Indigenous Peoples and Disasters: opportunities and obligations of efficiency

Friday the 11th I delivered a public lecture at the School of Economics and Finance, Victoria University in Wellington/Poneke at the invitation of Professor Ilan Noy, Chair of Disaster Economics.

“Disasters provide useful if tragic frames of reference by which society can judge is abilities to plan, build, respond, protect and help its members recover from what were once called acts of god but could be better understood as immanent to our occupation of this planet. Certainly in strategies of disaster risk reduction (DRR) we can observe the configurations of social decisions that revolve around the allocation of scarce resources. This paper argues Indigenous Peoples offer fundamental competencies in DRR through a) their knowledge of environmental hazards; b) traditional institutions, networks and practices during a disaster, and c) a growing (if still minor) role in ethical disaster recovery. I use the term ‘opportunities and obligations of efficiency’ as a provocation, knowing that many of my Maori and Indigenous peers would rail against any suggestion that Indigenous communities should somehow contribute to wider societal productivity and efficiency. But I think we can make a business case for Indigenous Peoples being integral to many if not most national debates on DRR; and for Aotearoa/New Zealand in particular to provide an exemplary case study of this important and perhaps vital strategy for societal resilience.”

Full text available → Indigenous Peoples and Disasters

I also gave a lecture to Professor Noy’s class in disaster economics on the Wednesday, a nice warm up, and in between I attended a seminar on Gender and Disaster, an important layer of disaster management that has a Pacific Oceania Network.

So all very disastrous, in a good way :)

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Developing an International Network on Indigenous Knowledge, Risk Interpretation and Action: Integrating indigenous knowledge into decision and policy-making for disaster risk reduction

A proposal I’m on has just been funded by the Advanced Institutes for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) and the START project. My colleagues are Simone Athayde, Lun Yin, Marie-Ange Baudoin and Victor Okorie. We met when Simone, Lun and Marie-Ange attended the Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA) programme in Christchurch last year.

Our objective are:

  • Advance the formation of an international network of scholars and indigenous communities to integrate indigenous knowledge into decision and policy-making related to natural, man-made hazards and climate change across the globe.
  • Develop and broadly share on-line learning modules on case-studies featuring Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, practices and experiences in coping and adapting to risk situations.
  • Advance interdisciplinary and integrative research on indigenous knowledge and disaster-risk reduction.
  • Contribute to inform decision and public-policy making on integrating indigenous knowledge on policies towards risk reduction and mitigation nationally and internationally.

This is a very exciting project and will take our insights on how Maori have survived the Canterbury earthquakes to an international audience.

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Latest CERA Wellbeing Survey

The latest Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Wellbeing Survey results are out showing Maori continue to struggle in the post-disaster landscape.

“Results indicate that more greater Christchurch residents are adapting to the ‘new normal’ as progress is being made in a number of areas. However, there are still some groups that are being affected more than others, where recovery is taking longer. These include Māori, those in temporary housing, those living with a health problem or disability, those on lower incomes and those in rental accommodation.” (p.5)

For those more likely to say they have experienced stress always or most of the time (22% of respondents) are:

  • Living with a physical health condition or disability (34%)
  • Of Māori ethnicity (32%)

The report (available HERE) paints a picture of ongoing isolation and frustrationfor Maori. A third of all Maori respondents report ‘stress all or most of the time’!

While not surprised at these results, I am disappointed at the lack of voice for our communities.

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Pingao: Weaving the connections

A new project on pingao has begun at Lincoln. Headed by Dr. Hannah Buckley, we are looking at scientific and Māori perspectives to develop a research plan to advance our ecological and cultural understanding of one of New Zealand’s most iconic threatened plant species, pīngao/pīkao/golden sand sedge (Ficinia spiralis Cyperaceae).

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Mātauranga Maori and Environmental Hazards

For Indigenous Peoples, cultural memory is often embedded within oral and artistic expressions. Two songs from Ngāti Tūwharetoa, reproduced in the well Ngā Mōteatea volumes, exemplifies this history in lamenting the loss of their chief Te Heuheu and many of his people in a landslide originating on nearby Kakaramea (Ngata, 2004, pp. 254-261):

‘Rā te haeata takina mai i te ripa

Te tara ki Tauwhara!

K otaku hoa pea tēnei ka hoki mai, ē

Auē kau atu ana au i te ao

Ka riro ia koe rā, te taonga, ē.

See the dawn glowing over the land,

Striking upon the peak of Tauwhare

My comrade, perhaps, returns to me,

As I lament with anguish alone in this world.

You have departed with all your valued treasures, alas.

This was at Te Rapa, where Kakaramea rose 4,269 feet high, between Tokaanu and Waihi. Earlier slips had blocked the Waimatui stream, causing a dam that had filled up until a storm on the night of May 4th 1846 caused a massive landslide to come down from Hipaua Ridge. Grayland (1978) records 61 deaths, most people being killed in their sleep, with only three people surviving (one of whom was reading his prayer book at the time).

Grayland goes on to record that the area was reoccupied as the village of Waihi, with crops growing in the productive soils that had come down in the slip. In notes to the song, another Tūwharetoa leader is mentioned as being overwhelmed by a landslide on March 20th, 1910 (Ngata, 2004 p. 255-257). This time the avalanche came down in daylight, a fisherman observing ‘the whole hillside crack and swallow up the bush and trees’.

Titaka kau ana nga manu o te ata, ka riro ko koe ra, i!

Hare ra, e Pa, I te hahatanga o Pioiri

E kore au e mihi, mei riro ana koe

I te puta tu ata, i whakarakea i te awatea

The birds of the morning fly distressfully about now you are gone!

Depart, o sir, with the first breath of winter

Not for me to pay tribute if you had fallen

In a dawn attack, for you would have been seen in the light of day.

Grayland notes only one death, the son of one of the 1846 survivors. OF interest is the role of mātauranga in maintaining knowledge of disasters, enabling better planning and development of Maori (and other) land in what is a geologically active landscape. King, Goff, & Skipper (2007) explore the role of mātauranga Māori through the concept of Māori Ecological Knowledge and its potential contribution to the management and mitigation of hazards. The research reviews the written records of oral histories and relevant stories, songs, place names and narratives, identifying earlier historical work such as that by Beattie (1919) on flooding and Cowan (1939) on the Tarawera eruption of 1886.

What can be said is that insights from tribal histories may be needed to better understand the hazards of a region or territory.

References

Grayland, E. C. (1978). New Zealand Disasters. Wellington: A.H. and A.W. Reed.

King, D. N. T., Goff, J., & Skipper, A. (2007). Māori environmental knowledge and natural hazards in Aotearoa‐New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 37(2), 59-73.

Ngata, A. (2004). Nga Moteatea: he marama rere no nga waka maha (Vol. 4). Auckland: Auckland University Press.

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East Side Stories: report by Sarah Yanicki

Sarah Yanicki received a Ministry of Social Development Summer Scholarship to research the impacts of the Christchurch earthquakes on Aranui and Sumner. Sarah found significant differences in how the two suburbs responded, with the many pre-existing organisations in Aranui able to segue into disaster a response while Sumner saw the growth of a new civil society that was able to initiate recovery operations and strategies.

Supervised by Lyndon Fraser of the School of Social and Political Sciences, the project is published in a collection of MSD reports here.

Here’s a pdf copy of her report, East Side Stories – Summer Studentship Report

The report is useful to understanding the Maori response and recovery context by examining a neighbourhood, Aranui, that had about 20% Maori residents. As researchers we are often required to join the dots in understanding how Maori are impacted by natural and social forces.

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Interview Word Cloud: ‘Thing, People, Know…’

So far I’ve completed 27 interviews with Tangata Whaiora and staff at Te Awa o te Ora. While the analysis is ongoing, I thought I’d post this ‘Word Cloud’, taken from the 75,000 plus words transcribed from the korero…

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Maori research presentation on disaster resilience…

Presentation from the 2012 International Disaster and Risk Conference at Davos. It’s research by Chrissie Kenney, now a research fellow at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research:

Addressing risk and resilience: an analysis of Māori communities and cultural technologies in response to the Christchurch earthquakes

We await the publication of articles on this project given the need for clarification of terms such as resilience – particularly where it is applied to Maori – and the roles of iwi such as Ngai Tahu and iwi authorities such as Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu…

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Psycho-social support in emergencies

Links to some research publications I’ve found useful during this research:

Mental and social health during and after acute emergencies: emerging consensus? by Mark van Ommeren, Shekhar Saxena, and Benedetto Saraceno

WHO Inter-Agency Standing Committee/ IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial support in Emergency settings.

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Māori Endurance, Resilience, and Resistance

This is an excerpt from an forthcoming literature on Maori Resilience that I’m drafting for publication sometime next year. Comments and suggestions welcome. (Some of the links are not functioning properly):


For Indigenous Peoples, cultural memory is embedded within oral and artistic expressions; Wira Gardner’s 1995 conference paper reiterates that the cultural practices around hazards and disaster remain a part of the cultural memories of affected iwi. Two songs from Ngāti Tūwharetoa, reproduced in the well-known Ngā Mōteatea volumes, exemplifies this history in lamenting the loss of their chief Te Heuheu and many of his people in a landslide on the night of May 4th 1846, caused by a mud volcano originating on nearby Kakaramea[1] (Ngata, 2004, pp. 254-261). King, Goff, & Skipper (2007) explore the role of mātauranga Māori through the concept of Māori Ecological Knowledge (MEK) and its potential contribution to the management and mitigation of hazards. The research reviews the written records of oral histories and relevant stories, songs, place names and narratives, identifying earlier historical work such as that by Beattie (1919) on flooding and Cowan (1939) on the Tarawera eruption of 1886. Insights from various tribal histories may be needed to better understand the hazards of a region or territory as successive waves of migration take place.

Continue reading

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