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He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka: Navigating a changing climate: A waka voyaging perspective

Human-induced climate change is threatening the ocean, natural ecosystems, and the global human population. Some groups, including Māori in Aotearoa, and Indigenous communities globally, will be disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change. The current national and international governmental climate change responses underrepresent Indigenous peoples, issues, and knowledge. This thesis aims to contribute to the body of literature that documents Māori understandings, perspectives, and worldviews in relation to climate change. This work was guided by two inter-related questions. Firstly, what are the impacts of climate change on waka voyaging? Secondly, how can we draw on mātauranga (Māori knowledge) to respond to human-induced climate change? Specifically, the research addresses gaps in the scholarly literature that has yet to consider the unique contributions of waka voyaging practitioners to the climate change conversation. This work seeks to better understand the wide-ranging effects of human-induced climate change on Māori communities, knowledge, and culture, through an investigation of the impacts on waka voyaging. Furthermore, it considers how mātauranga whakatere waka (Māori understandings of Pacific voyaging knowledge) can contribute to climate change responses today and into the future. Guided by a Pūrākau and Kaupapa Māori research approach, I undertook a large-scale literature review and conducted seven in-depth semi-structured one-to-one interviews with Māori voyagers trained in traditional Pacific non-instrument ocean navigation. I analysed the data using a theoretical thematic analysis. Key findings suggest that waka voyaging is highly sensitive to changes in weather and climate. Historical climatic and environmental change, as well as human-induced ecological change, have both promoted and discouraged Pacific voyaging in the past. In Aotearoa, the decline of voyaging after Polynesian settlement led to the dormancy of a significant body of ancestral knowledge, which Māori are continuing to recover. Key impacts of human-induced climate change include the exacerbation of adverse weather for voyaging, limiting the annual window of opportunity to voyage and spatial ranges of voyages. Another key impact is the decline of marine species used in non-instrument navigation due to a range of human activities, including human-induced climate change. Ultimately, this research finds that human-induced climate change was caused by a widespread human disconnection and subsequent domination of the environment. Research participants, Indigenous peoples, scholars, and civil society, advocate for a reconnection and global paradigm shift. Findings of this study indicate that mātauranga Māori provides a valuable framework for such a paradigm shift guided by the principles of whanaungatanga (connectedness, relationship, kinship) and kaitiakitanga (reciprocal acts of guardianship). Amidst rapid human-induced climate change, waka voyaging communities in Aotearoa and the Pacific are among the many Indigenous peoples globally, taking climate action, educating youth, raising awareness, advocating for ocean health, protecting natural environments, and maintaining traditional knowledge and practices on waka hourua (double-hulled voyaging canoes) which are themselves sustainable methods of ocean transportation. This thesis highlights the need for more research centring mātauranga Māori, recommends genuine partnerships between the government and Māori, and the resourcing of Māori communities themselves to be self-determining around climate change.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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