As I reflect upon my short time with our families in Samoa having returned last week, I can’t help but be supportive of those who are fighting for their lands here in Mangere, Ihumatao (New Zealand) and in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Although they have different issues, the principles are the same of indigenous peoples standing as protectors of land that is sacred and/or is significant or important to them through generations of occupation where placentas, battles, burials, cultivation, livelihood etc. have occurred on the land over centuries.
However, over the years this stance has been termed and storied by the media as angry protestors protesting often against government regulations be it pertaining to the use of lands or waterways etc. This has divided many communities with the idea of protesting being a force of resistance against political powers.
For me, since working within an indigenous organization and learning to understand indigenous research, I’ve come to understand the Maori concept of kaitiakitanga which means guardianship or being guardians of lands, waterways etc. and that often this does not equate with ownership which is why the term protectors from an indigenous perspective is more accurate description of the stance that they are taking.
That’s because from an indigenous perspective it is our responsibility to look after the environment that has been passed down to us with ancient stories, often called legends or myths from a western perspective, but in my research as a geographer (those many years ago) in Samoa, those stories weren’t seen as myths at all but as historical stories that tell the histories of the environments personified often as living beings.
That was why I began recording our Samoan stories to be shared with our next generations to preserve those histories and now have shared them with the world in books as important stories that document the histories of environments.
And as indigenous peoples take the stance of trying to protect the environments from further development or desecration, they are also taking a stance to protect the stories of those environments so that the ancient stories can continue to be told and understand to the next generations…