Kaitiakitanga

She speaks in tongues,

folding mountains between her lips. Papatūānuku has nourished my knowing since I was in the womb of my mother. As I massaged her skin with my feet, she transmitted electromagnetic frequencies throughout every cell of my body. As I climbed the limbs of Rakau, cosmologies activated my cellular memory. As I played and ran my hands over harakeke, the whakapapa in which I stem from stirred my blood memory. He wahine Maori, he wahine pakeha, he mama Papatūānuku. I embody the micro of the macro, an extension of the soil in which I walk, a whakapapa of mana right back through the lines of my kui, my koroua, my mama, my papa, my iwi, hapu, awa, and my munga all the way back to Hineahuone earth formed woman.

Within my womb flows the red river of all life, the red soil, the kokowai the sacred red clay that fashioned life into form. Papatūānuku is as much me, as I am her. How can I not feel a responsibility to serve her, preserve her, honor her. How can I not cry when I see the marks stretched upon her body, for these same marks adorn my puku and thighs. How can I not feel her mamae, hear her cries as they echo through the mists and the mountains. Like many of my people, my generation, I was not raised immersed in Te Ao Maori, my papa and his papa were punished at school for speaking the Reo, so naturally remnants of cyclical colonial teachings were passed on to me. It was in essence, my direct connection to Papatūānuku and the elemental’s that nurtured my intuitive knowing, while growing up as a child whom was forced to forget who she was.

Riversdale Drive my dwelling, the first home my ma and pa bought in the 70’s which ran parallel to Waiwhakaiho Awa, a river radiating from the slopes of Taranaki Maunga. Behind our home new growth native forest stretched from east to west tracing the river all the way to Te Tai o Rehua, the Tasman Sea. My siblings, neighbors and I would spend our days exploring the ngahere, swimming the awa and moana once the snow had melted into the rivers that fed the surrounding ecosystems. We lived a humble life, my papa worked hard to provide, while my mama struggled to keep all six of us in line. I look back on my childhood today and feel very blessed to have grown within the landscape that helped raise me. I didn’t know it then, but the plants and Rakau were grooming me for the path I now lead, and it makes sense as I have always believed myself to be of the fairy people. In which i have come to know the Patupaiarehe, ancient fairy folk are some of the first kaitiaki of Aotearoa. And too my energetic links to the king and queen fairies that whakapapa back to my celtic roots in Scotland and Wales. I spent most of my days in the ngahere and wouldn’t return until dinner was called from the lounge window, i can still hear my mama’s voice today, it’s just now she echoes through the ether’s, from the other side of the veil.

I have traveled extensively nga hau e wha, all four directions of our sacred islands, and one thing I observed is the difference in frequency when moving from one tribal rohe to another. I wonder how my Tupuna felt navigating these spaces before the great taniwha arrived to purge the whenua of its people and forests.

Ceremony was conducted before the felling of any tree, karakia lifted to first ask and honor the spirit of the tree and the whanau in which it belonged to. This offering and ritualistic process opened the path for wairua to do its work and bound the connection between man and rakau. To think of the magnitude and mana that stood for thousands of years protecting and watching over these lands were cut from all existence in a matter of days, months, years without any process but the selfish intention to cut, own and profit from. The energetic distortion and stress levels I feel from Papatūānuku when passing through extensive dairy farming or mass pine plantations, where remnants of dead tree stumps and abandoned litter replace old growth in which native forests once stood.

Pinus radiata has no place within the original landscape of Aotearoa, and causes stress to plants around them as they release terpenes into the soil through their roots to propel any new growth. The native plants of our land don’t operate in this manner, the act of toxic warfare is void within our endemic species, yet there are millions of acres of pine growing to fuel the offshore economy. The fluctuating degree of pollution imprinted within our rivers and along our shorelines are evident everywhere you go as a result of agriculture and commercial pine operations. The decline of biodiversity and cathedral forests that once held all other species in place, and the ever growing stress levels of those that take more than their fair share from our great earth mother is tipping the waka beyond repair. The foundation of any economy is the whenua and its resources, from this jobs, cities and communities are built. Without Kaitiakitanga our whenua would be stripped of every last forest, tree, kohatu, mineral, and litre of water.

We are now seeing a loss of biodiversity that is only evident during mass extinction and that terrifies the fuck outta me, as a native woman of Aotearoa, and a mother to sons! When we see ourselves as separate from a fellow neighbor or neighboring tree, we feed the confusion of not belonging, we serve a system built upon isolation as opposed to coexisting with our environment as equal parts, much like our native trees here in Aotearoa, whom literally depend on one another, their whanau or hapu to grow throughout different stages of their cycle. This is how our Tupuna have always lived, the Rakau have always been considered our tuakana, oldest and wisest teachers. I absolutely love seeing whole glades of Kauri or Kahikatea dominating forest margins or open pastures. It fills me with such a deep sense of wholeness, and is a pure example of the kotahitanga that binds all living species together. We need and depend on one another to grow and thrive as a collective community. There is a rich intermingling with other species that is sacred to the nature of our forests, which is found only here in Aotearoa so why are we not protecting and supporting these wise elders like they have done us for hundreds of thousands of years.

I live nestled within Te Waonui o Tiriwa the great forests of Tiriwa, commonly known as the Waitakere ranges on the western coastlines of Tamaki Makaurau. Within this vast volcanic life force dwell thousands of hectares of native forest, nested within these forests live the oldest of our Rakau Rangatira. Ancient Kauri (Agathis australis) has a whakapapa of over 160 million years tracing genealogy back to prehistoric times. Kauri is the monarch of Aotearoa’s forests and a Rakau of most venerable ancestry – older than history, in essence older than humans. I have witnessed and imprinted fossilized Kauri stumps deep in the south of Te Wai Pounamu that whakapapa over 100 million years old and live amidst Kauri here within the valley of Te Henga – these are now under threat from a microscopic spore most commonly known as Kauri dieback which is killing them. While traveling far north many years ago, an elder shared the purakau and sacred communion of the Tohora and Kauri with me and within that moment a wave of euphoric knowing danced upon my skin. I feel there is a direct connection with the imbalance of the oceans as much as there is with the whenua, i feel the Tohora are communicating through song as they speak the same mother tongue as the kauri for they are tuakana, teina. Kauri dieback affects the root system of the tree damaging the tissue that carries nutrients to the crown, causing the kauri to starve. If you look at the state of our oceans, our whales, sharks and ocean sentient are also affected by the overfishing and pollution caused by man. These great architects of both land and sea are whaling to send messages of great pain to us mere mortals, to warn us of the immeasurable damage we are causing Papatūānuku. If Ancient Kauri is lost, seventeen other native rakau will also be lost and we will see catastrophic changes to our remaining forests, like an unhealing wound, the heart of Aotearoa will be broken.

Kaitiaki is the intention to guard, protect and preserve the very things we hold sacred, Kaitiaki is an ally in which connections are formed, animals and other beings are also considered kaitiaki, a guardian of spiritual lore to assist ones evolutionary process. The kupu tiaki is the foundation of the longer kupu kaitiakitanga. Tiaki means to guard, it also means to preserve, foster, protect and shelter. The depth of meaning behind this kupu can be traced back to the origins of Nga Atua, the original kaitiaki. We see this with Tane Mahuta lord and guardian of the forests, trees, birds and insects and Tangaroa father of the seas, rivers, lakes, and all living creatures there within. We, among the elementals are the kaitiaki of Papatuanuku as much as we are of our own whanau and extended whanau. Do we not treasure our tamariki with all we have, providing and protecting them from harm’s way? Then isn’t it as equally important to protect and preserve the very whenua and waterways that sustain all life, for without them there is nothing to nourish our children and future generations. We speak of Aotearoa as a paradise and indeed she is, but let’s not ignore the very harsh truths of ecological decline we are seeing in every part of the country, in fact almost every part of the living world. We as kaitiaki are sitting on the cusp of spiritual and physical purification and the time is upon us, the time for multi dimensional transformation is calling us deep into the depths of change. I choose planet and people over power and profit and it is my responsibility to honor this truth and this path with everything I’ve got. How bout you?