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Correspondence with John Ashworth

John Answorth is helping to organize a meeting of Maori people. Here is part of his initial email.

Subject: Indigenous science
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 11:53:05 +0100

Dear Dr Peat,
I have been asked by a Maori elder to see if I could organise a conference in New Zealand which could bring together indigenous people from various countries and also traditional scientists who share the Maori concerns that their land is threatened.The Maori tribes consider themselves Guardians of the planet (as of course do many other peoples).

The particular Maori elder to whom I refer is a very influential person in the Maori world and is involved regularly in high level negotiations with the N.Z. government.The elder has lectured on Maori Science in NZ and is working to get NZ traditional scientists to understand the knowledge which Maori people have maintained and developed over many hundreds of years .This includes the traditions of protecting the environment and respecting the use of plants , animals in health, food and farming.One of the objectives of a conference would be to highlight the dangers of losing not only the land but the knowledge maintained over the years.

I gather from David Lorimer that you have had a long term interest in this area of indigenous science and I would be very grateful if we could have a brief discussion on this matter. Please could you let me know if this would be possible.

Best wishes

John Ashworth

Dear John

The idea of the meeting interests me very much. A few years ago, when I lived in Canada, I organized some meetings of Native American Elders with Western Scientists. I also know that there was a great deal of interest on the part of the Haida of the North West Coast of Canada and their connections to the Maori. Both are ocean going peoples who have a science of navigation over long distances.

Yes, I'd like to dialogue with you some more. I live in Italy, near to Siena, so it may have to be via email to begin with.


Dear David,

Thanks for the interest you have shown to our initial ideas. It was interesting to see your comment about the Haida. Part of mine and Joyce Koveleman's drive to do something positive in this area was reading the books by Barry Brailsford in New Zealand. Have you come across his work?. His original professional interest in NZ was straightforward archeology. Then he w as asked by the Whiteha people to document their long oral history. This led him to travel the world on their behalf and to become interested in the many Pacific voyages from ancient peoples in North and South America and Polynesia.

He then wrote 5 novels , whereby he could get the rather controversial beliefs about Pacific navigation out in the open. Two of the books include the Haida people. I met him earlier this year in NZ and he has a lot of books still to come.

Joyce and I met last year in Warwick at the SMN AGM. We found we had a common current interest in NZ. She went in October 98and I went in Jan 99.We both met Dell Wihongi, who is a senior Maori and Whiteha elder. We thanked her for her help and she said she would like us to organize a conference in NZ which would bring to public attention the knowledge that she and many Maori possess. In particular she lectures on Maori Science ,which is a holistic and all embracing view of the universe .She wants to draw in traditional western scientists to get them to understand the knowledge that Maori and other indigenous people have. As I mentioned before many people including Maori believe they are guardians of the planet. She is passionate about this and has some of the political clout to make things happen in NZ. However she realizes she needs help, which is where we come in.

Joyce and I want to organize a NZ conference to get this message across. We realize we will need the help of many people ,in many countries, to make it a worthwhile event.

I approached David Lorimer and he observed that possibly we would need to broaden it to include Consciousness as well as Science. I have promised to send David a brief summary of our aims ,as he would be interested in involving the SMN organization if the aims were compatible.

This would be an attempt to give a firmer basis ,as many indigenous beliefs have a sound base in consciousness as well as in the practical knowledge of plants, animals, the environment and looking after the planet.

Based upon your experience in North America how would you think we should approach this task, and how best could we make sure that it is a truly indigenous inspired endeavor. It would not, it seems to me ,to be meeting the original objective ,if all the running came from the Western traditional scientists.

I have in the last two weeks ,signed up Paul Pearsall from Hawaii, who is both a western heart specialist and also well grounded in the Hawaiian kahuna tradition. I have also got Elizabet Soutaris involved .She has world wide experience in the area of helping indigenous peoples ,including Hopi and south American peoples.

So how would you like to become involved in thinking this plan through and making sure it is firmly based ?

Please let me know what you think.

Best wishes

Dear David,
You may have been concerned about my lack of response to your helpful email of 5th May. I found myself with the task of trying to get the SMN Council on board with our ideas and also getting formal approval from the Maori elder in NZ. This took rather longer than I anticipated. However the good news is that the Maori elder has given her approval to the draft terms of reference, and also we have now got the full support from the SMN council. They are very happy to put their name to a NZ conference because there has not been a major SMN conference in the southern hemisphere ,and also they believe the objectives and the subject are very much in line with SMN objectives. Everyone I have approached seems very keen on the whole idea.

Best wishes, John Ashworth

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