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Preserving paradise: Cook Islands shares ra’ui knowledge in Hawai’i

Saturday 23 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Environment, Features, Local, National


Preserving paradise: Cook Islands shares ra’ui knowledge in Hawai’i
Joshua Jim (left) from Atiu, an executive member of Kōrero o te 'Ōrau, is participating in the Rāhui (Ra'ui) Workshop in Kaua'i, Hawai'i. Picture: Kōrero o te 'Ōrau/24032011

Representatives from the Cook Islands are participating in the University of Hawai’i Rāhui (Ra’ui) Workshop to learn more about traditional ra’ui management systems for marine resources.

Rongo Preston, president of Te Koutu Nui, and Retire Puapii from Aitutaki (both representing Te Koutu Nui), along with Joshua Jim, an executive member of Kōrero o te 'Ōrau from Atiu, are attending the ra'ui workshop in Kaua'i.

Dr Teina Rongo, chairperson of the environmental NGO Kōrero o te 'Ōrau, explains that the workshop involves collaboration between three countries – the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. The goal is to understand and collect information on traditional ra’ui marine management practices.

Kōrero o te 'Ōrau is also actively involved in educating young people, particularly about cultural practices like fishing and ra'ui.

Rongo, a marine biologist, said the workshop organisers are interested in learning about how the Cook Islands manage their ra’ui, or “traditional management systems”.

Jim is a passionate young man eager to learn more about Cook Islands traditions and environmental cultural programmes.

He also serves as a representative of the Atiu management committee for the uninhabited island of Takutea.

Considering his age, Jim has already gained significant knowledge from his elders, according to Rongo. His role on the Takutea management committee includes the responsibility for the harvesting of it.

“He is our lead in Atiu and they have just finished the Atiu Paiere (fishing canoe) project and he is involved in collecting the knowledge around rā'ui,” Rongo said.

“This is an opportunity for him to work alongside these scientists in that space … he has the practical and local knowledge also, and this will expose him to more – the technical side of management – and capacity building for us.”

The ra’ui system is a traditional method for conserving and preserving any or all resources within the environment. It functions as a community-driven resource management tool implemented for an agreed-upon period by community leaders.

This customary management practice was revived by Te Koutu Nui in 1998 under the direction of the then-president, the late Te Tika Mataiapo Dorice Reid.