Saturday, 14 June 2014

Kaitiakitanga - our responsibility to the environment

'Kaitiakitanga' is the Māori value often translated as ‘stewardship’ or ‘guardianship’ but it is so much more.  At the Wairewa Hui 2014 (Little River) we unpacked this concept with a range of Ngāi Tahu people who are actively engaged in environmental management.

Here are they key points I came away with:
'Kaitiakitanga' or (environmental guardianship) is centred around the ability to gather and protect ‘Mahinga Kai’ so that it can be gathered from traditional sources to nourish the people, but also balances with the responsibility to care for the resources so they are available to future generations.

To achieve this the water, land and air must be protected so they are clean and can sustain the 'Kaitiaki'.  The 'Kaitiaki' are the guardians or indicator species of the environment, such as the tuna (eel) and kererū (wood pigeon).  These 'Kaitiaki' must be watched as they will indicate the state of the environment by their numbers and wellness, thus letting us know when or what action is required.

As a teacher I could teach the value of 'Kaitiakitanga' in our curriculum and daily lives by:
Preparing, planting and harvesting kai in the school garden.
Thank Papatuanuku when harvesting her gifts.
Lift the value of kai by saying a karakia of blessing.
Investigating Matariki and the traditional 'times' to prepare, plant and harvest.
Taking only what is needed, leaving some to reproduce and for other people.
Sharing the harvest with others - family, the old, neighbours.
Caring for Papatuanuku by re-cycling, re-using and composting.
Getting out into nature with our tamariki to harvest kai - fish, whitebait, eel.
Make camps more about experiencing 'pristine' nature so they have something to compare and aspire to.
Identifying an area in or around school that students can restore, re-plant and maintain - a wooded area or a local stream.
Learn about native birds and how to restore their habitat - protecting kaitiaki.
Be a fearless advocate and fight for what you and your students believe.
Plant fruit trees in the school grounds and write to council about kai in local verges. 
Get involved in relevant issues on the local community.

The children we work with are not the 'Kaitiaki' - the guardians, but we have a term for them. Children who care for the environment can be called 'Tamariki Tiaki' or child guardians.

'Kaitiakitanga' is not just a Māori value but one that should be embraced by everyone who cares about our natural resources and what we are leaving for future generations. It is not about developing 'reserves' and throwing away the key, but restoring eco-systems so they can be harvested for ‘mahinga kai’ and maintained sustainably.

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