20 Mar 2012

Whale stranding sparks cultural debate

9:09 am on 20 March 2012

A whale stranding on Chatham Islands (Rekohu) over the weekend has re-ignited ancient traditions to save part of the carcass including the jaw and teeth of the mammal for cultural purposes.

Representatives of Te Iwi Moriori, Ngati Mutunga, and Department of Conservation staff on Monday joined together in a karakia ceremony to bless a sperm whale that died after becoming stranded on the foreshore.

General manager of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust Board Maui Solomon says although by law DoC actually owns the whale remains, the three parties are now working out the best cultural course of action to keep parts of the whale.

He says under the Marine Mammals Protection Act DoC is deemed to be the lawful owner of the bones, but of course Moriori have a relationship with those kinds of taonga or resources from stranded whales as well as Ngati Mutunga.

Mr Solomon says the three groups are going to have discussions about the most appropriate way of dealing with the bones and the teeth hopefully in a mutually beneficial and collaborative way.

In Moriori tradition the teeth and some bones are usually kept aside for carving jewellery and to be used for cultural purposes, and Maui Solomon hopes the DoC will agree to this and allow them to continue with their customary rights.