Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and is a concept ingrained in the Māori worldview. Māori people consider themselves interconnected with the environment and consider ourselves guardians; the etymology of the word Māori means “natural” or “normal.” We literally call ourselves tangata whenua, so of course we believe we’re one with the earth. As guardians of the earth we try our best to safeguard the taonga of Papatuānuku for our future generations, our future kaitiaki, to enjoy.
Our tupuna have always known what was up. They ventured out into the unknown using nothing but the sun, wind and stars. They were our world’s greatest explorers and have a story with an accompanying lesson for everything. In the spirit of sustainability, here’s the Māori creation myth of humankind which has an underlying message about using and appreciating what you have already.
What happened after Ranginui and Papatuānuku separated?
What came after Rangi and Papa was man. Actually it was WOman. The recently separated brothers were fed up with the sausage fest and decided they wanted to create life. They wanted to create pussy. So the atua began to gather the red stained clay called kurawaka from the blood of their mother, Papatuānuku. Tānemahuta fashioned the shape of the woman in the image of the Mareikura who were wives to the guardians of heaven called the Whatukura. To this coke bottle body-ody, Tānemahuta’s brothers added muscles, flesh and fat.
After all this was done, Io, our supreme, sent Rehua, the head guardian of the Whatukura with five things. These were toto (blood), wai (water), wairua (spirit), manawa (heart) and hau (breath): the five principles in the creation of life. Tāne, the atua of the forest, planted his seed and grew life within her, cementing our connection to the earth. Finally, he bent over the lifeless form and breathed into its nostrils, giving her the first hongi.
The woman’s chest rose and then she took her first breath, “Tihei”. All of the atua were pleased with the woman so they gave her the gift of life – “Mauri ora”. The first woman was called Hineahuone – woman made of earth. Io decided that it was time that the atua and Hineahuone should receive a gift that would help humankind in their quest for knowledge.
Io sent his bitch boy Rehua to fetch an atua to climb to the highest of the twelve heavens to receive the three baskets of knowledge. Tāne volunteered and when he arrived he was blessed, then handed three kete.
The first kete (kete tuauri) contained all of the ritual chants needed to converse with Ranginui, Papatuānuku and their offspring. These were the ancient karakia that allowed man to ask the deities to control the weather so that conditions would be favourable for human pursuits. Gathering food, fishing and even sailing.
The second kete (kete tuatea) was the basket of evil that contained all the bad things to know- also known as the kete of toxic exes.
The third and final kete (kete aronui) had in it all the good things to know. These included positive human emotions as well as the teaching of all those practices that benefit humankind. This knowledge pertained to the earth, land, water, animals, birds, fish, insects and food.
These were brought back to earth for humans and atua alike to share and bask in the knowledge. These teachings are still furthered today through song, chant and recited karakia.
The biggest take away from this is that we are literally part of the earth. All of our actions go back to her and thus we should conduct ourselves accordingly. Like Tāne, make do with what you have already. Don’t go buying takeaway cups for your coffee; just reuse the Keep Cups the Christian cults gave out to us on O-week (better than the jandals they used to give out tbh).
Make do with what you got now! I’m not telling you lonely people to go fashion yourself a new S/O out of dirt, because you’ll get an STI. But I am telling you to appreciate what you have already, physical and intangible.
Appreciate not only what you have, but what you are. Just like Hineahuone, you were made with a purpose. She was created in the perfect image, with everything she needed. If you trace that whakapapa all the way back to you, then you can recognise that you too are a part of a long line of greatness.
What your tupuna were trying to say
”Kāore ā te rākau whakairo, kei te tohunga te whakairo.”
The wood has no understanding, only the carver.
Meaning: A mild rebuke to one who attempts to instruct the leader.
Modern Lesson: Don’t be an asshole. Don’t correct the lecturer.
”Haere taka mua, taka muri; kaua e whai.”
Go in front not behind; don’t follow.
Meaning: Be a leader not a follower, lest you be led astray by an erratic leader.
Modern Life Lesson: Try speaking up in your tutorial, shut that pretentious teachers pet up. We all know you did the reading.
”Me haere I raro I te kāhu kōrako, kia kai I te kai, kia whiwhi I te taonga.”
Travel with a white hawk so that you eat well and receive gifts.
Meaning: The white hawk stands for a prominent chief. The company of such a personage ensured the best treatment.
Modern Life Lesson: The white hawk is your professor. Try going to the networking events they talk about in class. It’s usually free food and awesome opportunities.
”He moenga rangatira he moenga karaka; he moengaware he moenga haunga.”
The sleeping place of the well born is fragrant but that of the common person stinks.
Meaning: Those reared to have self respect, pride in personal appearance, and habits of cleanliness, will have the respect of others.
Modern Life Lesson: Clean your fucking room. I’m not your mother.