`E pakihi hakinga a kai: An examination of pre-contact resource management practice in Southern Te Wai Pounamu
Williams, Jim (2004) `E pakihi hakinga a kai: An examination of pre-contact resource management practice in Southern Te Wai Pounamu. PhD thesis, University of Otago.
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Life was difficult in Te Wäi Pounamu before European contact. Food collecting had to return more calories than were expended in the efforts of acquisition. Areas where food was available were conserved as well as enhanced and were exploited seasonally in such a way as to optimise each season’s take. It is suggested that the absence of kümera cultivations south of the Opihi river, prior to the introduction of the potato towards the end of the 18th Century, was clearly reflected in Mäori life-style and social structure. Hapü were resource based rather than regional, and the resources of various hapü might be intermingled over a wide area or indeed, in some cases, shared (see: Anderson, 1980). The “orthodox” view (Anderson, 1980, etc.) is one of “Hunters and Gatherers” who exploit available resources. I argue that the resources were, in fact, managed with a view to sustainable and optimal harvests in the future. I shall apply Harris’ (1987:75) optimal foraging theory in an endeavour to show that there are signs of the quality of life as a result of a low per capita human energy input into food production. This is principally evidenced by the foods eaten just for pleasure (kai rëhia) and the time available for optional activities. Accordingly, kai and the practices to control them differed from the often better documented food resources of more Northern parts of Te Wäi Pounamu and Aotearoa. Nevertheless, the absence of horticulture in the south and the concomitant peripatetic life-style did not result in a lack of stewardship of resources. Based substantially on the analysis of a series of mahika kai1 lists, collected from elders early in the contact period, and details of traditional practices that have been handed down, this thesis argues that by 1780, when Captain Cook introduced European goods, southern Kai Tahu had in place effective procedures and practices for the sustainable use of renewable resources. Initially an enduring "pre-fleet" influence will be proposed, based on Archaeological, Linguistic, Ethnographic and Traditional evidence (e.g. whakapapa). This, in conjunction with the absence of kümera, led to a distinctive life-style in the South.
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