Towards Hawaiian Sovereignty: Legacy of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask

By Ariel S. Alford

Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, Native Hawaiian was a scholar, poet, activist, and revolutionary. She was well known for her deep historical and cultural analysis of US Imperialism and oppression in Hawai'i. She is also an iconic figure in the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement. This topic will help students understand and grapple with US imperialism and modern movements against neo-colonialism in US territories.

Guiding Question: How have Indigenous people exercised sovereignty and self-determination in the modern world?

Supporting Questions:

  1. How did Hawai'i become a territory of the United States?
  2. What are the goals of Hawaiian sovereignty?
  3. How did the life and work of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask support the values of Hawaiian sovereignty?

30 minutes recommended


This lesson:

  • Examines the significance of indigenous activism in the fight for Hawaiian sovereignty
  • Illustrates the causes and effects of US imperialism in Hawai'i
  • Explores the life and work of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask
  • Investigates modern movements for Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination

Academic vocabulary is an important prerequisite for this lesson. Students should have a basic understanding of the words “sovereignty,” “self-determination,” and “imperialism/colonization.” Teachers can also use the following resources to gain context for this lesson.

Note: These are teaching-facing resources! The Seven Step Process - Hawaiian Sovereignty - Nation State of Hawai’i


Warm Up (10mins):

Video Analysis is a simple critical-viewing strategy to guide students’ analysis of media. This protocol prompts students to focus on significant information from a video by responding to essential or guiding questions. Using essential or guiding questions can help students engage more deeply with the video and process key information more thoughtfully.

Step 1: Review guiding questions. Each student will select (2) questions to focus on while engaging in the warm-up video.

  • 1. How did white plantation owners and missionaries attempt to overthrow the Hawaiian ali’i (sacred nobility)?
  • 2. How did Hawai'i become a territory of the United States? *lesson supporting question
  • 3. How did Queen Liliʻuokalani inspire and fight for the Hawaiian people?
  • 4. How do you think this history affects Native Hawaiians today?

Step 2: Students will view the warm-up video twice and allow time for student share out

  • First Viewing: watch and listen, keeping selected guiding questions in mind
  • Second Viewing: record responses and reflections to selected questions in class Jamboard

Step 3: Teacher summarizes pertinent background information as a transition into the lesson.


Teacher Considerations....

  • Answers can be written or oral
  • Circulate to prompt on-task behavior



Word-Phrase-Sentence Activity (10mins):

Word-Phrases-Sentence routine provides structure for a conversation. It can be used as both a discourse and as a thinking routine. This routine helps learners engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the text or “what speaks to you.” However, the power and promise of this routine lies in the discussion of why a particular word, a single phrase, and a sentence stood out for each individual in the group as a catalyst for discussions.

Step 1: Students will divide into even groups to review the text Remembering a Hawaiian Hero: Haunani-Kay Trask and Her Fight for the Rights of Native Hawaiians” and select:

  • A Word that captured the group's attention or struck the group as powerful.
  • A Phrase that moved, engaged, or provoked the group.
  • A Sentence that was meaningful to the group, that the group felt captures the core idea of the text

Step 2: Each group will discuss internally and record choices within class Jamboard

Step 3: As a whole class, allow groups to share words, phrases, and sentences as well as the thinking behind their choices

  • Have groups explain why they made the selections they did

Step 4: Once groups have shared, students will answer remaining lesson supporting questions on class Jamboard

  • Based on what you’ve learned: What are the goals of Hawaiian sovereignty?
  • Based on what you’ve learned: How did Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask’s life & work support the values of Hawaiian sovereignty?

Teacher Considerations….

  • Allow (5) minutes for group exploration of text
  • All students should have editing access to Jamboard
  • Word-Phrase-Sentence protocol should be posted for reference
  • Circulate to promote on-task behavior
  • Allow time for group share-outs. Not all groups will share.
  • Supporting question will serve as transition to closing activity


Sovereignty Snapshot (10min):

Students will create a “snapshot” collage of relevant imagery, words, phrases, or other artistic components that illustrates their learning about Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask and modern Hawaiian sovereignty movements

Step 1: Students independently view “Native Hawaiians fighting U.S. occupation”

Step 2: Using the provided Sovereignty Snapshot Template, students will gather at least (4) images and (3) key words or phrases relevant to modern Hawaiian sovereignty and the work of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask to create their collage

Teacher Considerations….

  • Ensure students have access to snapshot template
  • Consider creating an exemplar to model proper completion of the collage
  • Provide links to photo databases or suggestions for Google image searches to support students
Assessment / Homework

Summary and Informed Action:

Exit Ticket: How have Indigenous people (in Hawai'i) exercised sovereignty and self-determination in the modern world? Think back to the extension video “Native Hawaiians fighting US occupation.” What examples of sovereignty or self-determination did you witness?

How can students apply what they’ve learned in their everyday lives? Learning about historical and contemporary indigenous topics helps students to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between Indigenous Nations/Tribes and the United States. Examining this information also centers indigenous agency and elevates historically silenced voices.

Future Research / Resources



D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

D2.His.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts