Indigenous ideas vital to world security

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Maori culture and traditions have a vital contribution to make to the social, cultural, environmental and economic life of Aotearoa and to the world, according to Dr Pita Sharples.

Opening an international conference on Sharing Power today in Whakatane, Dr Sharples said he has enormous confidence that indigenous world views, indigenous insights and indigenous knowledge can make a vital contribution to human well-being.

Dr Sharples suggested the concept of rangatiratanga offered valuable insights, if people could understand how it integrated such diverse ideas as autonomy, sovereignty, leadership, control and ownership.

Perhaps to a Western mind, the ideas of sovereignty and ownership seem unrelated. But the Maori world is based on reciprocal relationships, and reciprocity lies at the heart of rangatiratanga, he said.

He said the rangatiratanga guaranteed to Maori in the Treaty of Waitangi did not conflict with the sovereignty sought by the Crown.

Our ancestors did not expect to have to stop being Maori in the new nation. The Treaty clearly foreshadowed a plural society, with the various hapu working in partnership with the Crown for the benefit of all citizens of Aotearoa, said Dr Sharples.

Customary ownership arose from the whakapapa relationships between tangata whenua and the natural world, he said, and the belief that if people looked after their environment, the environment would look after the people.

This reciprocal relationship of care and well-being between the community and their natural and cultural heritage is how rangatiratanga embraces the idea of control or ownership. Not as a right to exploit, but as a sacred duty to protect and look after.

Dr Sharples said the agreement between the Maori Party and the National Party was part of a long tradition of Maori seeking rangatiratanga in whatever forum they could.

It is a power-sharing arrangement, but in a Westminster parliament, even with an MMP voting system, the political power of a small minority is limited, he said.

But if we view our agreement as a quest for rangatiratanga … the voices of indigenous people can change the world, even without political or legal force.

In relation to the foreshore and seabed issue, Dr Sharples said it is important to understand the role of the Maori Party and its limitations in the political arena.

We are not the Crowns Treaty partner. As a parliamentary political party, we are part of the kawanatanga the Crown side of the Treaty. We are not a customary owner, he said.

All Maori Party MPs share concerns over the new Bill. But we are negotiating in a parliamentary political environment.

The decision before us is one of strategy is it better to take a small step forward, knowing that further progress will be slow? Or is it better to withdraw from the battlefield now, and plan to rejoin the fray at some time in the future?

Dr Sharples said the Maori Party, as a voice for Maori in Parliament, would be guided by the views of tangata whenua.

He said the constitutional review is one of many gains that the Maori had made through its agreement to be part of government and Maori must get actively involved in the review.

It is absolutely essential for us to do so! We indigenous people of the world must survive and promote our sharing values within all nations.

We have responsibility to do so we can save the world from its own self destructive consumption, non sustainable, individualistic pursuits, said Dr Sharples.

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