This River Now Has ‘Human Status’

This River Now Has ‘Human Status’
Can a River Have the Same Legal Rights as a Person?

Did you hear that the Whanganui River now has legal rights, the same as a person? For 140 years the Māori Whanganui iwi (tribe) has been negotiating for the Whanganui River to be recognized as their ancestor. In what’s thought to be a world first occurrence, the New Zealand Parliament has finally agreed that the Whanganui is a ‘living entity.’ Local iwi spokesperson, Gerrard Albert, explains the significance of the decision and provides us with inspirational words.

We’ve got to change to meet the river’s picture, rather than what we’ve done for 150 years, which is to ask the river to change to meet our picture.

We also hear from Whaia Shelley Emia, a Māori woman of Ngati Kahungunu descent, as she explains the Māori connection to water and offers non-indigenous people advice for reconnecting with culture and the elements.

I hear a lot of non-indigenous brothers and sisters saying that they don’t have any culture, I just remind them that we do, we all do, it’s right in front of you, it’s the land, it’s the water, it’s the animals, it’s the air we breathe.

About Our Guests

Gerrard Albert is a spokesman for the Whanganui iwi of New Zealand. He’s been front and foremost in the legal battle to have the Whanganui River recognized as their ancestor and given parliamentary protection from further degradation.

A Māori woman of Ngati Kahungunu descent, Whaia Shelley Emia was raised with the Yindjibarndi people in outback Australia, and from a young age has been on a journey of rediscovery and reclamation of her Maori culture. She walks with her Taonga Puoro & Whanau/Family of Crystal Singing Bowls, offering healing sounds of connection.

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Telkom University
6 days ago

In what ways might the recognition of ‘human status’ change the management or conservation efforts for the river?

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