Article

Indigenous ancestral sayings contribute to modern conservation partnerships: examples using Phormium tenax.

School of Maori and Pacific Development and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.
Ecological Applications (Impact Factor: 4.13). 02/2009; 19(1):267-75. DOI: 10.1890/07-1693.1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is central to indigenous worldviews and practices and is one of the most important contributions that indigenous people can bring to conservation management partnerships. However, researchers and managers may have difficulty accessing such knowledge, particularly where knowledge transmission has been damaged. A new methodological approach analyzes ancestral sayings from Maori oral traditions for ecological information about Phormium tenax, a plant with high cultural value that is a dominant component in many threatened wetland systems, and frequently used in restoration plantings in New Zealand. Maori ancestral sayings record an association with nectar-feeding native parrots that has only rarely been reported, as well as indications of important environmental parameters (rainfall and drought) for this species. These sayings provide evidence of indigenous management that has not been reported from interviews with elders, including evidence of fire use to create Phormium cultivations. TEK in Maori ancestral sayings imply landscape-scale processes in comparison to intensive, small-scale management methods often reported in interviews. TEK in ancestral sayings can be used to generate new scientific hypotheses, negotiate collaborative pathways, and identify ecological management strategies that support biodiversity retention. TEK can inform restoration ecology, historical ecology, and conservation management of species and ecosystems, especially where data from pollen records and archaeological artifacts are incomplete.

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