The revival and integration of traditional knowledge and practices for cyclones into government policies and planning

Carlson, Charles
Ka'ai, Tania
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Cook Island traditional knowledge and practices to prevent, mitigate and respond to disasters has been passed down for generations well before the arrival of missionaries to Cook Island shores. Our forebearers lived in oneness with nature and had a deep spiritual affiliation to the land, the sea and to their Atua (God). They were able to forecast future events by observing the behaviour of birds, animals, plants, trees or by reading the signs of the stars, the movement of clouds, the moon and the sun.

This exegesis will critically investigate the use of traditional knowledge and practices in responding to disasters in Cook Islands Disaster Risk Management (DRM). Furthermore, It will be argued that Cook Island traditional knowledge in response to disasters is now being recognised locally and globally as a critical tool to enhance DRM as part of government planning and preparedness. This gives expression to the Yokohama Strategy (UNISDR, 1994) which recognises the rights of traditional knowledge and practices and, various Cook Islands policies which integrate traditional knowledge and practices across all sector plans.

The Carlson Kōkā Model, an Indigenous research methodology, provides a culturally appropriate framework to explain the Cook Islands Māori world view being used in conducting this research. The description of the various sections of the Kōkā Model from its papa (foundation) to its Atua including its supporting systems and emerging themes provides an understanding of the holistic approach to this research and complements the qualitiative method used to conduct interviews described as tuatua mai (informal conversation). The experiences and stories told by aronga pakari (elderly) and ta’unga (priest, orator, healer, expert, repository of traditional knowledge) shows the strength of traditional knowledge and practices in the Cook Islands.

There are three research questions: The primary question is, does traditional knowledge enhance the prevention, mitigation, planning and preparedness for natural disasters across all sectors in government planning and policies? Two sub-questions are: How can traditional Indigenous knowledge and science be integrated to strengthen Cook Island resilience toward a safe, secure and sustainable future? How do we bring traditional knowledge to the forefront of our planning and implementation strategies to strengthen resilience in the Cook Islands?

This exegesis is complemented by a documentary of 38 minutes featuring the ta’unga who are the traditional knowledge bearers associated with forecasting disasters across the Cook Islands and responding to the weather patterns to keep their communities safe.

Cook Islands , Traditional knowledge , Natural disasters , Weather patterns
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