Spotlight on Maori medicine

Monday April 23, 2018 Written by Published in Outer Islands
The people of Manhiki spoke about their concernings regarding potentially "losing the mana" of their traditional medicines. PHOTO: Julie Taripo Shedden The people of Manhiki spoke about their concernings regarding potentially "losing the mana" of their traditional medicines. PHOTO: Julie Taripo Shedden

The first Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of Genetic Resources consultation meeting was held on Tuesday night on the island of Pukapuka.

Project coordinator Emily Pierre, senior biodiversity officer for the National Environment Service (NES) Elizabeth Munro, ABS analysts Maureen Hilyard and Matilda Tairea all helped to facilitate the event.

The trip’s purpose was to consult with residents regarding the potential commercialisation of traditional knowledge and skills. Vairakau Maori, or traditional Maori medicine is an area of particular interest to Western doctors. However, the ABS group and other government agencies are keen to consult with locals before their “secret recipes” are made public.

Plants, animals, and all living organisms carry genetic material that could be potentially useful to humans. These resources can be taken from the wild, domesticated, or cultivated. They are sourced from environments in which they occur naturally, or from man-made collections such as botanical gardens, gene banks, seed banks, etc.

Access and benefit-sharing refers to the way in which genetic resources may be accessed. Specifically, there is a focus on how the benefits that result from the use of genetic resources are shared between the people or countries using the resources and the people or countries that provide them.

There was a good turnout at the meeting in Pukapuka and it was deemed to be a success. “They fully support the idea of creating this policy to protect our traditional knowledge” said Julie Taripo Shedden, who was also a part of the travelling group.

The group also made a presentation to residents of Penrhyn, Manihiki, and Rakahanga. Aitutaki and Mangaia had previously been consulted before the trip to the North. Shedden said they received “interesting feedback” from the residents regarding Maori medicine.

“They expressed the need to hold on to their traditional knowledge…it is sacred to them and they did not want to reveal the ingredient in each medicine” said Shedden.

“They also felt strongly about not turning their knowledge into money-making ideas for the reason that once they do that, they lose the mana of the medicine and it will no longer be effective.”

The ABS team will continue compiling the opinions and viewpoints of the outer island residents, before drafting the ABS policy.

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