New Zealand's Climate and the Maori

Published: 2021-09-13 03:45:08
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They started as island hoppers; brilliant in their own right, and with technology and earthly knowledge that preceded their time. As early as 1150 A.D., The Maori people landed on the shores of New Zealand in massive war canoes and were the first to claim the island as their home. Upon arriving they realized and observed the countless riches; islands and bays, glaciers and rivers, greenstone and timber, as well as abundant amounts of fresh, clean water. The Maori people respected the gifts that their Gods and the land had given them. They tended the land, learned from the land, treasured, used, and worked in synchronization with the land, and because of these intimate actions the Maori came to know and cherish the land. They could predict the winds, foresee rough seas, and notice the slightest environmental changes by using only their senses. The Maori people formed a unique bond with the land of New Zealand; this is exhibited at the core of their culture and their art; because the Maori are so interconnected with the land climate change is resulting in cultural changes. This is both a blessing and a curse for the Maori people, who have fought to keep their culture alive and their island healthy and thriving.
New Zealand's climate is matchless. The set of two islands have subtropical regions in the North, temperate regions in the South, and even alpine conditions in the high mountains and glacial areas. Because of New Zealand's isolated position, the island has many unique qualities; sea level glaciers, freezing rainforests, and even coral reefs. When the Maori island hoppers arrived on New Zealand, along with the abundant resources and beautiful landscape came a much wilder, harsher climate than they were accustomed to on the warmer Polynesian islands they left behind. In order to survive the Maori were able to put their senses to use. They learned the patterns of the land, the sea, and the wind and built their lives around these patterns.
The Maori people's bond with the land and ability to identify and predict weather and climate change has given them a strong identity. Generation upon generation has passed down oral traditions that teach the art of prediction. In the last generation climate change has become apparent, not just by scientific data but by simple observations of the Maori. Because the Maori have passed this wisdom down from generation to generation, the Maori of today still know how to gage the world around them through the simple use of sight, smell, touch, and hearing. W.B. Tawhai is an elder tribe member, here he aims to describe the effortless behaviors instilled in him as a child:
As I remember when we were growing up, this wind [hau-waho - northwest-wind off the sea] would blow at that time, day one, for example, and finish at that time. Day two, it would start 20 minutes or a half hour later and finish earlier. Day three it was shorter until on day seven it just puffed up and ended. That is how obvious it was..." (W.B. Tawhai 25/05/2005)
This formula for knowledge was developed by the Maori over several generations. The elders of the tribe hold the keys to the culture. Oral traditions are prominent and it is the elders job to cultivate the youth in the Maori ways and to past down customs. Patterns of weather are taught, observations such as listening to the tides and frost levels are observed, even total sea level changes are taught; this knowledge is transferred into useful information for the Maori tribes to thrive. In the Journal, Maori environmental knowledge of local weather and climate change in Aotearoa it is expressed that the"Maori have developed a wealth of environmental knowledge with the lessons learnt having been incorporated into traditional and modern practices of agriculture, fishing, medicine, education, and conservation."(King, Skipper, Tawhai, p. 387) The Maori see knowledge as a process. There is no rush to find an answer but instead a reflex to a known stimulus or occurrence. This way of thought is portrayed throughout their cultural practices. Most fundamentally, the symbols featured in Maori carvings, tattoos, and jewelry.

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