Many Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being
are well aligned with the emerging field of planetary health. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Indigenous MÄori population has long understood the interconnectedness between the natural environment and human health and well-being. This is reflected in MÄori worldviews and their conceptualization of health and well-being: hauora.i Hauora values a number of dimensions, including the emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being of families. It also articulates the fluidity that exists within the MÄori sense of identity: that an individual’s personhood hinges not only on one’s physical health, but also on the well-being and protection of their community and the natural world.
Despite this deep understanding of the integrated nature of human health and a flourishing natural environment, MÄori and Indigenous people worldwide are among the groups most vulnerable to environmental change. These changes exacerbate the ongoing effects of colonialism, and the destruction of the natural world has significant implications on the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of MÄori tribes.
The New Zealand government has made some progress in recognizing and modeling MÄori worldviews of health and well-being in its healthcare and natural resource policies—though many shortcomings remain. This case reiterates the importance of meaningful relationship-building and partnership in order to learn from Indigenous ways of knowing to strengthen our ability to address the unique challenges faced in the Anthropocene.
A Note on Language
This case study uses the te reo MÄori terms for MÄori concepts. Te reo MÄori, which translates to “the MÄori language,” is an official language of New Zealand. Around 55% of MÄori adults have some ability to speak te reo MÄori, and the language is increasingly used in official government documents and in the media.
While it’s difficult to directly translate concepts to definitions, this case study draws from the explanations received by the case study author and confirmed by the case study reviewer. Te reo MÄori proficiency is one of the measures used to gauge a person’s cultural well-being. The te reo MÄori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa, is also used in this case. Both describe the island country.
Finally, this case indicates iwi (tribe) affiliations. Iwi identities are listed in parentheses after the first mention of a person’s name.
This case study was drafted based on interviews conducted in Aotearoa New Zealand in July and August 2019. It was reviewed by Gabrielle Baker (NgÄpuhi) in September 2019.