Publication: Pacific Conservation Biology
Author(s): Aitken J, Shadbolt M, Doherty J, Mark-Shadbolt M, Marzano M & Ataria J.
Aotearoa’s (New Zealand’s) biological heritage is in decline due to threats such as climate change and habitat destruction. Aotearoa’s biological heritage and the wider environment are critical to the Māori world view and culture and Māori have long advocated for greater engagement in efforts to reverse this decline. One negative outcome of localised declines in biological heritage is a concomitant loss of local Māori language (dialectical) terms. Compounding this is the growing use of standardised Māori terms that can displace local dialectical terms. This also runs the risk of losing the associated mātauranga (knowledge) that is inherent in the meaning of these local terms for their unique flora and fauna. Retaining this biocultural knowledge is considered important and could play a role in conservation efforts. This collaborative research addressed the concerns articulated by a Māori biological heritage expert about the loss of their own unique local Māori terms for flora and fauna. The research explored ways to retain and empower local indigenous biocultural terms via the creation of a static visual educational resource for Tūhoe–Tuawhenua youth displaying the forest vegetation of their rohe (area that defines a tribe’s traditional mandate or authority). The plants in the final resource are identified by their local Māori term and their corresponding scientific name. Depicting ecological accuracy in the artwork was a specific requirement of the kaumātua and created some unique outcomes in how the artwork formed. The approaches employed in this research and an analysis of the results and wider implementation are discussed.