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Haunani-Kay Trask Biographical Information



Haunani-Kay Trask, Cover-Girl

Haunani-Kay Trask was the cover-girl on a bi-monthly magazine published on the "big island' of Hawai'i for the period September 16-30, 2003. The photo accompanied an interview of her written by one of her strong admirers, available at:
http://www.hawaiiislandjournal.com/stories/9b03a.html

Haunani-Kay Trask was born October 3, 1949 in the San Francisco Bay area. Therefore she is an American citizen, contrary to her protests that "I am NOT an American. I will DIE before I am an American." She is also an immigrant to Hawai'i, not an indigenous native person. Of course the claim is that anyone born to an indigenous parent is an indigenous person even if born thousands of miles away from the indigenous homeland. However, if that's true, then every person on earth is indigenous. The claim is that a descendant of a Hawaiian parent is an indigenous Hawaiian, no matter where she is born, and that she also has a "right of return" that makes her an indigenous person of Hawai'i the moment her airplane lands. But of course that's exactly the same claim made by the nation of Israel, that every person of Jewish ancestry anywhere in the world is automatically an Israeli with a right to "return" to Israel (even if no family member has ever been there for many centuries).

Ms. Trask's family was very active politically in the Democrat party, and in the labor unions. During the red scare of the 1950s, at least one family member was accused of being a Communist and of refusing to give names of other members of the Communist Party. An article-length obituary of her uncle Arthur Trask, published on June 21, 2002, gives some insight into the political activism of her family.
http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2002/Jun/21/ln/ln12a.html

Her academic history includes
Kamehameha School graduate, Class of 1967
B.A. in Political Science at University of Wisconsin (Madison), 1972
M.A. in Political Science at University of Wisconsin (Madison), 1975
Ph.D. in Political Science at University of Wisconsin (Madison), 1981
Her Ph.D. dissertation title was: Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory
A humorist might compare the title of her dissertation with the title of a book she published in 1994: Light in the Crevice Never Seen

This academic background shows the strong influence of her politically leftist and activist family, as she chose to attend one of the most radical campuses during the radical anti-war and Black militant period of the late 1960s and all the 1970s, which was also the period when women's studies began to develop. It should be noted that her academic background was entirely devoted to political science and feminism. Thus, she acquired an interest in Hawaiian studies after completing her academic degrees, and acquired her knowledge of Hawaiian issues through informal and independent studies, just as others have done, like Ken Conklin.

In the second half of September 2003 a bi-monthly magazine on the Island of Hawai'i (locally known as "the big island") published an "interview" with Haunani-Kay done by one of her admirers. The magazine is the Hawaii Island Journal. The entire interview can be seen at:
http://www.hawaiiislandjournal.com/stories/9b03a.html

At the end of that interview was the following paragraph of biographical information:

Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin. She is presently Professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i, and she served for 10 years as the Director of the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. Dr. Trask also is one of the founders and leading members of Ka Lahui Hawai'i, the largest native sovereignty organization in Hawai'i. She has represented Hawaii's indigenous people at the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, and at numerous indigenous gatherings in Samiland (Norway), Aotearoa (New Zealand), Basque Country and Indian nations throughout the United States and Canada. Her ongoing struggle for de-colonization, human rights, and self-determination for her people as well as indigenous peoples all over the world has spanned more than 30 years. Trask and her sister Mililani have helped to bring international attention to the historical facts of the oppression and genocide of Native Hawaiians in Hawai'i through her teaching, activism, writing, and poetry. Her best-known book, "From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i," is widely considered a masterpiece of contemporary resistance writing. Her most recently published book is a collection of poetry, "Night is a Sharkskin Drum."

Books: Amazon.com has photos of the front cover of each book, and also excerpts of the contents and book reviews.

From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (Common Courage Press, 1993).
A book review at Amazon.com says:
Trask's writing is shocking. Her book presents an interesting alternative view of Hawaiian history as well as an interesting critique of Western thought (especially history and anthropology). Unfortunately Trask's militant sensationalism, and self serving narcisism creep in and very nearly ruin the entire book. The pages are filled with self-glorifying pictures of Trask and her political pals. The articles focus almost entirely on Trask's own political actions, ignoring all other movements and all previous scholarship. Trask's opinions are of course "interesting", but they are not based on any sort of sound historical or scientific evidence. The little bits of flimsy evidence she does cite are almost laughable in light of the kind of re-evalutations she is pushing for. Are the lyrics of a single song really proper cause for an entire re-evaluation of historical theory? There are some very large holes in her arguments. So large, in fact, that virtually no scholars, american, European or otherwise, take her work seriously. In reality, very few native Hawaiians take her or her politics seriously either. Trask's personality really casts her argument into a deep, dark shadow. It's unfortunate that a more level headed person didn't undertake the writing of this book because it is actually quite interesting, and even enlightening at times.

Light in the Crevice Never Seen (Calyx Books, 1994)
A book review at Amazon.com says:
From Kirkus Reviews paper 0-934971-70-6 Light In The Crevice Never Seen is the first volume of poetry ever published by an indigenous Hawaiian in the mainland US. For a debut collection, it is extraordinarily angry. An activist and an academic, Trask resents what she sees as the subjugation of Hawaii by the Japanese and the Americans, and she is deeply chagrined at the development of tourism, which she believes to have accelerated the decay of native island culture and language. While her view of Hawaiian history and politics will be of interest to outsiders unfamiliar with the islands, and while Eleanor Wilners concise introduction helps put many of these issues into sharp focus for the reader, few who are not already sympathizers will be moved by Trasks shrill, two-dimensional verse, which amounts to a kind of Polynesian agitprop. -- Copyright 2000, Kirkus Associates, LP.

Night Is A Sharkskin Drum (University of Hawaii Press, 2002)

A brief review of the book by reporter Burl Burlingame appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of January 12, 2003:
http://starbulletin.com/2003/01/12/features/story7.html
As the Appointed Voice in the cult-of-personality secular religion called Hawaiian Studies, Trask's first locally published book in nearly a decade is both eagerly awaited and Danger UXB -- after all, her 1999 poetry collection "Light in the Crevice Never Seen" was charactized by Kirkus Reviews as "extraordinarily angry ... shrill, two-dimensional verse, which amounts to a kind of Polynesian agitprop." But maybe Trask is mellowing out. Although "Sharkskin Drum" is informed by the same hubris, which will be seen by some as brittle arrogance and by others as brave defiance, it's fairly introspective as Trask goes -- about half of it has a sexy, earthen rhythm, ripe with juice, as if the words are copulating. The rest are predictable vulgar-American, crass-Japanese creeds, written like advertising copy. Trask uses words both as feathers and as cudgels. So why is the book written in English rather than Hawaiian?

A book review at Amazon.com, From Publishers Weekly, says:
... Trask's poetry is also crucial to her activism ... this follow-up [book] consists of three sections of lyrics, incantation and instigation. The first, "Born in Fire," contains a series of chant-like poems focused on the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, who in Trask's work represents a specifically Hawaiian feminine strength. The second, "A Fragrance of Devouring," has poems of complaint about "the common greed/ of vulgar Americans" and about the loss of Hawaiian sovereignty. The poem "Puowaina: Flag Day," begins with a focus on plants rich in Hawaiian symbol (a glossary is provided) as it urges readers to "Bring lei hulu,/ palapalai, pikake. Bring/ kapa, beaten fine" and then ends "and burn/ their American/ flag." Yet Trask doesn't find many takers for her exhortations, and laments what the poet perceives as apathy among Hawaiians: "The natives don't/ horde small fortunes/ for revolution's/ duty. They sit,/ observing the parade." Things get ugly in a poem that describes Daniel Inouye, the U.S. senator from Hawai'i, as the "Japanese senator, smugly/ armless from the great war/ preposterous manikin/ of empire, feigning an accent." Yet the third and strongest section, "Chants of Dawn," is composed of love poems and celebrations of the land-often in spare stanzas that travel "Into our sovereign suns,/ drunk on the mana/ of Hawai'i." It is these poems that best highlight Trask's craft and defiance.


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Email: ken_conklin@yahoo.com