Born in California on October 3, 1949, Haunani-Kay Trask was raised from an early age on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. She subsequently attended the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1972, a master’s degree in 1975, and a Ph.D. in political science in 1981. A number of Trask’s family members were active in Democrat Party circles. Most notably, her great grandfather spent 26 years as a Democratic legislator in the Territory of Hawaii.
In her adulthood, Trask became a radical feminist, an indigenous rights activist, and a professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. She also became part of a movement of ethnic nationalists and racial separatists who maintain that indigenous Hawaiians are entitled to enjoy political and economic supremacy over all the non-indigenous inhabitants of their islands. Describing the “racist, colonialist United States of colonial America” as a “large predatory power” that has imposed “the yoke of imperialism” onto the shoulders of Native Hawaiian peoples, Trask condemns the “disease-laden racists [who] took our government and imprisoned our queen,” and who allegedly continue to subjugate Hawaii by means of institutionalized racism.
In September 1990, Trask courted controversy when she publicly demeaned a University of Hawaii student named Joey Carter as a “haole,” a Hawaiian word meaning “foreigner” but generally used as a racial slur against Caucasians. After Carter publicly complained about the incident, Trask responded by writing:
“This word … has survived despite official suppression of my Native Hawaiian language by an all-haole, English-speaking American government in 1900. Indeed, Mr. Carter follows in the footsteps of his American haole compatriots who came to Hawai’i in the 19th century demanding that Hawaiians convert to the haole ways of behaving…. Too bad, Mr. Carter, you are a haole and you always will be.
“And this is precisely Mr. Carter’s typically white American problem: he wants to pretend that he is outside American history, a history which has made white power and white supremacy the governing norm from the birth of the American colonies to the present American imperium that holds the world as a nuclear hostage. Mr. Carter is a privileged member of American society because he is haole, whether he acknowledges his privilege or not. His very presence in Hawai’i, and before that in Louisiana, is a luxury provided him through centuries of white conquest that visited genocide on American Indians, slavery on Africans, peonage on Asians and dispossession on Native Hawaiians.
“Hawai’i is presently a colony of the United States, not because we Hawaiians chose that status, but because the American government overthrew our Hawaiian government in 1883 [sic, 1893], and forcibly annexed our islands in 1898. With the overthrow, things Hawaiian were outlawed and things haole American were imposed. As an American in Hawai’i, Mr. Carter is benefiting from stolen goods. Part of that benefit is the moral blindness of the settler who [is] a member of a white imperialist country….
“Of course, Mr. Carter needs to know, before he learns about Hawaiians, that in the long and bloody march of American history, only African-Americans were classed as 3/5 of a person in the American Constitution, that noble document of democracy. Asians were beaten and killed because they were ‘yellow peril.’ Only Japanese were interned in concentration camps because they were Japanese, only American Indians were ‘removed’ and ‘terminated’ as a people because they were Indian.
“In fact, Mr. Carter does not understand racism at all, another common characteristic of white people. For racism is a system of power in which one racially-identified group dominates and exploits another racially-identified group for the advantage of the dominating group. People of color in America don’t have enough power to dominate and exploit white people. That’s what the so-called ‘founding fathers’ of the United States intended, and that’s how American society operates today…. The hatred and fear people of color have of white people is based on that ugly history…. It is for self-protection and in self-defense that we people of color feel hostility towards haoles….
“In his uninformed, childish moaning, Mr. Carter flaunts his willful ignorance of where he is (in my native country, Hawai’i), and who he is (a haole American)…. If Mr. Carter does not like being called haole, he can return to Louisiana. Hawaiians would certainly benefit from one less haole in our land. In fact, United Airlines has dozens of flights to the U.S. continent every day, Mr. Carter. Why don’t you take one?”
At a January 1993 protest rally commemorating the 100th anniversary of Hawaii’s monarchy, Trask told those in attendance: “I am NOT an American. I will DIE before I am an American” (emphasis in original). That same year, she was promoted to full professor and was given the honor of overseeing the construction of a new, multimillion-dollar educational facility earmarked specifically for her academic program. This facility would eventually become the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, where Trask served as director and as a tenured faculty member.
Also in 1993, Trask produced the documentary movie, Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, about the 1893 arrival of the American ship U.S.S. Boston and, in the words of promotional literature for the film, the ensuing “treasonous coup d’etat against the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
Trask’s view of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S. was consistent with that of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who in 2002 received a warm welcome from Trask and her colleagues when he visited the University of Hawaii campus at the height of the controversy he had recently ignited (with his assertion that the 9/11 attacks were a manifestation of America’s “chickens coming home to roost,” and that the victims who had perished in the World Trade Center were “little Eichmanns” who deserved their awful fate). Said Trask in October 2001: “The United States is angry because somebody came back and blew up their World Trade Center. I would be angry, too. But what made them do that? It is the history of terrorism that the United States unleashes against native people all over the world…. ‘Chickens have come home to roost.’ What it means is that those who have suffered under the imperialism and militarism of the United States have come back to haunt in the 21st century that same government. The Third World has responded to the First World, and it is bitter and it is hateful…. Everywhere, the United States has overthrown leftist government. Everywhere, the United States has overthrown native governments. Why should we support the United States, whose hands in history are soaked in blood?”
At a Hawaiian political rally on the grounds of Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu on September 2, 2002, Trask delivered a speech that gave further voice to her virulent hatred of America:
“Don’t let anybody tell you not to be angry. We have every right to be angry … because this is OUR country, and they took our government and imprisoned our queen … And they banned our language. And then they forcibly made us a state of the racist, colonialist United States of colonial America….
“What we need to know is what really happened to our people. Who brought the disease? Who created private property? Who overthrew our queen?… Foreigners came. They conquered. They took our lands. They imprisoned our queen. And THEY divided us by blood quantum….
“If this is your country then BEHAVE like it’s your country. You tell those racist haoles ‘You’re a racist haole.’ That’s the word we need to use. RACIST!
“Racism. That is what is going on right here and right now in Hawai’i. The same thing that’s going on against black Americans. The same thing that’s going on by [President] Bush. Bush wants to bomb Islamic countries. Why? Because he’s a racist. Because Islamic people don’t believe in Christianity. Because they have their own region of the world, called the Middle East. Who bombed us? Wasn’t Hawaiians. We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America, and everybody who supports it.”
During a September 6, 2002 appearance on the local Hawaiian television show First Friday, Trask expressed her bitterness over the fact that a non-Hawaiian colleague of hers, Kenneth Conklin, had been slated to teach a course on Hawaiian sovereignty. In Trask’s calculus, Conklin, as a non-Hawaiian, was by definition unqualified to teach such a class. When Conklin eventually cancelled the course in response to threats of violence that some indigenous rights activists had made against him, Trask said: “Mr. Conklin. He’s such a twit… he claims he was threatened, and therefore the course was dropped. And I think that’s wonderful… He’s essentially a crybaby. He’s a malcontent. Obviously he has some psychological need for publicity. So, now he’s complaining that, you know, people are treating him badly.”
In 2006 Trask joined Kathleen Cleaver, Winona LaDuke, and Mari Matsuda in endorsing a Kansas summit titled “The Latest Indian Wars: The ‘War on Terror’ Targets Critical Thinking,” which was held to show support for Ward Churchill and other professors “who think critically about the manifestations of colonialism and contemporary expansions of empire.”
Trask’s contempt for America is mirrored by her hatred for capitalism, which she describes in racial rather than class terms, for example stating that “it is white people who brought capitalism to Hawaii’i [and] who, for their own benefit, have exploited and oppressed Hawaiians.”
In 2010 Trask retired from her position as director of the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, though she still serves as an emeritus professor who teaches occasional courses on: (a) native political movements in Hawaii and the Pacific; (b) the literature and politics of Pacific island women; (c) Hawaiian history and politics; and (d) Third World and indigenous history and politics.
Trask is the author of several books on feminist and political discourse. Her titles include: Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory (1986); Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1994); From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (1999); and Night Is a Sharkskin Drum (2002). In 2005 Trask co-edited the re-release of Ward Churchill’s book Since Predator Came: Notes from the Struggle for American Indian Liberation, a collection of 18 essays “chronicling the genocide committed by European invaders.”
Trask also has published some collections of poetry rife with allusions to racial violence aimed at whites. In her poem “Racist White Woman,” she writes:
“Racist White Woman
I could kick
Your face, puncture
You deserve this kind
No more vicious
Just a knife
Slitting your tight
For all my people
Under your feet
For all those years
Lived smug and wealthy
Off our land
In your painted
She passed away on July 3, 2021.
Further Reading: “Haunani-Kay Trask” (by David Horowitz, The Professors, 2006); “Professor Haunani-Kay Trask: Some Speeches and Writings Illustrating the Anti-American and Anti-White Attitudes of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement” (AngelFire.com, 2002).