Maui News

Passing of Distinguished Native Hawaiian Educator Haunani-Kay Trask

July 3, 2021, 4:38 PM HST
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Haunani-Kay Trask (Photo credit: Kapulani Landgraf) via University of Hawaiʻi.

The family of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask confirmed that the distinguished educator died on July 3. 

UH Mānoa officials officials reflected upon news of the passing.

Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge Dean Jonathan Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio said, “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. 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.”

Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies Director Kekuewa Kikiloi said, “It’s with a heavy heart that we share the news of Dr. Haunani Kay Trask’s passing today. Dr. Trask was a visionary leader of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the founding director of Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at U.H. at 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 ʿohana. Our department remains committed to carrying on the legacy of Professor Trask in educating and empowering the lāhui.”

Earlier this year, Trask, who was a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emerita, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. The academy recognizes extraordinary people who help solve the world’s most urgent challenges, and contribute to the common good from every field, discipline and profession.

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The Native Hawaiian scholar joined 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.

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After retiring, she was also awarded the 2019 Angela Y. Davis Prize by the American Studies Association, at the annual ASA national conference in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Founded in 1951, ASA is the oldest American studies association and the largest, with 5,000 members worldwide. The honor recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the public good. It’s namesake, Angela Davis, is a prominent black feminist writer, activist and critical voice in black freedom struggles.

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