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The Māori Tūhoe People- Guardians of the Sacred Te Urewera Rainforest

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Today, we visit Oceania to learn about the Māori Tūhoe. New Zealand is a country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It comprises two main islands, namely, the North Island and South Island plus about 600 other smaller islands. The nation has a population of about 5 million, of which the majority are of European descent, with the Māori forming the most significant minority and then followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. The Māori call New Zealand Aotearoa. This means the “land of the long white cloud” in the Māori language. They are the original inhabitants of New Zealand, having arrived in the 14th century from Eastern Polynesia. A distinct group of about 40,000 Māori is called the Tūhoe people who are the focus of today’s program. Te Urewera, the Tūhoe’s homeland, is located in New Zealand's North Island. It covers approximately 2,127 square kilometers of rugged hill country and features vast blue-green lakes and fast-running north-flowing rivers. The individuals living in these areas take care of the rainforest. Te Urewera is extremely important to the Tūhoe people, as historically it has been their primary source of food, clothing, medicine, shelter and dignity. The Tūhoe people protect Te Urewera as a precious site via an ancient Māori practice known as kaitiakitanga, which means “guardianship,” through caring and maintaining the ecological system and environment. The key point of the practice is to understand the connection and relationship of people and nature. Humans are linked to the wild and need to protect and care for the mauri, or life force of the forests, rivers and lakes. This involves daily checking of the condition of the woodlands and water bodies through the observation and collection of data, replenishing and planting of native plants and trees, and safeguarding all habitats thus balancing the ecology within the rainforest and its surroundings. To the Tūhoe, mountains are significant places as they are the final resting place of their ancestors. Mountains are reflected in Tūhoe oral traditions, songs and haka or dance as significant symbols of identity. The Tūhoe certainly respect nature. We now share some examples of Tūhoe traditions.
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