Pakake, Mana and Taonga Species

By Darren Rewi

Like other indigenous cultures, Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) have their own creation story. Our narrative is about the separation of Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father) by their children. Through unlocking their embrace, light was allowed to flood in, and from that event came the world as we know it.

Pakake by Niamh Peren

The consequences of that separation defined for Māori the lore of Io (our way of understanding), and tikanga (doing the right thing), as well as the multitudes of whakapapa (relationships) that for Māori bind every living thing and inanimate object, including the land, mountains, and seas, together. Our purakau (myths and stories) talk about the importance of these relationships, their connections, and how the actions of one thing can impact positively or negatively on other things, always returning to the principle of whakapapa (relationships) that bind. We all came from Papa and Rangi and therefore we are all connected in some way to the living world, and because of that we as Māori have a responsibility to protect, advocate, or nourish that to which we are connected.

From this principle of connectedness, Māori are guided to this day by “MANA”. We all carry mana, it is a gift from the Atua (gods) but how we choose to exercise mana is what defines us. The Pakake (Sea Lion) has mana. For Māori say that the Atua Tane (god of the forests and its creatures) and Tangaroa (god of the seas and its creatures) are always battling each other for domination and this battle is waged on the southern shores of Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island of Aotearoa — New Zealand). At times Tangaroa is supreme and uses the waves to hammer the coastline and at times Tane is supreme and the waters lie quiet. The Pakake live in these turbulent waters. Pre-European contact, pakake were abundant and dominated this space. Today pakake are the world’s rarest, most endangered sea lion. We need to give our mana to their kaupapa (cause) for we know how strong this amphibious creature’s mana is, and that they deserve better than their current plight.

Pakake by Niamh Peren

It is because of the mana the Pakake has and its connection to the Atua that this descendant of the creation story for Ngai Tahu the tribal owners of the domain where the Pakake reside has Taonga species (living treasure) status. Many people, groups and entities are helping the tribe to support the revitalisation of the Pakake.

Me mahi tahi tatou, mo te oranga o te katoa.
We should work together for the wellbeing of everyone.

Na Darren Rewi

Kaumatua Waitaha/ Kati Mamoe/ Ngai Tahu

Darren Rewi is a Māori Kaumatua based in Tahuna, Queenstown. He helped set up the Leadership Lab Te Kakau programme in July 2020 which supports business and community leaders across the Queenstown and Wanaka area in partnership with the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

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Resilience Quarterly is a publication co-produced by the Urban Systems Lab at the New School, providing a unique forum to share strategies in design, data visualization, and interdisciplinary scholarship on urban ecology, environmental justice, and sustainable cities.

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