IMN@UCBerkeley Meeting: Hauiti Hakopa

Note: IMN@UCBerkeley convened mapping practitioners, indigenous community members, indigenous rights organizations, researchers, and technology professionals to discuss current issues in indigenous mapping.  Our meetings were intended to create a platform for supporting indigenous mapping collaborations and linking communities with emerging technologies. We organized a series of invited talks hosted on campus; I wrote articles about these talks which were posted on the IMN website to share with other members of the group who weren’t able to attend. Below I have reproduced the article with permission.

February 2010 Berkeley IMN meeting – Hauiti Hakopa, Cultural Geographer: “Na to rourou, na taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi” – “Your basket of knowledge & my basket of knowledge – combined our tribe will thrive & survive!”
Article by Melissa Eitzel

This week, down in Mountain View, is the Indigenous Mapping Network/Google Tribal Geo Tech Workshop. Over 75 attendees engaged in indigenous mapping received training on Google’s mapping tools and discussed issues such as information security. Up at Berkeley, we were lucky to have some of those attendees make the trek up on Wednesday night, including our speaker, Hauiti. We were pleased to have these visitors make the trip, and also pleased that so many of our campus participants came out to hear Hauiti speak. We had a mix of undergraduates and graduates, mostly from Environmental Science, Policy and Management, but also from Archeology and from the Energy and Resources Group. Researchers and visiting scholars also joined us, along with our visitors from the conference including founding members of IMN and our speaker and his wife from New Zealand. Our attendees included Navajo, Hupa, Coast Miwok, Hawaiian, and of course Maori. We were blessed with such a diverse group. Thank you for coming!

Hauiti is a PhD student in Information Science at the University of Otago, in Aotearoa/New Zealand. His current work involves mapping songs: listening to songs sung to children, pulling out placenames and locating them on a map. Sometimes this involves mapping based on winds and currents! In particular, the stories he shared with us are mostly from the east coast of the north island. Some experiences are hard to capture in words, and this was one of them for me; ironically words were the point of this presentation! I am now faced with trying to describe to readers what Hauiti talked about, and what it was like to hear him speak, and I find that I was so engaged in listening that it is hard to summarize. But I’ll do my best!

On the surface, Hauiti says that these are songs sung to children (moteatea). In one summary of his talk, I saw the term lullaby (oriori)used. I fondly remember my grandmothers singing me to sleep with songs; but this is a different sort of lullaby. These songs are a way of teaching children from a very young age the important things: who they are, who their ancestors are (which are really the same thing), how to read the stars and how the heavens were created, where to find good food, details of tribal war history, who the important people in their community are, and much more. These are teaching songs, sung when the child is going to sleep and when they wake up in the morning – a sort of sleep-teaching. As he told us some of the stories and showed us pictures of some of the important related placesa picture took shape of all the different groups of Maori on the island, their relationships with each other, with the land, their language, and their ancestry… stories of famous and infamous ancestors, told with humor and pride. One gets a feeling for the depth and length of the stories for each tribal group. He showed us pictures of the ancestral houses (whare tipuna) and described how knowledge is represented in all the carvings and in the structure itself; how the ancestor of that group is represented at the top of the structure (tekoteko), for example.Hauiti also told us of schools of learning known as wananga, each had a very specific curriculum: navigation, boat-making, cosmology, genealogy (whakapapa). Every curriculum has a particular karakia (ancient esoteric chants), whakapapa (genealogies), tikanga(protocols for living) and korero purakau (stories). Some knowledge and some of the place names are ancient and came from the ancient lands known as Hawaiiki.

In Maori society, knowledge was held by key people known as tohunga. This is one of the ways in which knowledge was preserved and handed down from generation to generation; this seems to be a common thread in many indigenous cultures. I raise the question: how do we, all of us in the ‘modern’ age, balance between protecting and respecting those traditions, without losing the knowledge and stories if the right person is not available for it to be taught to? Hauiti said that he himself is an outsider to other Maori groups, and that there is a right way to ask them to share their knowledge. This is another important point for us to take home to our own mapping endeavors. He told several stories of elders who would simply stop in the middle of a story, or in some other way challenge him to think about what he was learning; to go and do some homework, so to speak. To work to remember or reconstruct what they are telling him for himself. Knowledge is earned, in some sense, by really working to understand what you are hearing and to check it. This is not so unlike university education, in my opinion.

In the discussion following Hauiti’s presentation, several topics came up. I just want to highlight one of them: the important issue of information security. In California, one of our attendees told us, we have the problem that mapping done with federal money results in information being available to the public. At that point, unscrupulous individuals go ‘pot hunting’ – essentially illegally digging at sites which have now been revealed by the mapping, presumably to sell cultural artifacts. This is an important consequence to mapping, and I think we should continue to discuss how best to protect sensitive information.  There are laws protecting sacred sites in California, but even with those in place, sites may still be vulnerable. The question was put to Hauiti as to whether this is a problem in his country. First of all, he responded, the locations are not precisely specified. In addition, and maybe more importantly, the names, even the stories, wouldn’t be enough for an outsider (even another Maori from a different tribe) to locate the place precisely. So publishing the names alone does not reveal enough to locate the places – the key to understanding where they really are is in the true understanding of the names. “The language is the key to understanding the land.”

Hauiti stressed the importance for his children to really learn to speak their own language, because “maps are only as good as the people who read them.” Finally, he closed with the statement that in all the research we do, we must bring our people with us all the time and never let them fall behind. I think these are important points to remember for all of us who want to help indigenous people (including our own, in many cases) to map their knowledge. Thank you for your wisdom and for sharing the stories with us, Hauiti, and thank you everyone for coming to the meeting to share in the presentation and the discussion afterwards.