hawaiian movement” and the broader Hawaiian sovereignty movement. Throughout her career she advocated for issues which support Indigenous nations around the globe. She worked with leaders in Indigenous communities from throughout North America to the Māori of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Basque people of Spain among others. Her international reputation led to her addressing United Nations gatherings in Geneva, Switzerland and Durban, South Africa.

Haunani-Kay Trask (Photo credit: Brett Uprichard)
Haunani-Kay Trask (Photo credit: Brett Uprichard)

Nourish the next generation

Stemming from a notable lineage of politicians and civil servants in Hawaiʻi, Trask made it her mission to fight for kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) rights and lands, all while encouraging the younger generation of kānaka attending the university to embrace their heritage.

In 2019, Trask received the Angela Y. Davis lifetime achievement award by the American Studies Association. The honor recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the public good. Trask also graced USA Today’s Women of the Century, which highlights women across the nation and U.S. territories who have motivated and inspired others.

Her legacy also lives on through the David E. Stannard and Haunani-Kay Trask Endowed Scholarship in American Studies which supports UH Mānoa American studies students who are pursuing research in Indigenous and/or Pacific Island studies.

Remembering fearless Hawaiian activist Haunani-Kay Trask

Tourism and The prostitution Of Hawaiian Culture

Haunani-Kay Trask (no date listed) | Cultural Survival Org

Thanks to American imperialism, the ideology that the United States has no overseas colonies and is, in fact, the champion of self-determination the world over, holds no greater sway than in the United States itself. To most Americans, then, Hawai’i is theirs: to use, to take, and, above all, to fantasize about long after the experience.

Just five hours away by plane from California, Hawai’i is a thousand light years away in fantasy. Hawai’i, as an image of escape from the rawness and violence of daily American life, is mostly a state of mind. Above all, Hawai’i is “she,” the Western image of the Native “female” in her magical allure.

To Hawaiians, daily life is neither soft nor kind. In fact, the political, economic and cultural reality for most Hawaiians is hard, ugly, and cruel.

In Hawai’i, the destruction of our land and the prostitution of our culture is planned and executed by multi-national corporations, by huge landowners, and by collaborationist state and county governments. The ideological gloss that claims tourism to be our economic savior and the “natural” result of Hawaiian culture is manufactured by ad agencies, tour companies, and the state of Hawai’i which allocates some $60 million dollars a year to the tourism advertising budget. As for the local labor unions, both rank and file and management clamor for more tourists, while the construction industry lobbies for larger resorts.

Despite our similarities with other major tourist destinations, the statistical picture of the effects of corporate tourism in Hawai’i is shocking.

Fact: Nearly 40 years ago, at statehood, Hawai’i residents outnumbered tourists by more than 2 to 1. Today, tourists outnumber residents by 6 to 1; they outnumber Native Hawaiians by 30 to 1.(1)

Fact: Tourism has been the single most powerful factor in crime rate, including crimes against people and property.(2)

Fact: Tourism is the major source of population growth. Moreover, that growth ensures the trend toward a rapidly expanded population that receives lower per capita income.(3)

Fact: Tourism drives up the cost of single family housing. As a result, families spend a large share of their income on housing.

Fact: A tourism economy encourages foreign investment, which drives up inflation, and thus the cost of living.

Fact: Nearly one-fifth of Hawai’i’s resident population is classified as near-homeless, which explains the concomitant rise in beach villages and other homeless enclaves in Hawai’i.(4)

Fact: The very high cost of living in Hawai’i has encouraged the Native people to leave their island home in search of better economic conditions on the American continent. As a result, diaspora increases while new immigrants arrive from Asia.

The mass nature of corporately-controlled tourism results in megaresort complexes on thousands of acres with demands for water and services that far surpass the needs of Hawai’i residents. These tourist complexes boast several hotels, golf courses, restaurants, and other entertainments. Infrastructure is usually built by the developer in exchange for approval of more units. The island of O’ahu, with the major resort of Waik…k…, is the site of four major tourist destinations, over 800,000 residents, military installations that control 30% of the island, and the center of Hawai’i business in the capital of Honolulu. Currently, the island, which has an area of only 607 square miles, is visited by some 5 million tourists annually.

In this context of mass-based tourism, a new kind of exploitation has been visited upon our Native people. I call it “cultural prostitution.”

Prostitution here refers to the entire institution that defines a woman as an object of degraded and victimized sexual value for use and exchange through the medium of money. The prostitute is a woman who sells her sexual capacities and is seen, thereby, to possess and reproduce them at will, that is, by her very “nature.” The prostitute and the institution that creates and maintains her are, of course, of patriarchal origin. The pimp is the conduit of exchange, managing the commodity that is the prostitute while acting as the guard at the entry and exit gates, making sure the prostitute behaves as a prostitute by fulfilling her sexual-economic functions. The victims participate in their victimization with enormous ranges of feeling, from resistance to complicity, but the force and continuity of the institution are shaped by men.

Hawai’i, our ancient and erotic land, is the female object of degraded and victimized value. Our ‘…ina, or lands, are no longer the source of food and shelter, but the source of money. Land is now called “real estate,” rather than Papahanaumoku, “she who gives birth to islands.”

Beautiful areas, once sacred to our people, are now the sites of expensive resorts; shorelines where net fishing, seaweed gathering, and crabbing occurred are more and more the exclusive domain of recreational activities such as sunbathing, windsurfing, and jet skiing. Even access to beaches near hotels is strictly regulated or denied to the local public altogether.

The Native phrase, m…lama `…ina – “to care for the land” – is used by government officials to convince locals that hotels can be built without damage to the environment. Hotel historians, like hotel doctors, are stationed in-house to soothe the visitors stay with the pablum of invented myths and tales of the “primitive.”

High schools and hotels adopt each other and funnel teenagers through major resorts for guided tours from kitchens to gardens to honeymoon suites in preparation for post-secondary jobs in the lowest-paid industry in the state. In the meantime, tourist appreciation kits are distributed through the State Department of Education to all elementary schools. One film, unashamedly titled “What’s in it for Me?,” was devised to convince locals that tourism is, as the newspapers never tire of saying, “the only game in town.”

While this propaganda is churned out to local residents, the commercialization of Hawaiian culture proceeds with calls for more sensitive marketing of our Native values and practices. After all, a prostitute is only as good as her income-producing talents. These talents, in Hawaiian terms, are the hula, our dance; our generosity, or aloha; the u’i or youthful beauty of our women and men; and the continuing allure of our lands and waters, that is, of our place, Hawai’i.

The selling of these talents must produce income. And the function of tourism and the state of Hawai’i is to convert these attributes into profit.

The first requirement is the transformation of the product, or the cultural attribute, much as a woman must be transformed to look like a prostitute, i.e. someone who is complicit in her own commodification. Thus hula dancers wear clown-like makeup, don costumes from a mix of Polynesian cultures, and behave in a manner that is smutty and salacious rather than powerfully erotic. In the hotel version of the hula, the sacredness of the dance has completely evaporated while the athleticism and sexual expression have been packaged like ornaments. The purpose is entertainment for profit rather than a joyful and truly Hawaiian celebration of human and divine nature.

The point, of course, is that everything in Hawai’i can be yours, that is, you the tourist, the non-Native, the visitor. The place, the people, the culture, even our identity as a “Native” people are for sale. Thus the word “aloha” is employed as an aid in the constant hawking of things Hawaiian. In truth, this use of aloha is so far removed from any Hawaiian cultural context that it is, literally, meaningless.

Thus, Hawai’i, like a lovely woman, is there for the taking. Those with only a little money get a brief encounter, those with a lot of money get more. The state and counties will give tax breaks, build infrastructure, and have the governor personally welcome tourists to ensure they keep coming. Just as the pimp regulates prices and guards the commodity of the prostitute, so the state bargains with developers for access to Hawaiian land and culture. Who builds the biggest resorts to attract the most affluent tourists gets the best deal: more hotel rooms, golf courses and restaurants approved. Permits are fast-tracked, height and density limits are suspended, new ground water sources are miraculously found.

Hawaiians, meanwhile, have little choice in all this. We can fill up the unemployment lines, enter the military, work in the tourist industry, or leave Hawai’i. Increasingly, Hawaiians are leaving, not by choice but out of economic necessity.

Our people who work in the industry — dancers, waiters, singers, valets, gardeners, housekeepers, bartenders, and even a few managers — are very poorly paid, considering the high cost of living in Hawai’i. Indeed, tourism is considered a low-paying service industry that, no matter the huge numbers of tourists, always generates low-income jobs.

Psychologically, our young people have begun to think of tourism as the only employment opportunity, trapped as they are by the lack of alternatives. For our young women, modeling is a “cleaner” job when compared to waiting on tables, or dancing in a weekly revue. But modeling feeds on tourism and the ever-present commodification of Hawaiian women. In the end, the entire employment scene is shaped by and depends upon tourists, and the selling of Hawai’i through the tourism industry.

Of course, many Hawaiians do not see tourism as part of their colonization. Thus tourism is viewed as providing jobs, not as a form of cultural prostitution. Even those who have some glimmer of critical consciousness don’t generally agree that the tourist industry prostitutes Hawaiian culture. This is a measure of the depth of our mental oppression: we can’t understand our own cultural ghettoization because we are living it. As colonized people, we are colonized to the extent that we are unaware of our oppression. When awareness begins, then so too does de-colonization. Judging by the growing resistance to new hotels, to geothermal energy and manganese nodule mining, which would supplement the tourist industry, and to increases in the sheer number of tourists, de-colonization has begun.

(1) Eleanor C. Nordyke, The Peopling of Hawai’i (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2 ed., 1989) pp. 134-172

(2) Meda Chesney-Lind, “Salient Factors in Hawai’i’s Crime Rate,” University of Hawai’i School of Social Work.

(3) Nordyke, Ibid.

(4) This is the estimate of a state-contracted firm that surveyed the islands for homeless and near-homeless families. Testimony was delivered to the state legislature, 1990 session.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

Dr. Trask spoke in 2001 at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus. She helped establish the field of Hawaiian studies. Credit… Star-Advertiser

Haunani-Kay Trask, Champion of Native Rights in Hawaii, Dies at 71

09 July 2021 | Annabelle Williams | New York Times

Haunani-Kay Trask, a scholar, poet and champion of sovereignty for the Hawaiian people who decried what she called the colonization and despoliation of her native land, died on July 3 in Honolulu. She was 71.

The cause was cancer, her partner, David E. Stannard, said.

In her best-known book, “Notes From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii” (1993), Dr. Trask called Hawaii “once the most fragile and precious of sacred places, now transformed by the American behemoth into a dying land.”

“Only a whispering spirit remains,” she wrote.

Dr. Trask was not afraid to make waves as a leader of what became known as the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. She received national attention in 1990 for remarks directed at an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii, where she was a professor of Hawaiian Studies. The student, in a letter to the school newspaper, accused Native Hawaiians of holding racist attitudes toward white people on the island.

Dr. Trask responded that the student “does not understand racism at all” and should leave Hawaii, which he did, returning to his home state of Louisiana for a time, The New York Times reported. When some students and faculty criticized Dr. Trask’s comments as unnecessarily harsh, she answered: “I am a nationalist. I am asserting my claim to my country.”

She continued, “I am not soft, I am not sweet, and I do not want any more tourists in Hawaii.”

With her sister Mililani B. Trask, Dr. Trask was a founding member of Ka Lahui Hawaii, an organization that promotes self-determination for Native Hawaiians. It held its first convention in 1987. She believed, as she wrote in “Notes From a Native Daughter,” that “the secrets of the land die with the people of the land” and thus preservation of Indigenous lands should be paramount.

In 1993, she helped lead a march of about 15,000 Native Hawaiians — known as Kanaka Maoli — who were seeking to reclaim lands held in trust by the state. It was one of the first major protests calling for a return of native lands in Hawaii; it took place on the centennial of the overthrow of its last queen, Liliuokalani.

Her group, Ka Lahui, demanded that the territory be ceded to it, after it had drawn up a constitution for Hawaiian self-government along the lines of the “nation within a nation” model found in American Indian tribal lands. Bills were introduced in the state Legislature, but they failed to pass.

At the march, Dr. Trask took to the podium in front of Honolulu’s Iolani Palace and proclaimed: “We are not American. We will die as Hawaiians. We will never be Americans.”

She continued: “The Americans, my people, are our enemies, and you must understand that. They are our enemies. They took our land, they imprisoned our queen, they banned our language, they forcibly made us a colony of the United States.”

Along with “From a Native Daughter,” her books include “Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory” (1981), which was adapted from her dissertation, and two poetry collections, “Light in the Crevice Never Seen” (1994) and “Night is a Sharkskin Drum” (2002).

Dr. Trask’s poetry employed imagery suggestive of a sentient island bleeding from the violence of colonialism. In one poem, “Colonization,” she wrote:

Hawaiian at heart:

nothing said

about loss

violence, death

by hundreds of thousands.

She also railed against the tourism industry in her academic and poetic work, challenging its marketing of the Hawaiian islands as an acquiescent paradise, a depiction that she felt ignored the history of violence against the land and its Native inhabitants.

Hawaii is a racially diverse society: 2019 census data puts the island at about a quarter white, 38 percent Asian, 10 percent Native Hawaiian and another quarter identifying with two or more races. Large numbers of Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and with American annexation of the island in 1898, white settlers came as well. Hawaii became a state in 1959.

Dr. Trask was founding director of the University of Hawaii’s Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, a field she was credited with helping to establish. She retired from the university in 2010.

She was considered a pivotal figure in showing “the importance of critical analysis and creativity to forging a more just future for Indigenous peoples,” the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said in electing her a member this year.

Haunani-Kay Trask was born on Oct. 3, 1949, in San Francisco to Bernard Kaukaohu Trask and Haunani (Cooper) Trask. Her mother taught elementary school, and her father was a lawyer.

“When I meet another Hawaiian” Dr. Trask wrote of her lineage, “I say I am descended of two genealogical lines: the Piilani line through my mother, who is from Hana, Maui, and the Kahakumakaliua line through my father’s family from Kauai.”

She grew up on Oahu outside of Honolulu, along with her five siblings.

Dr. Trask graduated from the Kamehameha School in Honolulu, which was established in the late 19th century to educate children of Hawaiian descent. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, earning her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1975 and a doctorate in the same field in 1981.

Just after completing her Ph.D., Dr. Trask began teaching at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she started in the American Studies department.

Along with Dr. Stannard, her partner since 1980, and her sister Mililani, she is survived by two other sisters, Kahala-Ann Trask Gibson and Damien Onaona Trask, and a brother, Michael. She died in a residential care home.

In her speech at the 1993 march in Honolulu, Dr. Trask summed up much of what her life was about when she reminded her fellow protesters why she stood before them, and what drove her on. “I am so proud to be here,” she said. “I am so proud to be angry. I am so proud to be a Hawaiian.”


One comment

  1. And now a lot of people have been killed so they can buuld a “smart island.” Or smart prison. They had meetings discussing the rebuilding of the island. Guess they just took it, at any cost. Add digital currency and you’re a slave immediately.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.