Indigenous Cultural Knowledge for Therapeutic Landscape Design

Indigenous Cultural Knowledge for Therapeutic Landscape Design

Jacqueline McIntosh (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand), Bruno Marques (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and William Hatton (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4186-8.ch002
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The meanings of place and the relationship between place and health have culturally specific dimensions. This is of particular importance for indigenous people and communities as often regarding landscape as part of a circle of life, establishing a holistic perspective about health and wellbeing. The indigenous Māori of Aotearoa/New Zealand contend that their relationship with the land shapes how the cultural, spiritual, emotional, physical, and social wellbeing of people and communities are expressed. Few studies have explored the influence of the cultural beliefs and values on health, in particular the intricate link between land and health. This chapter broadens the understanding of therapeutic landscapes through the exploration of specific cultural dimensions. It contributes to the expanding body of research focusing on the role of therapeutic landscapes and their role in shaping health, through the development of new research methods.
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Increased globalization has contributed to a rapid increase in the impact of human activity. To date, the best endeavors of conservation of natural resources have failed, extinction rates are escalating, and pressures on biodiversity are also increasing (Mace, 2014). As the costs of environmental mismanagement continue to accumulate, awareness of the consequences of habitat destruction, overharvesting and invasive species become overwhelmingly evident (Mace, 2014; Ruddick, 2015). The realization that nature provides crucial and irreplaceable goods and services has been consistently ignored by Western civilization.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, where biculturalism has emerged as a viable organizing national ideology, the role of the landscape is highly contested. The indigenous Māori of New Zealand contend their relationship with the land in shaping how the cultural, spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being of people and communities are expressed. The combination of a dominant culture of non-indigenous people of European descent with a highly urbanized society has resulted in the deterioration of the environment and with it a loss of the minority Māori cultural values concerning the landscape.

For Māori, identity is rooted in landscape. An interconnected cultural and ancestral history shared through the landscape (whenua) determines an individual’s place in the world. Traditional Māori tikanga (customs and traditions) imparts an inherent connectedness to landscape, where self is literally a part of landscape and land comprises not only the physical realm but also social, ancestral and psychological attributes (Mark & Lyons, 2010). The landscape is part of a circle of life, establishing a holistic perspective concerning the relationship between health and well-being, and celebrating the spiritual and natural history gained over centuries. If the landscape is healthy, the people are healthy and healing the individual means healing the earth.

This chapter focusses on the Mātauranga Māori process (Māori knowledge) of investigating landscape relying on the past, present and future to better understand the importance of landscape and the therapeutic values imparted through the four pillars of Māori health and well-being, generally known as Te Whare Tapa Whā (Ministry of Health Manatū Hauora, 2017). The research methodology is transformative in its acknowledgment of the potential of indigenous knowledge and culture in healing the environment. It contributes to the expanding role of therapeutic landscapes in shaping physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It also highlights the potential to revolutionize aged-care as it challenges the ways aging is managed through individual and social empowerment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Whakapapa: Genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent. Reciting whakapapa was, and is, an important skill and reflected the importance of genealogies in Maori society regarding leadership, land and fishing rights, kinship, and status.

Honohono: Spiritual energy healing. It uses vibrational energy techniques for improving and maintaining health by balancing the bodies’ energy system.

Ki Uta Ki Tai: It is a traditional concept that represents kaitiakitanga (guardianship) from the mountains and great inland lakes, down the rivers to hapua /lagoons, wahapu /estuaries and to the sea. Ki uta ki tai encapsulates the need to recognize and manage the interconnectedness of the whole environment.

Mana: Prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma – mana is a supernatural force in a person, place, or object.

Kaupapa Maori: Maori approach, Maori topic, Maori customary practice, Maori institution, Maori agenda, Maori principles, Maori ideology – a philosophical doctrine, incorporating the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values of Maori society.

Noa: To be free from the extensions of tapu, ordinary, unrestricted, void.

Manaakitanga: Hospitality, kindness, generosity, support – the process of showing respect, generosity, and care for others.

Tupuna: Ancestors, grandparents.

Matauranga: Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, skill.

Tohunga: Skilled person, chosen expert, priest, healer – a person chosen by the agent of an atua (gods) and the tribe as a leader in a particular field because of signs indicating talent for a particular vocation.

Whanaungatanga: Relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group.

Hapu: Sub-tribe. Kinship group, clan, tribe, subtribe – section of a large kinship group and the primary political unit in traditional Maori society.

Rongoa: Rongoa is traditional Maori medicine – a system of healing that was passed on orally. It comprised diverse practices and an emphasis on the spiritual dimension of health. Rongoa includes herbal remedies, physical therapies such as massage and manipulation, and spiritual healing.

Korero: Speech, narrative, story, news, account, discussion, conversation, discourse, statement, information.

Iwi: tribe. Extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality, race that often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor and associated with a distinct territory.

Tapu: Restriction, prohibition – a supernatural condition. A person, place or thing is dedicated to an atua (god) and is thus removed from the sphere of the profane and put into the sphere of the sacred. It is untouchable, no longer to be put to common use.

Pakeha: New Zealander of European descent – probably originally applied to English-speaking Europeans living in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Kotahitanga: Unity, togetherness, solidarity, collective action.

Rangatiratanga: Chieftainship, right to exercise authority, chiefly autonomy, chiefly authority, ownership, leadership of a social group, domain of the rangatira, noble birth, attributes of a chief.

Tikanga: Correct procedure, custom, habit, lore, method, manner, rule, way, code, meaning, plan, practice, convention, protocol – the customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in the social context.

Kaitiakitanga: Guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship, trustee.

Mana Whenua: Territorial rights, power of the land, authority over land or territory, jurisdiction over land or territory – power associated with possession and occupation of tribal land.

Papa Kainga: Original home, home base, village, communal Maori land.

Tangata Whenua: Local people, hosts, indigenous people – people born of the whenua (i.e., of the placenta and of the land where the people's ancestors have lived and where their placenta are buried).

Mauri: Life principle, life force, vital essence, special nature, a material symbol of a life principle, source of emotions – the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity.

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