Story: Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation

Page 5. Key concepts

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Mana, tapu and mauri are concepts that underpin the traditional Māori world view and kaitiakitanga.

Mana: spiritual power

The mana (power) of a forest, for example, is expressed in its birds, trees and other natural features. Abundant blossoms and fruit, and birds arriving to feed, show the forest’s mana. Terms such as matomato (growing vigorously) and māpua (prolific) describe this abundance.

Tapu: spiritual restriction

For mana to come forth in the forest, some restrictions have to be put in place. Tapu (spiritual restriction) gives rise to the practice of rāhui (restrictions).

Mauri: life force

The forest must also possess mauri, an elemental life force. This allows fruit to grow, birds to arrive and so on. In traditional kaitiakitanga, forests were strictly managed. Tohunga (priests) carried out rituals such as karakia (charm) over a mauri stone (a stone believed to preserve the life force). They protected the mauri of the forest so its mana could flow.

Ngāti Raukawa elder Tāmati Ranapiri explains:

The mauri is a divine authority by which food may come forth or be preserved in a certain area so that it does not go to another. There is mauri in the land and mauri in waterways such as rivers and lakes. If there is a mountain or a forest without birds, perhaps a river without food … then one installs a mauri [stone] … 1
  1. Tāmati Ranapiri, Letter to Elsdon Best, 14 January 1895. MS Papers 1187-127, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Translation by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. › Back
How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation - Key concepts', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 April 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 24 Sep 2007