Date Created: November 19, 2021
The international virtual conference Te Huinga Wai Tapu was held last week, which was an online cultural exchange between Te Pou Tupua and tribal leaders from Arizona, USA.
Like the Whanganui River, the Colorado River in Arizona faces many challenges with laws impacting the health and wellbeing of the water, and indigenous communities fighting to restore its mouri.
The conference provided the opportunity for indigenous ideas and solutions to be shared in a bid to protect the world’s waterways, drawing on traditional ancestral knowledge and tikanga.
Te Pou Tupua Turama Hawira and Keria Ponga provided food for thought as they shared our innovative approach to protecting the River, through Ruruku Whakatupua and the embedding of our indigenous values system Tupua Te Kawa in law.
“After over a century of the Crown breaking the river into parts; the Te Awa Tupua framework treats the awa as it should be treated, an indivisble whole; an interconnected physical and spiritual ecosystem,” Turama said.
“Only from that approach can the community be rallied to act collectively in the River’s interests first and foremost. With that collective approach and focus on the River first, we can learn to live with the awa, rather than simply live off it, to its detriment.
“Through our Te Awa Tupua framework, we are now seeking to build on opportunities to maximise economic growth and political advancement; to achieve iwi development through a collective approach to River first, and people second."
Keria shared more about the role of Te Pou Tupua, and highlighted that the virtual gathering was an incredible opportunity to come together and share stories.
“Most of all this is about provoking a commitment and a passion to care for, protect, and enhance the health and wellbeing of our sacred waters – te huinga wai tapu.
“It is in recognising we have a common goal – the pursuit of Awa that are clean, vibrant, resilient, sustainable, waipuketia – full of water,” she said.
The virtual conference was created after tribal leaders from Arizona visited Whanganui before Covid-19 hit in 2020.
Herminia Feras explained the impact of their time up the River.
“It was so hard to explain coming back everything we experienced and how much we learned and the amount of emotion we felt being there ," she said.
"Because you had to be there to really see what was happening and the beauty of the people, of the Māori, and their traditional ways – and the water, and the respect – everything that has going into protecting the water and the environment.”
The world premier of the short documentary From The Mountains To The Sea was played at the hui. To see the trailer, click here.
More details about full screenings will be shared in due course.