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Monday 12 October 2009

Generation Ngai Tahu

Hana O'Regan and Sir Tipene O'Regan
Sir Tipene O’Regan and Hana O’Regan

The Whare Mahara - The House of Memories

The house is an acknowledgement of the past; embraces the present, providing a place to gather and collect; and is about future as a legacy to be there for the next generation.

Intergenerational transmission of knowledge - will look at tools, systems etc that have been used transmitting knowledge in Ngai Tahu.

Transmitting knowledge also means loss of knowledge. With the arrival of the potato, the whare arohe, the knowledge, poetry, references of fernroot disappeared. With the arrival of iron saws, the time-consuming process of grinding pounamu was lost. The knowledge of those who lost wars - their poems and stories - is gone. "History always forgets the losers." -- Tā Tipene

Hana says she and her father have very different perspectives. (Her father interrupts to correct "focuses" to "foci". :-) ) Each generation influenced by events and values of their time. Tipene says older generation may have longer view.

Hana defends "she waits for the movie to come out" by pointing out that it's higher quality than old reels, and in colour, and she has access to a wider range of technologies than older generations had.

Tipene's father had benefit of his father's library; his uncle read Gibbons' Decline and Fall 20 or so times and also a fisherman, but belonged to "an aristocracy of knowledge". Tipene was exposed to Dickens before he read it as father read it to him when a child. Father: "What's the use of Latin? None, thank God. Lord preserve us from the tyranny of relevance!" Tipene: "We all handle knowledge differently."

Structural questions: - selection, determining what we want to know and preserve; loss - do we want to lose it and not-know just because we're no longer using it.

  • Priorities: maintaining tribal boundaries, survival, whakapapa, mahinga kai
  • Tools: mōteatea, karakia, kōrero o nehe, pūrākau, whakairo

Early settlement
  • Priorities: adaptation (fish hooks and axes, steel replaced stone), globalised knowledge, new worldviews and worlds (sealskins going to China and Māori travelling in those ships), new commerce/production
  • the written word, books, Christianity

Post Ngāi Tahu Deeds/Treaty
  • Priorities: survival, diseases, introduction of an abstract legal code, retaining land, economic sustainability
  • Tools - petitions, letters, presentations to commissioners

Ngāi Tahu Claim
  • Priorities: documenting the Middle Island land claims and securing fulfilment of South Island Purchase contracts
  • Tools: private journals, whakapapa records, manuscripts, petitions, legal documents

Waitangi Tribunal
  • Priorities: collection of information to prove traditional use rights and mana whenua, establishing the tribal base, political organisation, economic sustainability
  • Tools: secondary and primary research, records of oral traditions, oral accounts of sustained practices and traditions, specialist analysis of mahika kai resources

Ngāi Tahu settlement
  • Priorities: commercial viability, maintaining tribal boundaries, understanding development, redevelopment of tribal resources, moving from claim-mode to looking to future
  • Tools: radio, tv, digital media, websites, print, books, magazines (Te Karaka, Te Panui Runaka) - new tools but still missing something.

Move away from process of repetition to transmit knowledge - can now be recorded and stored and retrieved in other ways - print and video. Don't have to retain knowledge as parents and grandparents did - can Google it.

Knowledge as entertainment - takes it back to the fireside.

Te Reo as an example - language was neglected for a long time. Why did so many generations raised in the language not transmit it to their children? Sir Apirana Ngata argued that the first priorities of education for Māori should be English, English, English. They felt that the community spoke Māori and it couldn't possibly be lost, so focused on English. This happened to Gaelic in Ireland too, and elsewhere. Hindsight is 20/20....

Languages (47% endangered, threatened or extinct) are far more threatened than birds (11%), mammals (18%), fish (5%), plants (8%). Particularly low statistics of Ngāi Tahu language proficiency among Ngāi Tahu speakers. Hana's frustrated that language doesn't feature on the tribal wish-list; Tipene interrupts to say it features on the wish-list all the time - just not on the "must do" list. It's a systemic problem: you can't understand place names unless you have Te Reo.

Hana comments on the "PC-ing" of knowledge that is being transmitted. Lullabies used to include quite graphic depictions of past wars and necessary revenge - what it might look like ("or taste like"). Now sanitising a whole body of knowledge by omitting this.

How will Ngāi Tahu decide what knowledge to transmit to their mokopuna? What will they need to know to be Ngāi Tahu, to survive, and prosper? What songs will they sing?

Call back to conference theme - He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. (What's the most important thing in the world? It's people, people, people.)