Following the death of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask in July 2021, the UH Mānoa philosophy department issued condolences and a public apology for an incident in 1990 widely covered in the media.
Members of the department called for Trask’s termination in a very public dispute over the use of the word “haole” (loosely translated to foreigner), It started after a student editorial in school’s Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi newspaper said “haole” was equivalent to the N-word. In response, Trask authored an editorial defending the use of the word while highlighting Hawaiʻi‘s colonial history and suggested the student could leave Hawaiʻi if they did not like it.
At the time, there was push from some UH faculty to remove Trask, but a formal decision was made to retain her.
“The Department began to revisit the 1990/91 events in fall 2020 when a Native Hawaiian with a PhD from the UH Mānoa College of Education asked to submit a proposal for a course on Hawaiian Philosophy,” explained Tamara Albertini, UH Mānoa Philosophy chair and professor. “In that context we found out that the clash from 30 years ago had left lasting wounds among Native Hawaiian faculty and students. We instantly knew that we had a moral obligation to reach out. The passing of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask did not prompt the apology. It was already in the making. However, we understood that we could not postpone making it public.”
The posthumous apology stated:
- “Professor Trask’s work has been crucial in foregrounding the systemic injustices that have plagued the practice of our discipline. We should have listened to her when she tried to teach us that these injustices had their roots in the history and power dynamics of colonial oppression both within the University of Hawaiʻi and outside of it.”
The full apology is below. Jon Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio, the dean of the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge said the gesture was appreciated.
“The acknowledgement of Professor Trask’s immense legacy and the apology from the Department of Philosophy was poignant and graceful and delivered as much to the spirit of our departed sister as well as to the Hawaiian people,” said Osorio. “Hawaiʻinuiākea commits to working with Philosophy and with all departments and colleges to help the university articulate ‘Hawaiian values and ways of inquiry.’”
Department of Philosophy’s apology
“The Department of Philosophy at Mānoa is saddened by the news of the passing of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, Professor Emerita and co-founder of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. The Department recognizes her trail-blazing scholarship and visionary leadership and apologizes sincerely for the attacks she suffered from philosophers at Mānoa in the past.
Professor Trask’s work has been crucial in foregrounding the systemic injustices that have plagued the practice of our discipline. We should have listened to her when she tried to teach us that these injustices had their roots in the history and power dynamics of colonial oppression both within the University of Hawaiʻi and outside of it. That is a history the Department of Philosophy is prepared to study and confront. Also, it understands the need to bring down barriers preventing Indigenous research from receiving academic recognition.
We acknowledge that our apology is long overdue and regret we did not convey it to Professor Trask in person while there was time. We are aware that our shortcomings have also affected the wider community of Kānaka ʻŌiwi faculty and students. This apology is therefore also addressed to them.
Today, the Department of Philosophy is eager to pursue philosophy self-critically and explore the rich and complex sources of Hawaiian Knowledge in our classrooms and research in comparative philosophy. We are also committed to seeking partnerships with the School of Hawaiian Knowledge and supporting Native Hawaiian projects aiming at articulating Hawaiian values and ways of inquiry as philosophy. Finally, we are not forgetting that the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa was erected on Hawaiian land. We acknowledge the need to respect our host culture.”
He Mihi i Mua o Nā Kānaka a Pau
—Unuhi ʻia e Scott Kaua Neumann
“Luʻuluʻu kaumaha ka Māhele Kālaimanaʻo o Ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Mānoa i ka hele hoʻi ʻole ʻana mai o Ke Kauka Haunani Kay-Trask, Polopeka Welo, kekahi mea hoʻokahua hoʻi nāna i hoʻokumu iā Hawaiʻinuiākea, Ke Kula ʻIke Hawaiʻi. Ua ʻike ʻia a ua mahalo ʻia hoʻi i kāna waele mua ʻana i ke ala ʻimi naʻauao ma ke kulanui me kāna alakaʻi ʻana ma loko o ia māhele, a ke mihi minamina nei me ka ʻoiaʻiʻo a me ka ʻehaʻeha no ka hana ʻino ʻia ona e nā kumu kālaimanaʻo ma Mānoa i kona wā e noho polopeka ana ma Ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Mānoa.
Ua huʻe ʻia a maka ka hana hoʻokae pono ʻole a ka māhele kālaimanaʻo e ua Polopeka Trask nei ma o kāna hana koʻikoʻi. ʻO ka pololei a me ka pono, he lohe mai nō kā ka māhele kālaimanaʻo i ke aʻo āna no ia mau hana hoʻokae i hele a laha i loko o ka moʻolelo o kona lāhui Hawaiʻi ponoʻī a me ka hoʻomāhuahua ʻia o ia mau hana hoʻokae hoʻokolonaio ma loko a ma waho hoʻi o ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi. ʻO ia aku nei ke ʻano o ka hana a ka Māhele Kālaimanaʻo e hoʻoponopono ai. Eia hou, ua ʻike ʻia iho hoʻi ke kuleana e wāwahi i nā ālaina o ka ʻimi naʻauao ʻana ma ke ʻano e kūpono ai no ka poʻe ʻōiwi a e mahalo ʻia nō hoʻi e ke Kulanui.
Ua hala loa akula ka manawa i pono ai kēia mihi ʻana me ka minamina ʻana ʻaʻole i waiho ʻia nei mihi i mua pono ona nāna hoʻokahi wale nō e huikala mai i kona wā e noho honua ana. Ua ʻike nō hoʻi mākou i ka hoʻohemahema ʻia o nā kumu ʻōiwi kanaka a pēlā pū hoʻi nā haumāna ʻōiwi kanaka e mākou. Iā lākou hoʻi kēia mihi. E huikala mai.
I kēia au naʻe e holo nei, ke hoʻoikaika nei a ke hoʻoulu nei mākou, ka Māhele Kālaimanaʻo, i ke kālaimanaʻo ma ka hikaloi ʻana iho me ka ʻimi ʻana aku i loko o ka lehu a me ka mano o nā kumu ʻike Hawaiʻi, a pēlā hoʻi ke kālailai hoʻokūkū a me ka hoʻohālikelike ma loko o kā mākou aʻo ʻana a me kā mākou noiʻi ʻana. E hoʻopaʻa ana nō hoʻi mākou i ke kuʻikahi me ka hoʻolōkahi aku me Hawaiʻinuiākea—Ke Kula ʻIke Hawaiʻi—ma nā hana e ulu ai ka Hawaiʻi ma ke kālaimanaʻo. ʻAʻole nō hoʻi mākou e hoʻopoina i ke kūkulu ʻia o ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Mānoa ma luna o ka ʻāina o nā Hawaiʻi no lākou nō ke kuleana. Ke ʻike maopopo iho nei mākou i ko mākou kuleana e hōʻihiʻihi a e hoʻoponopono me nā Hawaiʻi.”
—The Department of Philosophy at UH Mānoa
Tamara Albertini (Poʻo), Arindam Chakrabarti, Chung-ying Cheng, Vrinda Dalmiya, Jonathan Fine, Masato Ishida, Thomas Jackson, Steve Odin, Franklin Perkins, Sean Smith, Joseph Tanke, George Tsai
Affiliate Faculty and Lecturers
UH West Oʻahu
Kapiʻolani Community College
Leeward Community College
Steven W. Laycock
Related Ka Wai Ola Article: University of Hawaiʻi Public Apology to Dr. Trask