Tribute to Haunani-Kay Trask

Haunani-Kay Trask

Haunani-Kay Trask

Over the summer we lost a towering leader in Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask who had an immense impact on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and our larger communities, and the Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) in particular. She was a foundational inspiration and example for our Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health program, whose faculty and students composed a beautiful tribute which we  proudly share with our OPHS 'ohana


The faculty, staff, students, alumni, and affiliated community members at the Office of Public Health Studies honor and mourn the loss of Haunani-Kay Trask, Hawaiian activist, profound scholar, respected poet, and renowned leader who ferociously paved the way for native Hawaiians and Indigenous peoples at large. 

The legacy of Haunani-Kay Trask extends through her work as Professor Emerita and a founding director of Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The contribution of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask is showcased through her distinguished poetry and writings, including From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai‘i. In her book, Haunani-Kay Trask eloquently weaves the complex intersection of isms, including racism and sexism, within the university context while sharing her struggles to overcome these isms. These shared lived experiences represent the unfinished work of making the University of Hawai‘i a place for Hawaiians as it strives to become a Hawaiian Place of Learning - a process that Haunani-Kay Trask was instrumental in forging. 

Regardless of one’s political stance, the radical, and sometimes divisive nature of Haunani-Kay Trask motivates scholars to engage in their work in reciprocal passion. We acknowledge the critical role of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask at the University of Hawai‘i and her lifelong work and commitment to Hawaiians and the Lāhui, which continues to inspire present and future scholars, kumu, and haumāna alike.

On behalf of the Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health program, we celebrate the role of Haunani-Kay Trask as a founding member of the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The work of Haunani-Kay Trask, including the founding of Kamakakūokalani, paved the way for the existence of our program and similar programs on campus today. Haunani-Kay Trask’s unapologetically bold rhetoric created spaces for Hawaiians and Indigenous peoples to identify proudly as native peoples. Her fierce passion and spirit to resist imperialism and colonialism in Hawai‘i as well as throughout the Pacific raised the political consciousness of Hawaiians and Indigenous peoples worldwide. She continues to inspire our work as Indigenous scholars and laid the foundation for our work that centers on Indigenous principles, values, pedagogies, frameworks, and methodologies.

The Office of Public Health Studies is proud to have Kānaka Maoli graduate students who have been greatly influenced by Haunani-Kay in their work of public health advocacy and research. Because of her legacy, her fearlessness, and unwavering love for her Lāhui expressed through her literature, poetry, unforgettable speeches, presentations, and more, our graduate Kānaka Maoli students are committed to a culture of health through radical love and healing of poʻe ʻōiwi, ʻāina, and the liberation of all peoples. 

Our deepest condolences are sent to Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, her family, and all those who have been touched by her mana and spirit. By continuing to read and wrestle with the ideas housed with her work we breathe new and ongoing life into her legacy. It is through this process that we will find new applications to our lives today and work towards her vision of UH as a place for Hawaiians. 

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Haunani-Kay Trask, tribute