Trask, Mililani B.

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 86

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.


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