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.