Dear Social Work Community,
This week we mark the passing of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, a visionary thinker and tireless advocate for Kānaka Maoli. There is no one who engages in work in Hawaiʻi who is not influenced in some way by her contributions. Her work and her ideas cross disciplines, inform our response to social inequities, and shape our ideas of what a more just society could look like. Her words, whether written or spoken, have remained incredibly powerful and for many, life changing and life affirming — with her call-out for social justice as relevant today as it was over three decades ago.
While not a social worker by training, Dr. Trask’s ideas moved beyond her discipline and took root in the community and academia. She influenced the field of social work as it is practiced in Hawaiʻi with her challenge for all of us to more critically examine the distribution of power, the behaviors of our social institutions, and the nature of economic, political, and colonial influence in the state. Dr. Trask and her work have touched the hearts and souls of the profession, our faculty, and most especially our students, animating their efforts and centering social justice in all of our professional endeavors.
Dr. Trask was a cornerstone in the sovereignty and Hawaiian movements, galvanizing the community to center the voices of Hawaiians as the indigenous and rightful stewards of the islands. Dr. Trask’s influence can be felt throughout the Thompson School Department of Social Work with her spirit echoing through our programs and initiatives including the Native Hawaiian Interdisciplinary Health Program, the Indigenous Affairs Committee, and our educational policy and required student competency that focuses on decolonized professional practice. She inspires and challenges all those in our profession to not only develop deeper insight regarding the systemic oppression faced by Native Hawaiians and other indigenous people, but also demands a call to action for social and political change. Dr. Trask’s ideas will continue to nourish generations of social work students as her words inform our responses to social inequities and shape our vision for a more just society.
If you feel so moved, Punihei Lipe, UHM Native Hawaiian Affairs Program Officer, is collecting tributes to post on a new webpage dedicated to Dr. Trask’s legacy. If you would like to share, please follow this link to add your comments.
Acting DSW Chair
(Photo credit: Kapulani Landgraf)