Dr. Krushil Watene it is such a delight to have you for this interview and to have this opportunity to talk with you. You are an associate professor at Massey University in the department of Philosophy, specializing in moral and political philosophies of well being, development, and justice with a particular focus on Indigenous philosophies. We are so pleased to welcome you. >> Tēnā koe, John. (Hello, John.) Ko Krushil Watene tōku ingoa. (My name is Krushil Watene.) [Speaking in Māori] [Speaking in Māori] [Speaking in Māori] So, I’m Krushil Watene. It's lovely to be here to talk to you. My acknowledgments to [speaking in Maori] what we call the [speaking in Maori], or the people of the land, there, where you are. I'm from the north, from a place called Tai Tokerau, which is the region that includes Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) all the way up to the tip of the north island, or what we call “the tail of the fish”. Te Hiku o te Ika. Three places, in particular, from both sides of the coast: The Hokainga Harbour, which is where my grandmother is from, a place called Whirinaki; also, the other side of the coast, in the Bay of Islands, or what's called [speaking in Maori], which is a little village called [speaking in Maori], in the [speaking in Maori] on the [speaking in Maori] River; And also [speaking in Maori], which is now Auckland, the people of [speaking in Maori]. Kia ora it's lovely to meet you, to be here, and to talk to you about these things. >> That's lovely to get a sense of place, of your place, of your home region. I know that, that you have worked closely with the Maori communities to support the revitalization and the sustaining of Maori knowledge. Is it possible to give us a brief overview of Maori knowledge brought to contemporary environmental issues in Aotearoa New Zealand? >> Yeah, so we're going to start with something like that. I suppose the best place to start would be with my own people. And so I work closely with both, all, communities that I mentioned. [Speaking in Maori], the people of [speaking in Maori] on the [speaking in Maori] River, who I work closely with today, in particular, and also Whirinaki. The region of Tai Tokerau, where I'm from, is rural areas, with high numbers of Maori who live there, who are not doing so well, socially and economically. And that's all tied to the history of land loss for our people, right? So if anyone knows about Auckland or New Zealand, what we know is about The Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed in 1840 by 500 or so Maori chiefs and the British crown. And what that did is that, that promised partnership in the way in which New Zealand, “modern” New Zealand, would thrive into the future. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and we can talk more about different ways in which that didn't come to be and hasn't. In particular what happened was, as we see in other settler-colonial states, Maori were dispossessed from their land, resulting from a whole range of legal and policy moves that individualized land title and that disconnected us from our land and waterways. And it meant that we moved away from our tribal communities and in a lot of cases we forgot our connections to place, or the geographical distance made it really difficult to be connected to place. And it means that on a whole raft of well-being indicators (spirituality, physical health) we remain, we continue to suffer. And that's really one of the stories of Maori in New Zealand, across New Zealand. But on the other hand, there's lots of work being undertaken by our communities to reclaim those connections. And there's this rich heritage of environmental justice movements that create opportunities for our people to come together collectively. And to rediscover and to remember who we are and to remember the importance of our landscapes and waterways for for our identities. And so as a little example, I mean when we introduce ourselves, which I did at the beginning, we place ourselves within a network of relationships within our landscapes. That goes, our genealogical stories, of course, go all the way back to the creation of the universe. And what we do when we introduce ourselves, we we look at ourselves in relation to our mountains, and our rivers, and our people. And that's really what the environment is for Maori. When you think about the natural environment, it's the intersections of all those things, of our landscapes, of our waterways, of people. All bound together in kin-community networks and in kin-community places. And then there’s a political move, right, as well, when we do that. So that's where environmental justice and activism comes in, because when we do that, when we locate ourselves within that network, or system, we're also making claims about political responsibilities that we have, and political rights that we have. And that’s really a snippet of [LAUGH] the history of Maori and the importance of place, and reclaiming our places in these landscapes, and charting a different worldview, I think. >> That is such a wonderful overview, Krushil, because you provide us a sense of both the challenges that Maori people faced, as well as the many opportunities and the depth of wisdom. And as we were speaking beforehand, over the years, we have had occasion to speak with Dr. Manuka Henare, who's recently passed away, as you as you kindly brought the news to us. And I just wanted to mention him in terms of the ancestors of the people and how his rich understanding, similar to your own voice, you have this wonderful capacity to speak both of the theorizing a character in academic work, that we begin to see an overview, and yet your theorizing is very definitely oriented towards future generations, and also towards the ancestors. And I find that's such a remarkable way to talk about the underpinnings of your thought. Can you say a bit more about that how the reach forward is connected to the reach to the ancestors? >> Yeah, it's really fascinating. I've always been really fascinated with the Western tradition and future generations. What's really interesting though is that it's only in the last 50 years that at least the mainstream Western tradition has started to take seriously this idea of our obligations to future generations. And as I mentioned earlier, because Maori philosophy begins at the intersections of a network, right, and that network, sort of moves forwards and backwards in time, then intergenerational justice, as we might call it, is where we start. This idea that we have obligations to our ancestors and future people. And that those are intimately connected and integrated is the place where our theorizing actually begins. So for instance, this idea of kaitiakitanga, which has both spiritual and physical elements. Requires, literally it means something like trusteeship, because kaitiaki means to care for and to look after, right? And so it's practices of looking after and caring, particularly in relation to the environment, which as I've said, includes everything. To actually motivate or understand obligations to future generations within that kind of an idea within kaitiakitanga (trusteeship or stewardship) requires both what I like to call scientific knowledge, but also imagination, right? That's this idea of being connected to something, a past that we were not around to live through ourselves and a future we will not live to see. And so this idea that our lives are part of some kind of transcendental community, you can call it, or something outside of ourselves, is what I'm trying to say, is really important for Maori philosophy. And you can understand that idea of being part of something outside of ourselves, of our own brief lives, as being part of, as I've said, a transgenerational community, something that goes across time. And the way that for instance, I can think of myself as being part of the pacific voyages, right? Of my early Maori ancestors, the pacific voyagers who migrated here. Who bought all these concepts and philosophical ideas and practices with them, and then grew them into this landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand. And how I can think of my own tupuna, [speaking in Maori] who's from [speaking in Maori] on the [speaking in Maori] River. How there are stories of [speaking in Maori] and what he said about the landscapes, and then there's stories of, for instance, [speaking in Maori]. Really famous tohunga, or spiritual leader, whose footsteps across the landscape from all the way from the top of the north island, way down to the coast to [speaking in Maori], huge distance by foot. How I can imagine myself as walking those footsteps, and being part of the stories that he storied into the landscape, and how I can see myself and story-ing this landscape today in the same way that my ancestors did, right? And how I owe that to them, to carry those stories and threads forward. Right ‘round the pacific, right down the coast of Aoteoroa New Zealand to where we are today. So it's this kind of imagining ourselves as being connected to something beyond our own brief life, our own brief lives, and ancestors are central to that. And of course, that goes back to the centrality of the idea of [speaking in Maori]. Which Manuka Henare would have talked about, this idea that we are part of a network of ideas, a genealogical system that begins with the creation of the universe, with all these different kind of processes of creation that leads to us being here today, right? Being part of that universe is really central to understanding that any ideas, or any claims about our responsibilities to future generations, are embedded in that history that we carry forward to our ancestors. When you think about it, when you think not just about Maori but other Indigenous communities. The kinds of policies that they've had to face, that they still have to face, it's quite something that we have managed to retain so many practices. So many of our beliefs, so many of our concepts that still managed to guide our thinking and our way in the world. And recently, as you know, the UNUM, the UNDP human development report for 2020, just released last year in December. Made the point that stewardship, we need this idea of stewardship to be instilled globally now. And it's really interesting that ideas like kaitiakitanga, but other ideas of stewardship and Indigenous communities are the ways in which we can carry that globally. That if we can do these, if we can undertake the sense of stewardship of the environment, if we can practice and we can undertake stewardship practices locally, then that's a really important global voice from local communities to do that. And so I think, yeah, I'm always, even my own people, I'm always so, yes, so it's amazing how wonderfully well we have managed to do. Given that we were not meant to be alive today. >> There it is, and the Maori and the nation state have given to the world, now, this incredible recognizing the rights of a river and the sense of earth jurisprudence or the rights of nature. And the example of the [INAUDIBLE], that's a remarkable moment. >> Yes, you mean the [speaking in Maori] river? >> Yes. >> Yeah, so that's part of, as you know, this huge movement and I see it all in New Zealand. Which actually begins with, well, with the political movement, begins to really take shape with Bastion Point. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Bastion Point. So one of my communities here in Auckland, [speaking in Maori]. [Speaking in Maori - Ngati Whatua?], who who were central to the Bastion Point protest, they were engaged in all sorts of economic and trading activities in Auckland. And of course, with the arrival of the British crown, [speaking in Maori], our chief saw an opportunity for further growth. And so we invited Governor Hobson at the time to relocate the capital. What was the capital up in the north of Russell or what was called Arabica, to [speaking in Maori], where we lived. And the idea was that this relocation would bring opportunities and particularly, in trade and education and health. But unfortunately, so what happened was, our governor, our chief behind the [speaking in Maori], said to Hobson. “My brother, take whatever land you would like in Auckland”, and that now today is the central business district in Auckland. That land, that gift in partnership, within 5 years of making that gift, our people were virtually landless. And we sought to protect what's known as the last 700 acres of land by keeping it in communal ownership. And in fact, in 1868, a judge ruled that it could never be taken from us, and that it would always be in collective ownership. But then by 1951, we were moved from our [speaking in Maori], what's called our spiritual homeland. Which was down on the flat land on the bay on [speaking in Maori], and moved to just a few houses up on the hill as tenants. So then for the next 40 years, our people [speaking in Maori] [speaking in Maori] of their own in Auckland. And then it wasn't until 1977 that went on for at least a year with the idea that the government at the time. Was going to erect housing on the land that belonged to us, that we undertook a protest that lasted for 507 days. And that's really where the protest movement for Maori began really took off, it was a catalyst for change, and what came out of that was treaty settlements. So the idea of legal personhood of course, comes out of that [speaking in Maori], this idea of treaty settlements. And as you know, we have Taranaki, Whanganui River, and also what was previously a national park to the weather act. And that's a particularly beautiful one, I have to say to the weather, so a beautiful, I mean at the time it was already protected as a national park, the highest protection in the country, right? So it wasn't about so much environmental protection as it was about saying there's a different philosophy. A philosophy of too high people and about their connections to the land that will benefit all New Zealanders. That's really important to, put that down, to lay that [INAUDIBLE] down that it's not just about the environment, which it is of course, but about a different way of thinking of ourselves in relation to nature. And so for instance, [speaking in Maori], if you read it, it talks about the [speaking in Maori] weather, which is the land. As things like ancient and enduring a fortress of nature, alive with its own history and scenery and mystery. It's just beautifully worded, It's not what you would expect from an act, actually. It's the, yeah, it's just beautiful and it shows how you can infuse environment law. >> Yes. >> And law more generally with different philosophies and that, the way in which you describe those places. And the way in which you give them value and their connection to people makes a huge difference, right? And that, can inspire us all to commit to its care actually when we start to talk about the environment and in those ways. I do love the approach and what it's doing, which is to center what people are able to do and be with their lives. And that's really, that was really my starting point to say, well, if we really take that seriously. If we really ask ourselves that what matters is what Maori and other Indigenous communities are able to do and be. >> Yes. >> Then we need to have a conversation about what informs, what it means to thrive and to flourish, and what the scope of our discussion should be. What should be included within that discussion, that it's not just about people's flourishing, right? Or if we take seriously what it means for Indigenous communities to flourish, then we need to think about a flourishing ecosystems, and environments, and a flourishing planet as well. So that's my starting point and I take that to be absolutely consistent with the capability approach. Is an approach that's only a partial theory anyway, as far as biodiversity goes, actually, I work more with people. And I'll tell you, in New Zealand but also around the world, we have a collaborator at Dartmouth for instance, and Nick Rio, who's wonderful, and also collaborators in Hawaii. They do bio-cultural diversity, actually where there's this idea that, well it's just recognition of the way in which we're not just interested in biological systems. But we're also interest in cultural diversity and linguistic diversity and that if we can integrate them. And if we can think about the way in which language and practices are actually fundamental to biological diversity and, protecting it. And vice versa how biodiversity is actually fundamental to protecting practices and language because of course, if you lose a particular plant species you don't just lose, the availability of the plant. But you lose practices associated with that plant traditional practices and you lose language associated with describing that plant and the practices that you undertake. So I tend to work more with that and it's fascinating and I think, generally we do need to start working more, in a more integrated way. In the way in which I mean the environment tell us, that the environment tells us we ought to work in a connected, integrated and more collaborative way. >> In philosophy departments, I find that it's a challenge at times for philosophers to make these bridging connections, into the larger whole of the community of life that we humans are. And so I wanted to draw you out a bit in terms of your discipline of philosophy, and do you see what developments are happening in your field, to make this connection? >> That's a great question, I spend a lot of time trying to think about how to make this field richer. And often, I mean the best way to do that is to just undertake work, that's richer than yourself, right? And to collaborate with all sorts of different people and different disciplines, but also different fields within philosophy, I think even that is really important. I mean distinctions that we've made between within philosophy which you might be familiar with. With analytic and continental and things like, applied and theoretical and even, how we make a clean distinction for some reason between religious studies and philosophy, I think it's not helpful at all. Not helpful at all, because I mean when we were talking about earlier about the importance of ancestors in this transgenerational community. That's just one of the ways that we can see else our lives as bigger than our own brief lives. And I mean, so there's this transgenerational idea, but you can also be connected to places, right? And that requires a leap of faith of sorts, so does this idea of a transgenerational community, but also, I mean you can ground it in as you as you probably know, a relationship with God. That requires a leap of faith too, and so I think philosophers need to be sort of more open, to the mystery of the world. >> [INAUDIBLE]. >> Shall we say to the mystery of the world, and I think we're getting there. And one of the first steps is to rethink, the richness of our philosophical traditions and our conceptual landscapes. Actually in [speaking in Maori] really well placed to do that with our pacific and Indigenous connections. But I, know that a lot of this work is happening elsewhere too, and I think it's great. We need more listening and more relationship building, so that we can make sense of the world and in this planet and each other in their lives. The way we frame something really matters right, help framing, and that really gets to the, heartbeat of one's philosophy and one's view of the world. That's true, I mean we often talk, I mean another good example I suppose is that we often talk about rights. About Indigenous communities will always prioritize responsibilities first, right? >> Yeah. >> And obligations first rather than rights, which is really a really important part of what we call [speaking in Maori] stewardship values and notions of care, always about obligations first, so yeah. >> That's an interesting Krushil. When you use the word stewardship, I hear it being used different than say many environmentalists who have a sense of the religious traditions. Because your use of stewardship, I'm hearing mutuality and reciprocity and responsibility. >> Absolutely, yes, reciprocal responsibilities, yes, and that's across time, right to our ancestors into future to those yet to be born, right? So it's this kind of intergenerational, transgenerational reciprocity, not just a human beings. But to all beings of the world right in the universe, absolutely, yes, much richer account, it's difficult to. Yeah, it's difficult to try and find the right words to communicate the right words in English sometimes. Especially when these concepts have their own genealogy trying to borrow. >> And our sense that's part of the creative exchange now that Indigenous spokespeople are bringing forward a new language. Their own language which constitutes oftentimes for outsiders completely new ways of looking at the world. >> That's true actually. Yeah, it's funny because I mean because we see everything as you all know as a network, right? Even the process of thinking as a network centered approach, right? So when we talk about [speaking in Maori] stewardship, what we really mean are these really fundamental concepts. A bundle of them that somehow are arranged together, right? And it can be transformed over time, right? That somehow shift and travel and when they travel to new places that they are embedded in different ways and grow in different soil. So there's always this kind of actually said this creativity. But also this kind of innovative transformation that occurs in indigenous philosophies. Because of this kind of bundle of the system of ideas that are always central to anything we think about. >> That's a lovely metaphor, that sense of the network of ideas. And I find with students in the environmental school where Mary Evelyn and I teach at Yale, that I find it necessary also to remind us as we study together, that to simply call now on Indigenous elders to provide new ways of seeing the world is not enough. We need also to hear the voices of Indigenous speakers in these regards. And to literally keep this discourse, keep the flow open. So we know what the people, what the needs of the people are on reservations or in Indigenous territory. Absolutely I think that we need to be courageous enough to really rethink some of the the way in which we live together in our most basic assumptions about our lives. I mean, that's really tricky to kind of reimagine ourselves in this new world. Particularly at this time, right in this time in history with the pandemic. I mean, there's even more reason to to breathe new life into our perennial concepts and ideas. And to really start to look deeper into the landscapes. Where there are the routes for conceptual traditions that stretch back right into the into the into history and really rather beautiful ways. And I think if we could be courageous enough to take small steps towards doing that, I think we would do something wonderful. Yeah, we're all appreciate your use of the word courageous too. Because we were also faced by this, the forms of fundamentalism and nationalism. That are emerging around the planet and that's kind of a turning inward and not in the best of ways. I think because of the anxieties that we now face in our future. The anxieties of climate and environmental issues. And the uncertainty of our times and to again find a way to speak across our own self centeredness. And to find that bridging with one another as humans and bridging into the world. And the resilience of Indigenous people has not lost those connections. >> No, I mean, it's interesting you say about trying to bridge, kind of, worldviews and trying to speak across them. It's really interesting. We've written a paper, actually, and one of the reviewers (who's a wonderful philosopher, John Bishop) made the point that actually we need to, there's much we can learn in philosophy, and in trying to create bridges across worldviews from interfaith dialogue, actually. Because they seem to do that very well indeed, interfaith dialogue around the world seems to have much to teach. Intercultural philosophy is what I mean, right? I think, yeah, how to do that. How to begin. Krushil, this has been a wonderful conversation. I'm so thankful, so filled with gratitude for your willingness to give this time.