People and environment
Traditionally, there was an intimate relationship between people and their environment. The health of a community was reflected in its environment and vice versa. For example, if waterways were unclear or polluted, something was amiss with the local people. Kaitiakitanga was based on this relationship.
Keeping the balance
Customary practices maintained the balance between communities and nature. For activities such as hunting birds, gardening and fishing, this ensured that resources were managed sustainably. Practices included:
- setting temporary rāhui (restrictions) on certain areas
- using the maramataka (lunar calendar) to guide planting and harvesting
- banning recreational fishing and birding
- using appropriate baskets for different types of food
- harvesting only what was needed
- laying mauri (life force) stones in gardens. A tohunga (priest) would say a karakia (charms) over the stone, which was believed to protect resources
- using bird snares at the right time – for instance, not during the breeding season
- limits on fishing – for instance, tribes sometimes fished with a huge net strung between two canoes, but they only did so once a year.
In a letter in 1895, Tāmati Ranapiri of the Ngāti Raukawa tribe explains customs that limited the taking of kahitua, a small mollusc found on the beaches from Paekākāriki to Taranaki.
Menstruating women were not allowed to gather seafood … and baskets of cooked food were prohibited. If a menstruating woman gathered molluscs, they would only be successful on the day that the molluscs were first seen. At dawn the next day, no molluscs would be seen on that beach and they would have moved to the beach of another sub-tribe. 1