Iwi ready for emergencies
American academic hails Ma¯ori tradition
The disasters of climate change are providing opportunities for indigenous cultures to show their strength, Dr Zoltan Grossman says.
He teaches geography and native studies at Evergreen State College in Washington in the United States and visited the Whanganui region this week to talk about how native peoples react to disaster in the US and to find out how Ma¯ori cope in those situations.
He’s especially impressed with the Ma¯ori tradition of manaakitanga — hospitality and the welcoming and sharing with visitors.
“There’s something for us, and the rest of the world, to learn from that,” he said.
Brought to the region by director of Global Risk Consulting, Chris Kumeroa, Grossman met Whanganui region leaders who are involved in emergency management and co-operate with local authorities.
He gave a presentation about what’s happening in his part of the northwestern United States to a group at Te Poho o Tuariki, the Nga¯ Wairiki Nga¯ti Apa centre in Marton.
Washington state is experiencing more floods, landslides, wind storms and wild fires than before — the first wild fires in rainforest in living memory.
In these disasters native tribes are often proactive, sharing with non-native peoples in their area. They have wellness and elder centres that are open to all, and they work to restore damaged environments.
They have to be more proactive about protecting their land because they don’t want to leave and go elsewhere, Grossman said. And storing food for hard times is part of their culture. He gave the example of South Dakota tribes, who built a digester that converts the cattle effluent they object to into green energy, and the Nisqually Tribe restoring the habitat of salmon to their river.
"For some reason we just seemed to kick into survival mode as Ma¯ori people. We attacked the situation a lot differently . . . "
“Salmon are starting to come back to that river in ways they haven’t in other rivers without treaty rights,” Grossman said.
Often the tribes help out their non-native neighbours.
“People have realised the tribes are more responsive to their needs than either the state or federal government.”
Tribes and local authorities — which used to be at odds — are increasingly forming alliances and sharing work and equipment.
Grossman’s audience gave examples of similar sharing in this region. Alan Turia said Whangaehu Marae cooked for evacuated people for six weeks after the 2015 flood, and in the 2004 flood it distributed food from its large freezer up the valley.
“For some reason we just seemed to kick into survival mode as Ma¯ori people. We attacked the situation a lot differently to the rest of our community,” he said.
Rangit¯ıkei, South Taranaki and Whanganui marae have combined to form a pan iwi civil defence group in alliance with Whanganui District Council. It takes in about 30 marae, and the two main Civil Defence welfare centres in Whanganui are the Tupoho Complex and Te Ao Hou Marae. They will be open to all.
Ma¯ ori make up 24 per cent of the region’s population and were left “high and dry” during the 2015 flood, Kumeroa said. The pan iwi group aims to make sure it’s better next time. People are being trained in first aid and other skills. The group, with Nga¯i Tahu and Edgecumbe iwi, will be advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet on emergency management legislation.