Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.

Kaitiakitanga: Maori perspectives on conservation

Mere Roberts, Waerete Norman, Nganeko Minhinnick, Del Wihongi and Carmen Kirkwood

Pacific Conservation Biology 2(1) 7 - 20
Published: 1995


Maori, like other indigenous peoples, are increasingly involved in attempts to provide appropriate cultural responses to environmental issues. These include efforts to translate and incorporate isolated parts of their language and traditional practises into the prevailing culture. Major problems with this process are the incommensurability of such attempts whereby the real meaning of a custom or word is frequently debased and divorced from its traditional cultural setting, so that its proper functioning is impaired. Added to this is the ignorance on the part of many concerning the conceptual world view, traditional beliefs and practices of the Maori ? or, if knowing these things, a lack of respect for their validity. On the other hand there are some, especially among the modern conservation movement, who have a more empathetic attitude towards indigenous ecological knowledge, but who thereby assume that their environmental ethics and those of indigenous peoples are motivated by similar philosophies and share similar aims. Not only is this assumption often wrong, it may also contribute to the inability of the western conservation movement to properly serve the needs of, and to fully empower, indigenous conservation aspirations as guaranteed to Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi. This paper addresses some of these issues by providing Maori perspectives on an increasingly important environmental concept: that of kaitiaki, and kaitiakitanga.

© CSIRO 1995

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