People and nature blur in the world’s indigenous languages

Sharing experiences about the role of indigenous and local knowledge in restoring interrelations between people and nature was the focus of a Conservation Campus organised by IUCN’s People in Nature (PiN) initiative during the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i, in collaboration with the Hawaiian non-profit organisation Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA). The event brought together participants of the IUCN Congress from around the world and people associated with KUA to talk about the role of nature in the restoration of land- and ocean-based relationships and reconciliation between peoples.

Surprisingly, many people with native or indigenous backgrounds feel uneasy about the way Western discourse separates these as two discrete concepts. “Nature and people are not two separate things, they are the same: nature is people and people are nature” – was how one of the participants of the Conservation Campus put it.

This was reinforced by Tina Ngata, a participant from Aotearoa, New Zealand: “If you ask me the value of nature for my well-being it’s like asking me the value of my head for my well-being. It doesn’t make sense.”

The perspective that nature and culture are not just interlinked, but that they are inseparable, is shared amongst many native and indigenous worldviews. For indigenous groups, it is often difficult to talk about issues related to nature outside of the context of their people, which is reflected by the way these concepts are translated into language, songs and creation stories.

The Māori language uses terms for nature and human elements interchangeably. For example, Ko wai au has the dual meaning of who am I and I am water. Similarly, the word for land, whenua, is also the word for placenta.

Read more: Huffington Post

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