Monday, April 1, 2013

Indigenous Ecosystems are what we make them: Treat your 'Aina like your Imu.

These pools of Makua, O'ahu are visited many for their beautiful beaches. But people still subsist and cultivated resources such as seaweed, crabs, fish and limpets.  To enhance a population of anything is to understand life cycles.
The first time I heard the term Indigenous Ecosystems was in my biology and botany classes but it wasn't until a couple of years ago I met a lady who changed my world. We gathered plants and prepared food in an underground oven. It was when we were gathering ferns and needed to listen out for bears that I realized...this is real. In Hawaii there are no snakes, bears, large animals, the worst things are unseen ledges and traps set up by people.  Instead of speaking of indigenous ecosystems as the species relationship to the place she spoke of the peoples relationship to resources and place simultaneously.

Ferns and Maples leaves seen
were gathered in the woods of British Colombia.
They were used to create steam in the pitcook
 (underground oven).

She began to speak of the forests, which are in temperate weather. It was cold in the middle of summer, I had at least three layers of clothes on.  Anyways she spoke of berries and patches she is aware of to gather for pitcooks and other occasions where traditional foods are shared.  Cheryl has a relationship with her land and it is her relationship.  She taught me that we all need to identify with the land in our own way and be comforted and comfort the land in ways we are comfortable with as well.

Indigenous ecosystems refers to the cultivation of land, sea, plants, life cycles and adaptation to seasonal occurrences.  Indigenous ecosystems are the cultivation of relationships with animate and inanimate sentient beings which support life cycles of closely associated individuals and populations.

This term can be applied in rural and urban settings because where ever people go they work with or against the land.  Indigenous ecosystems where people continue to subsist from the land, bio-mimicry of seasonal food web relationships are utilized in order to harness maximum sustenance yield.  The reintroduction of fire to provide nurturing habitat for camas is one example in British Colombia as well as the opening of lo'i taro patches in Hawai'i.    Commercialization and increased access to technology (bulldozers, herbicides, spear guns, bombs) of any resource is highly debated in long term and short term effects.

Snack created from most local gathered products: dried venison,
dried marlin, dried opae, dried octupus.  Mixed with bought
cashew nuts and wasabi peas. A local alternative to store bought trail mix.

The important part of all this is that we cultivate the homes and lives we live in.  The land around us, whether we work it or not, whether we pick up trash that is ours or not, whether we pass lessons we've learned to the next generation or not.  As elders have said before "the land is a reflection of us and we are a reflection of the land".

An idea that has been lingering is:

"treat your land like your underground oven"

more on that...



  1. Kia ora Katie, agreed!

    Over the past couple of years it has become my modus to get up early in the morning and go for a run around the lakefront. It's always ataahua in the morning with steam coming out of the whenua everywhere, the morning light bouncing of the lake and the manu flying about feeding their bellies. It's always alone time because there are very few people around at a million in the morning.

    Experiencing my papakainga like this most days makes me feel really passionate about preserving it. I remember being a kid and being grossed out by the lake because it was yellow and it stank from pollution. Now, it is beautiful again and in some ways I wonder if I am perceiving its beauty because I am also starting to perceive my own beauty as a Maori person. I have been pondering the parallel relationship between my growing esteem and the changing nature of my papakainga, and in seeing that it is beautiful again, I wonder if my relations too are perceiving themselves as also beautiful; really they must be, otherwise the whenua would still be mauiui.

    I always pick up the bits of rubbish I find when I run, but I think other people must do that too, because if they didn't, well, the whenua would be really dirty.

    It's good to see change happen.

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  3. welina e hoaaloha:)
    awesome blog! "treat your 'aina like your imu," LOVE IT and kako'o that mana'o!!!!
    mahalo for all that you do, kT.
    the trail mix snack looks and must taste 'ono:)

    aloha 'aina,