Friday, January 21, 2011

it just takes communication

The issue of respecting maori cultural beliefs has come to the attention of the media recently with the carrying of a couch and barbecue up Mt Taranaki and then cooking it up on top. It is interesting to read the responses.

Local Iwi have said this - Taranaki Daily News - Stuff
Climbers standing at the top of many New Zealand peaks, including Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Ruapehu, are trampling over Maori protocols, according to a Taranaki Maori leader.
Toka Walden said yesterday there were "cultural values" at many sites around the country which tangata whenua would like to have upheld. "The core part to this is about whakapapa – the people's link back to the land, the family tree that stems from our ancestors out into the land, that is what ties the iwi back to these sites," he said. The summit of Mt Taranaki was the the head of a Taranaki iwi ancestor and the head was sacred, he said. People were free to stand and cook in other places on the mountain but should stop short of the highest points, he said.
He stopped short of saying climbers should not stand at the summit of New Zealand's mountains. "We would encourage people not to even go near the summit, but we know that is not realistic," he admitted.
Climbers make some interesting points
New Zealand Alpine Club executive officer Ollie Clifton told the Taranaki Daily News the organisation did not have a stance on cultural considerations and did not specifically advise climbers not to stand on summits. He said that was "a big ask" of climbers. "For climbers, standing on the summit is the whole point," he said. But climbers need to be aware of the culture of the places they are going and should respect them, he said.
Taranaki mountaineer Ian McAlpine said he has been approached by a number of people who said they knew nothing of cultural rules and customs. "A lot of people don't know the protocols – including Maori," he said. Mr McAlpine told the Taranaki Daily News he had been leading parties up the mountain for 40 years, and had never heard of the summit protocol.
He is calling for a meeting to be set up between all Taranaki iwi, DOC and park-users. "We didn't know about cooking – what else is there? "We need to know what other issues there are that might cause offence," he said.
It is all about information and communication. Let us all learn together.

Down south they are more advanced along the path - The Timaru Herald - Stuff
South Canterbury mountain guides say they are well aware of Maori protocols when it comes to Aoraki-Mt Cook, but it could be a different case for private climbers.
Mountain guide Charlie Hobbs said the climbers should have checked with the local iwi before taking a barbecue and couch up the mountain. Mr Hobbs said his climbers were reminded of what was expected of them while climbing. "You can't defecate or leave rubbish or do anything with the intention to destroy or alter in any way the beautiful, pristine, spiritual place. "The only thing we can leave there are our footprints."
Climbers were not taken to the summit, out of respect, Mountain guide Bryan Carter said. "For Ngai Tahu, the mountain represents their ancestors. "If you stand on the summit, it's as if you're standing on the head of their ancestor."
Mr Carter said climbers had to keep the waterways clean, and scattering ashes was frowned upon. There was no prohibition for cooking, but anyone who did that "wouldn't be very popular", he said
Well there you go - it can be done, it is being done - what a fantastic challenge and opportunity for all alpine clubs to upgrade their knowledge and add another dimension to the absolute purity and connectedness of climbing.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marty,
It is not very difficult at all. Just take the time to ask or inquire. When we do that we open ourselves to understanding values held by "others". When we do that we begin to build bridges of understanding. That is the true beauty of wilderness and why we must protect it at all cost.
Kia kaha,

Mike said...

It'll be a hard culture to change though, especially with the attitude of many international climbers who arrive fixated on simply climbing another mountain in exactly the same way they've done everywhere else in the world. Maori culture doesn't extend far beyond New Zealand, but the knowledge of its mountains and comparisons with other mountains around the world does.

I think many climbers (and trampers for that matter), both international and New Zealanders, do have a sense of entitlement simply because it's often such a solitary thing. They spend so much of their time in that environment, and will often see few others if anyone else. It's a natural extension to have trouble understanding how someone could be offended when there isn't anyone there to be offended.. as if people are telling them what to do in their own back yard. Getting people out of that mindset isn't trivial.

Watching countries like Thailand and Laos and Peru and Bolivia try to cope with the sudden influx of rich international tourists, particularly from the US and Canada and all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and now even China, it was extremely disappointing to see just how many people completely ignore simple requests about things like not taking photographs in sensitive areas, leave rubbish all over the place (temples included!), and whatever else --- I guess because it's simply natural for them wherever they've come from, and they've had no interest in adjusting.