A new respect for indigenous people

25 Apr

I am far from racist, but that doesn’t mean I have always understood the value of certain things in other cultures that are completely different to mine.

Harakeke (flax) weaving. Pic from <a href="http://www.kapitikidsconnect.co.nz">Kapiti Kids Connect</a>

Today my husband and I took the baby to Te Papa, and we explored the section with a traditional Maori wharenui, and various Maori carvings, huge slabs of greenstone, and history. It occurred to me as we walked through the exhibition, showing the baby all these things, that they have got it sorted. When the Peak Oil proverbial hits the fan, they stand a better chance of surviving and thriving than many of us.

Why? A strong sense of community. Respect for the land. Knowledge of the land. Continuation and sharing of ancient skills, such as flax weaving. They haven’t lost touch with their culture and the knowledge of working with and living off the land.

Previously I didn’t understand why so many Maori held so tightly to certain aspects of their culture. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it seemed to me that if you can buy string, why would you bother spending hours making it out of flax? And the same with baskets, and nets, and tools, and if I’m really analysing it, food.

It’s part of their culture. It’s right for them to hold onto it, to pass it on, to fight for it, despite external forces offering shiny, easy options. But in the context of Peak Oil, it makes a lot of sense, not just for Maori, but for Pakeha too. Walking through Te Papa I was suddenly struck by how much I can learn from Maori who have continued their traditional arts, and how ironic and rather poetic it is that it could come full circle and the land actually could be ‘returned’ to the Maori. Granted, it’d have a few million Pakeha on it, and asphalt and plastic and the legacy of an out-of-tune culture, but hey.

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