HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaiian activist and educator Haunani-Kay Trask died on Saturday, July 3. Known for her passionate speeches, Haunani-Kay led and inspired many in the Hawaiian community to seek self-determination.
Haunani-Kay was a poet, teacher, accomplished author, fierce warrior and pioneer of Hawaiian soverignty.
She passed peacefully in her sleep early Saturday morning, according to her sister, Mililani Trask.
“She had no pain, no injury,” Mililani said. “She did not pass from COVID but she went to bed at regular time. And then this morning, early early morning, they found that she had passed in her sleep.”
Mililani, Haunani-Kay’s younger sister, said Haunani-Kay had a beautiful day on Friday that was full of smiles and eating fish and poi.
Hauani-Kay, as friends and family called her, touched the lives of thousands with her passionate speeches and tireless teachings as a professor at the University of Hawaii for more than three decades.
Haunani-Kay’s former student and professor of Political Science at UH Manoa, Noelani Goodyear-Ka’opua, said her legacy will live on.
“Her legacy lives on in a strong way through all of the writings and speeches that she did, through the programs that she built and through the students that she taught — many of whom are educators no in their own right in — in schools throughout Hawaii,” Goodoyear-Kaopua said. “We have a better understanding, a clear understanding, of the truth of Hawaiian history because of her and the work that she did.”
“Her brilliance, and her really uncompromising quest for justice was an inspiration to people, young and old,” said Jonathan Osorio, dean of Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at UH Manoa.
She was a captivating and fearless speaker, unafraid to fight for her beliefs. She inspired countless others and moved many of her students to action.
Public Affairs officer for Ka Lahui Hawaii Komike Kalai ‘aina, Healani Sonoda-Pale, is a former student of Trask and close friend.
“She dedicated her life to the movement,” Sonoda-Pale said. “She dedicated her life to uplifting and raising the political consciousness of the Hawaiian people and educating us. And she gave us courage.”
“It is an incredibly sad time. My heart really goes out to her ohana and to her partner,” Goodyear-Kaopua said. “At the same time, I just feel incredibly grateful that so many of us students have been impacted by her and that Hawaii has had such a fierce fierce warrior.”
Haunani-Kay’s family said they have received messages and condolences from both near and far.
“For hours we received calls. messages are coming in from all over the world,” said Mililani Trask. “The breadth of this global response is showing our family what a truly great and global leader she was. She didn’t think of herself that way. But I know she would be greatly honored at this time.”
Haunani-Kay Trask was 71 years old.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee at-large Brendon Kalei‘āina Lee released the following statement on the passing of Haunani-Kay:
“I will never forget when she was a guest speaker to my Hawaiian history class my junior year at Kamehameha. Being able to debate the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty with someone so knowledgeable on the issue was a great honor and helped to shape who I am today,” Lee said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Brendon Kalei‘āina Lee’s statement to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The error has been corrected.