Kaitiakitanga refers to sustainable practices for the management of natural resources.
As katiaiki (guardians) Māori were responsible for ensuring the viability of land and resources for future generations. Principles guided the practices, which were informed by Mātauranaga – knowledge, culture, values and world-view. Knowledge was generated via careful and rigorous observation, prediction and experiment, from which guidelines and methods were developed to meet the needs and requirements of communities. Kaitiakitanga was an obligation to act and care for one’s own, from within a whakapapa framing.Dr Dan Hikuroa. Webpage here
Kaitakitanga is an important responsibility of stewardship or guardianship passed on to us from our ancestors, in order to provide a sustainable future for those who inherit the world from us.
In addition to kaitiakitanga referring to guardianship of the natural environment to ensure its sustainability, we can also reflect on how it relates to important aspects of school life.
- How do we exercise good guardianship over the health, safety and wellbeing of students and the wider school community in order to ensure that the school environment is one in which people thrive?
- How do we safeguard the story of our school’s history in order to ensure that that story continues to be held, understood and honoured by future generations?
- How do we safeguard the school’s Anglican identity and Christian ethos and ensure that that is maintained with relevance and integrity, and enacted through the school’s stated values and vision?
What it is not:
Within a Judeo-Christian view of the world there has been an approach to stewardship based on the idea of ‘subduing’ and ‘domination’ of the environment and its creatures, with justification for this attitude based in large part on the narrative in the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:3), particularly verses 28-30:
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Rather than caring for the environment and ensuring its thriving for generations to come, there has been a commodifying of it for profit and an unsustainable ‘using up’ of it. We are seeing the consequences of that misreading of scripture in our ‘waking up’ to the climate crisis and the increasing cries, particularly from younger generations, to wake up to our responsibilities and take immediate action before it is too late.
What makes this a Christian value:
1. The Judeo-Christian tradition attests that the life of all creatures on earth is dependent on food, water, the rhythms of weather and seasons, created by God who is the life-giving breath and sustainer of all things
These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created’ and you renew the face of the ground.Ps 104:27-30
Playing our role as responsible guardians of the environment is part of our ‘work of worship’ and our honouring of God.
2. We are called to be in relationship with both God and others, our ‘neighbour’ and to work for the ‘common good’. This points to our interdependence, that life is life together, with God and with others (including those past and those yet to come) and not about a focus on satisfying our personal wants and desires at the expense of the sustainability of the environment or of the wellbeing of others.
and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”Matt 22:35-40
3. The prophets emphasised the way in which our wellbeing is connected with the wellbeing of others, particularly with those in our society who are vulnerable or ‘on the edge’.
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly…then you shall call and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.Isaiah 58:6-9
The ‘vulnerable’ in our world today requiring justice and care can certainly be other people, but equally, it could also be said to be the environment and its creatures whose very survival is at risk because of human greed and exploitation.
4. Jesus emphasised the importance of serving others and of putting the needs of others before our own.
So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.Mark 10:42-45