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Why the Wai? Thoughts on the name change.

One of the best things about walking on a New Zealand beach is the big space it offers.  During my past trip I often found myself walking the beach forward but taking a figurative step backward to consider the various thoughts, feelings, and ideas that YOU, my hosts, fellow educators, and students shared with me.

As I spent time with Kim Jones and Soozee McIntyre during the first weeks of the tour, I was taken to streams and reminded that it’s not just the longfin eels that we need to raise awareness for, but ALL native life in our rivers and oceans.  Next, during my time in the intensely farmed Wairarapa, I learned that many of you long to see the sparkle; the spirit, the soul, the life (the mauri) returned to the water (wai) including Wairarapa Moana (lake), which can be considered the freshwater eye of the fish that is the North Island.  The Luddens and the Aratoi taught me the importance and meaning of these and many Maori language terms, and the Fields enriched my understanding with with the river group’s inclusive and call-for-action motto: “Tou Tatoe Awa” (Our River, Our Responsibility).

Next, with the help of the writings of Paul Shepard, I soon realized that whenever we claim to be “saving” something we are mentally and emotionally setting that thing apart as separate from ourselves.  And, it is just that thinking of ourselves as not really part of nature itself which leads us to take actions or in-actions that are degrading to the environment in which we all (human and non-human alike) have a right to live.  Also, “Save the Eels” is also easily labeled by many as a “greenie, tree-hugging thing” at a time when we all need to recognize importance of and need to change our actions.  Finally, as I ended my time with Hilary Isles in Canterbury, I learned of the need to be pro-active and focused on education for sustainability.  “Return the Mauri to the Wai” is a call to action for all of us to do our part to help bring back that which is not just normal within an ecosystem upon which all varieties of life depend and inter-relate, but also a call to restore the wild essence that keeps the natural human body and soul healthy.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcomed.  Actually, they are like wild eels in our rivers: vital to the mauri of this ever-flowing project.

Aroha mai…aroha atu,

Te Tuna Wahine

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