Trask, Mililani B.

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Mililani B. Trask, a native Hawaiian attorney, is the leader of a Hawaiian sovereignty movement that seeks the establishment of a separate nation for native Hawaiians and the return of the state-managed lands to which native Hawaiians are legally entitled.

Trask was born into a politically active family. Her grandfather, David Trask Sr., was a territorial senator, and her uncle, David Trask Jr., became a prominent labor leader who organized a powerful union for state government employees. Trask graduated from the Kamehameha Schools, an educational institution set up by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, of Hawaii, for native Hawaiian children. She attended Johnston College, University of Redlands in California, but left school before graduating to work with labor organizer cÉsar chÁvez's field-workers and the Black Panther Childcare Project. Trask received a bachelor of arts degree in political science from San Jose State University in 1974, and graduated from the University of Santa Clara School of Law in 1978, at the age of 27.

Trask returned to Hawaii and joined the growing native struggle over land control and development. She began community organizing on sovereignty issues, setting up conferences and workshops and doing extensive legal research into native land claims.

In 1987, Trask and others founded the group Ka Lahui Hawai'i (the Hawaiian People). Ka Lahui is a self-proclaimed sovereign Hawaiian nation with over ten thousand members; a democratic constitution with a bill of rights; and four branches of government—including an elected legislature (the Pakaukau), representing 33 districts, and a judiciary system made up of elected judges and an elders council. Voting is restricted to native Hawaiians. Trask has twice been elected kia'aina of the group, the equivalent of governor or prime minister.

Trask hopes the nation will eventually be rooted in the nearly two hundred thousand acres of Hawaiian homelands and the 1.4 million acres of original Hawaiian lands ceded to the state by the federal government. In Ka Lahui Hawai'i, according to Trask, native Hawaiians would have a relationship similar to that existing between the United States and federally recognized Native American tribes and native Alaskans. The tribes, whose members have dual status as citizens of the United States and as "citizens" of the tribe, can impose taxes, make laws, and control their lands.

"All the talk now is about models of sovereignty. A model is just a prototype. It's not real. We're not a model. A model doesn't have 25,000 people."
—Mililani B. Trask

Trask also is one of the founders of the Indigenous Women's Network, a coalition of Native American women advocating for issues including improved housing, health care, human rights, and community-based economic development. From 1998 to 2000 Trask served as Trustee at Large to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). In 2000, she resigned her membership in Ka Lahui Hawai'i but has remained active in public affairs. In 2002, Trask began serving a three-year term as the Pacific

representative to the 16-member united nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

further readings

Coffman, Tom. 2003. The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai'i. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press.

Trask, Mililani B. 1991. "Historical and Contemporary Hawaiian Self-Determination: A Native Hawaiian Perspective." Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 8 (fall).

Zehr, Mary Ann. 1993. "Look Deeper into Indian Country." Foundation News 34 (September–October).


Native American Rights.