Visiting tapu / culturally sensitive places in NZ
I've been following with interest the discussion our bushwalking cousies across the ditch have been having about accessing sacred aboriginal sites whilst bushwalking: http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=17358 I've been fascinated not only by the discussion but also the thought out, nuanced way they are managing to discuss the topic - no moderator needing to pull warring parties apart or close the thread. == My question is tangential to their discussion though: Is there an equivalent tradition of places in NZ that iwi hold tapu/sensitive enough that they do not want us to visit them at all whilst tramping? === We've had various talks from iwi representatives at work about what to do if we encounter human remains or traditional camps - 'leave them as you find them, treat the place with respect'. But never have we been specifically asked to not enter any specific place. I can recall occasional talk in the media over whether it is respectful to climb peaks such as Ruapehu or Taranaki - but I can't recall any strongly worded consensus from any iwi condemning the practise. In all my tramping the only example I can think of where we're asked to 'stay out' is Maungapohatu in the Urewera. Is this just me being ignorant of other examples? Or is access itself to sacred sites in NZ not a concern amongst Maori - so long as we leave such places as we find them, treat them with respect?
Ulluru or Ayers rock is being closed to the public next year.. I think its an outright ban more than just a "please don't climb" its not a traditional area for trampers, more one for tourists. the aussie bushwalking forum has a rule not to divulge any information about the location of sacred sites to discourage people from trying to seek them out. the bushwalk forum had its days of abusive people. they were all given an ultimatum to stop their behaviour or be removed.
For a large number of peaks Maori do hold a cultural connection and in a lot of cases they do have technical ownership if not actual ownership. Tongarero and Taranaki fit into this. They own these peaks but vest the management to Doc who manage the surrounding national parks. If I was to visit any of these peaks I know not to do anything to do with food but only from newspaper reports about that group of students that thought it a good idea to take a bbq up to the top of Taranaki. I know the same applys at Cape Reinga but beyond that I have to admit Im ignorant about what I should and shouldnt do and what areas to apply that to. If I knew an area was culturally significant I probably would treat it the same as a church of any faith and hope that was enough to show that at least I had tried to show respect.
Moehau in the Coromandel is another place. Was in there looking for frogs to photograph and was warned before hand not to climb to top of Moehau as it was considered sacred. I think DOC website has something on this place. Would have liked to get to the top, the views must be fantastic, bush surrounds permitting of course. I didn't get any where near it, spent all my time scrabbling around on my hands and knees at night looking for Archeys.
Sites that have human remains can be tapu e.g. the ground above high tide around Sand Hill Point near the Southern Coastal Walkway. I didn't know about consuming food on some summits. It makes sense if the summit is regarded as an ancestor's head. I understand consuming food breaks a tapu so would be very much inappropriate. It would be good to hear Gaiter's take on this if he cares to comment on this topic.
given how fast nz bush can grow and how much wetter nz is, sacred sites in nz may not be preserved as long as in drier aus. plus mst of aus terrain is easier access and from my impression the aboriginies regularly went to a lot of the places where aussies tramp, possibly more than in NZ. i've noted how the aussies mention coming across culturally sensitive sites more than people in nz..
Just because a site cant be seen any more doesnt mean its not there. You cant see a rail tunnel standing on the hill it goes under. A lot of sacred sites in many cultures no longer have what makes them sacred
I'm part Maori but don't pay much attention to some of the old tapu's such as not scaling certain peaks and not eating on summits that some people seem to be readopting. However I do treat human bones encountered with respect and quietly re bury them if able. In sand country I've come across quite a lot of human remains including at Sand Hill Point mentioned by Honora. At one site on an offshore Island I found an urupa and let the appropriate iwi know there were exposed bones. To my amazement they didn't know where the site was though they said it was recorded in their oral and written histories. I ended up showing them where it was and then not revisiting the site even though I did further work in the vicinity. Historic carvings, canoes and bird troughs have been encountered and I've left them where I found them. Relics that have been shifted over time by rivers and the sea are usually picked up and kept as curios.
Im not keen to comment.
Has social media changed how people approach this, by its demolishing of so many boundaries that used to exist? 20+ years ago much of this stuff would have simply been done. Maybe people would have written about it, and it might have gone as far as the local club newsletter. Today people write about it in social media. It gets shared. More people see it. Everyone learns more about what everyone else is doing and what everyone else is thinking, whether they want to or not, and frequently without context but with plenty of judgement. People discover stuff's happening they never imagined was happening, or which they might have suspected but never had it rubbed in their faces. People discover others are being offended by things they never imagined anyone would be offended by. Then everyone screams at each other. To top it off main-stream media stokes the fires, resulting in more social media, because the modern commercial model is about becoming the hub for masses of random people's attention and conversation rather than defining the conversation in any journalistic way.
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