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A representation of a Tuawhenua worldview guides environmental conservation

Puke Timoti, Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust
Philip O'B Lyver, Landcare Research
Rangi Matamua, University of Waikato
Christopher J Jones, Landcare Research
Brenda L Tahi, Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust


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Indigenous peoples and local communities interact with approximately two-thirds of the world’s land area through their worldviews and customary tenure regimes and offer significant knowledge contributions and lessons about sustainability. We worked with Tuawhenua Māori to document domains, concepts, and mechanisms within the worldview representation in a way that could guide environmental conservation in New Zealand. We then applied the framework to a cultural keystone species for Tuawhenua, the kererū ([New Zealand pigeon [(Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae]) to elucidate this human–environment relationship. Whakapapa (genealogy), whenua (land), and tangata (people) were interconnected domains that formed the conceptual basis of our framework. Within these domains, the concepts of mauri (life essence), mana (authority), and ihi (vitality) guided the expression of the community’s relationship with the environment. Cultural expressions related to the kererū demonstrated the cultural significance of the bird to Tuawhenua that went well beyond the ecological and intrinsic value of the species. The Tuawhenua worldview representation also emphasized the human–nature relationship and the role that metaphor plays in expressing this relationship. Indigenous peoples and local community worldviews are important for establishing priorities, reconciling the human relationship with the environment, and facilitating the coproduction of knowledge in response to pressing local and global environmental conservation issues.

Key words

environmental conservation; indigenous peoples; kererū; Māori; worldview

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087