A part of ISE’s history: Maori claim to the Waitangi Tribunal

From Maui Solomon, Barrister at Law, Porirua New Zealand, past ISE President

Tena kotou katoa (greetings to all),

The long awaited historic report on the Maori claim to the Waitangi Tribunal (known colloquially as the Wai 262 claim) in relation to indigenous flora and fauna and associated cultural and intellectual property rights was released at a hui on Roma Marae in Northland on Saturday 2 July 2011. The ISE has had a long standing association with this claim and a number of past and present members of the ISE gave evidence to the Tribunal in 1998 at a special hearing convened in Rotorua NZ. Those who gave evidence were the late Dr Darrell Posey, Dr David Stephenson (the current ISE President), Alejandro Argumedo (Peru) and Stephan Shnenierer (Australia) on the issues confronting indigenous peoples worldwide and how the issues raised in Wai 262 are the same as those being grappled with by States and indigenous peoples all over the globe.

I want to thank once again those of the ISE who have given their generous time and support to the claim over many years and in particular those who gave evidence in 1998. Unfortunately due to funding and timing constraints your President Dave Stephenson was not able to attend the release ceremony but wrote a lovely acknowledgment of the claimants and the importance of the claim internationally which I am also attaching with this message as it is important for the wider membership to be aware of the role that ISE has played in this landmark claim and now report. Thank you Dave.

Also attached below for those who may wish to know more about it and the findings of the report, is a link to the website containing the full report as well as a media release about the report itself.

Read the extraordinary WAI 262 report and the Tribunal’s media release. I also recommend checking out the Wai 262 claimants website on the report which is www.wai262.weebly.com.

Me Rongo (in peace),

Maui Solomon

WAI 262 Findings: remarks by ISE President David Stephenson (July 2011)

It is a rare privilege and high honor for me, as a former participant in the Wai 262 proceedings, and, now, as President of the International Society of Ethnobiology, to be asked to share some remarks at this special, historic occasion of the announcement of the Waitangi Tribunal’s Wai 262 Findings.  I regret that I am unable to be present in person, but I am grateful that Counsel Maui Solomon has graciously agreed to deliver these remarks on my behalf.

First, I want to acknowledge the dedication and tenacity of all involved in the Wai 262 proceedings.  Many people have toiled many years at great sacrifice to reach this point where the important findings of the Tribunal are about to be broadcast to the world.

Second, I want to confirm from the opposite side of the globe that the world indeed will be watching and listening for the announcement of these findings.  Only after the passage of time will it be possible to measure their ultimate significance, but I anticipate that the findings in this case by this Tribunal will be an historic landmark in international law that will reverberate throughout the globe for years to come.

Twenty-three years ago, in 1988, at the inaugural Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology in Belém, Brazil, more than 600 people from 35 countries, including representatives from 16 indigenous societies, came together to form  a common strategy to stop the rapid deterioration of the planet’s biological and cultural diversity.  Since then, the Society has convened on every even year on a different continent, and its Congresses have been attended by representatives of hundreds of indigenous peoples and local communities embodying traditional life-styles alongside hundreds of eminent ethnobiologists and other distinguished scholars and professionals from throughout the world.

At the 1988 Congress, the Society adopted the Declaration of Belém.  A fundamental tenet of this Declaration is that there is an inextricable link between the preservation of cultural diversity and biological diversity on our planet.  That tenet has remained a driving principle of the work of the Society since its inception.

Throughout the life of the Society, the Society has also had an inextricable link with the land and peoples of Aotearoa, especially the struggles within Aotearoa to reach an accommodation between the Crown and the Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi, specifically with respect to the flora and fauna and associated intellectual property rights claims that form the basis of the Wai 262 proceedings before the Waitangi Tribunal.  This link has included, but not been limited to:

  1. The First International Conference on the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples was held in Whakatane from June 12 to 18, 1993.  The International Society of Ethnobiology was well represented by its membership at this conference, and the participants at this Whakatane conference adopted the Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples, now known as the Mataatua Declaration.  The Mataatua Declaration has been another guiding force in the work of the Society and other international bodies concerned with the close interrelationship between indigenous peoples’ cultural and intellectual property rights and the preservation of rapidly-disappearing flora and fauna in indigenous peoples’ traditional homelands.
  2. In 1998, Whakatane hosted the Society’s Fifth International Congress in conjunction with the Wai 262 Proceedings taking place in Rotorua.  Three Society members testified at this Rotorua session.  At the Whakatane Congress, the Society also formally adopted its Code of Ethics, which has since served as a model code of ethics for numerous scientists and academic institutions throughout the world involved in ethnobiological research.
  3. Notably, Maui Solomon, counsel for the Maori in the Wai 262 proceedings, has served a long, distinguished tenure in a number of capacities for the Society, including as its President, as Chair of its Global Coalition, as a Board member, and as  Chair of its Council of Elders.
  4. In addition, during the course of the past two decades, Society members have from time to time been graciously hosted in marae by Iwi throughout Aotearoa, and thereby Society members have gained insights into the lives and felt needs of the peoples of Aotearoa that they could never have gained from academic research alone.

The Society and its members have thus gained much from its relationship with Aotearoa and its peoples over the years from the gracious hospitality, knowledge, wisdom, and dedicated services that the people of Aotearoa have so generously imparted to the Society.  Among the most valuable insights gained by the Society and its members from this relationship is that the fundamental tenet first enunciated in Belém over two decades ago that there is an inextricable link between protecting a people’s culture and protecting the flora and fauna that has traditionally been integral to that culture is a not a mere platitude, but a principle that is dramatically tested in the daily lives of a vibrant society in ways that have dynamic, contemporary international repercussions.  The Wai 262 proceedings are the most salient testament to this reality.

Today, the dangers that spurred the Declaration of Belém and the initiation of the Wai 262 proceedings are more threatening than ever, and the work of the Waitangi Tribunal is thus more important than ever.  As I have noted, the Wai 262 findings are likely to have world-wide ramifications for generations.

I am accordingly as deeply humbled as I am highly honored to have been asked to be even a small part of the Wai 262 proceedings and to have been invited to return as a witness to these historic findings.  I extend my warmest heartfelt greetings from afar and my deepest best wishes to all who have contributed to this momentous occasion.

Me rongo,

/David J. Stephenson, Jr./

David J. Stephenson, Jr., J.D., Ph.D

President, International Society of Ethnobiology