A few years ago, I was talking to my Koro Rangiora Dutch Rakuraku about the mahi we did here at TangataWhenua.com and the issue of whakapapa came up.

We talked about how necessary it was to get more positive Maori news out to the people, to keep everyone informed and involved. He said we had continued to build on the good work of our Uncle Martin Rakuraku at Te Karere and Maraea Rakuraku at Radio New Zealand. It was then we started to talk about social networking and digitising records and whakapapa. He slowly turned to me and said make sure you dont put any of our whakapapa on the internet this is ours to protect.

Now his korero came to mind when listening to MP Hone Harawira talk about DNA this week and his charge that Police often used Nazi-like tactics to get DNA from young Maori. His concern was that some Police would overstep their role by not informing the public, especially young Maori, of their rights to refuse DNA sampling. To this, the Police Minister Judith Collins called Hone out and defended the Police, although, to be fair, many of us have suffered such harassment from some members of the thin blue line.

DNA is said to contain the blueprint of our lives, like whakapapa, a concept intimate to Maori. Over the years, government agencies have asked whether it was ok to splice animal and plant genes with that of people Maori have been very cautious around this issue as very little safety was provided and besides the medical arguments, it all sounded like big companies wanting to make more money. If the Government could not protect our DNA, who would?

A new kaupapa before the Government is the Natural Health Food Products Bill, which attempts to assure customers of the medicinal quality and source of origin for products like rongoa Maaori, vitamins and other health products. What is interesting is that the expert Tohunga will not be protected by the Bill but the ronga would be, as that is what would be found on the market shelves. This western separation of the treatment away from the expert is nothing new so rongoa collectives like Te Paepae Matua mo Rongoa and Te Waka Kai Ora are essential.

So then, back to our DNA. While scientists claim the right to be manipulate DNA al in the name of research and the Police can secure DNA to catch criminals, what safe guards do Maori have in place to ensure our rights, roles and responsibilities and are respected and protected? While an open question to us all, what do you think is the best way to protect our young people, our DNA and our whakapapa??

All comments and feedback most welcome.

  • As more Shopping malls pop up around our Whenua, more infiltration from MONSANTO. SCION is doing Tests for GMO. Why cant we have TESTING LABS. We take our Purchase sheck its compositon and link it to our Health. ie… Auntys had High Blood Pressure, her meds are prescribed but then Aunty goes to a Wedding where she comes across a Food she cant resist. The food has eg…a Grapefruit compound in it – that reacts with her meds….and the list goes on.

  • Moananui

    Have read research done around two decades ago in the USA and elsewhere concerning the development of DNA tuned toxic virus weaponry. This is onerous stuff for we Maoris in possessing a unique DNA signature and all that and concentrated upon and isolated island in the middle of the largest ocean could if such weaponry be used, be removed in a matter of hours. It is my opinion the only reason why such obscene tactics haven;t been deployed is the inherent risk of a cross over into the fair crews domain. The firm as I shall call it here was well and truly on the way to developing a fast spreading DNA tagging virus which killed the recipient in a matter of hours, mimicking near untraceable flu like symptoms. Delivery was by inhalation with the virus being delivered directly by spray using an asthma type inhaler pump or aerial dispersion for a mass kill off. So precise was the tuning the virus could be tuned to target one person in a crowd. I have no doubt the NZ police are well aware of this weaponisation and use of DNA and most likely have it in reserve in their arsenal specifically for use against Maori. Most likely the Poms or ex Mercenary South Africans or even wayward Yank ex military have brought them up to date with the research. Knowing how hard core racist some of the cops are it wouldn’t surprise me if they have done a couple of sneaky trials on a few of our now demised cuzzies. Take care and as our American Indian brother warn and to be extra vigilant and cautious of the evil thinking white man with forked snake like tongue.

  • AueHikaMa

    Not so long ago, I conducted a study that looked at the questions you posed about the types of decisions Maori would have to make in the event of genetic tests and biobanking. Needless to say, there were strong views to discount genetics as another form of colonisation, whereby non-Maori experts once again take hold of Maori knowledge and now in the form of DNA for purposes that sit outside Maori value systems. In short, questions around safeguarding rights and responsibilities to information were paramount for most of the participants and reside to a large extent with whanau and hapu. But also people suggested there were potential benefits that could be generated by predictive testing that may provide answers for families who have genetic diseases. The very public case of the Miru whanau is a case in point. One thing that was evident throughout the thesis was that there is no homogeous Maori view on this kaupapa, and that whanau and hapu play an important role in decision making and what this means as kaitiaki over whakapapa, whenua and Te Ao.

    In this light I personally support DNA testing in so far as it is useful to to keep records of criminals especially repeat offenders of very serious crimes against humanity. All other cases, genetic testing should be determined by whanau and hapu collectively.

  • paekoacreekRuatoki

    Ae, our whanau and hapu recently had a wananga whakapapa and we are increasingly aware of the other issues that this kaupapa stirs up including how to record, manage access and store information – including whakapapa and hapu specific pakiwaitara. In this digital age there is a mounting need to create, develop and re-think tikanga for our 'new' taonga – digital photos, marae websites, audio and visual etc. Just as photographs have been incorporated (indigenised/maori-fied)into tangihanga ritual, so too tikanga and kawa for these 'new' mediums ought to be re-searched, reconciled and established. Understand that other cultures do not necessarily value their DNA the way we do, so if we want to see measures which reflect our views – then hay – mahia te mahi e hoa ma – kaua e waiho ma tetahi atu – else you could be waiting forever.

  • HePikoHeTaniwha

    We should copyright our DNA and have it protected under the Triti as taonga. Whakapapa is central to our culture and must be included as taonga. Despite the fact that DNA profiling is a new technology, lineage and whakapapa is not.

    The excuse of criminal detection is valid however no-one can guarantee that it will not be used in experiments with plants and animals and therefore should be vigorously opposed.