Media Release

Address to the International Whaling Commission (IWC64) Matiu Rei, Chairman, Te Ohu Kaimoana

3 July 2012 | Download as PDF - 68kb

Te Ohu Kaimoana chairman Matiu Rei on Tuesday 3 July addressed the 89-member International Whaling Commission ahead of the IWC’s vote on providing sustainable whaling quotas for indigenous people.

Every five years, the native inhabitants of Greenland (Inuit), United States (Alaskan Inupiat and the Makah), Russian Siberia (Chukotkan), and St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean seek quota to continue their traditional hunting and whale-eating cultures and diets.

Mr Rei told the Commission that it needed to give indigenous whaling communities “the respect and dignity they deserve. Let them continue to practice their traditions and exercise their customary rights.”

IWC 64

Tena tatou katoa, Mr Chair, members of the Commission

Te Ohu Kaimoana is the body established to manage and advocate for Maori rights to fisheries in New Zealand.  Maori control approx 40% of NZ's commercial fisheries, a similar percentage of the recreational sector and 100% customary although we only comprise 15% of the population.

TOKM board members are selected by the indigenous leadership from throughout our country and we do our best to represent their views in a range of fora and to our government. 

One of life's great delusion is when we believe that our way of doing things (whether its religion, economy, justice and in particular looking after the environment) is better than that of someone else.

Through my eyes, I see the Commission behaving in the same way today that the English behaved when they stumbled upon us and introduced a range of new ideas, systems, and systematic exploitation of our natural resources. It wasn’t just their brand of religion which they brought, with missionary zeal – it was a new type of everything; but one that was mired in gross exploitation.

The “green” movement has many redeeming features but sometimes it forgets that while we might do things they disagree with, we indigenous people are NOT gross exploiters.

But we all have to be careful and yes we all have to be green but not necessarily the same hue. 

Our experience says that the world is a richer place because there are indigenous cultures. It is ironic that countries that have grossly exploited whales for uses other than food and utensils are now imposing their newly acquired “values” on cultures that continue to suffer the effects and symptoms of colonial exploitation.

We are concerned that indigenous peoples may not be able to maintain their rights and exercise their traditions and do so in ways that preserve their dignity - Reducing us to groups that must seek permission to continue these traditions – from those whose tastes have changed with the wind – is quite simply degrading. 

To have these same countries judge how indigenous we are, our dietary needs and whether our traditions are important to us or not, is maintaining this exploitative behaviour. And we absolutely do not agree that indigenous communities cannot take advantage of introduced technologies to maintain customary practices.

This Commission is already a tool for limiting indigenous tradition through its quotas.  These people already have adjusted their lives to accommodate your current system of beliefs.  Please give them the respect and dignity they deserve. Let them continue to practice their traditions and exercise their customary rights.

No reira, tena tatou katoa