Guardians of the World of Light

A Journey of Discovery

These are the days when spring is just a concept, even in Northland. We had our first daffodil open two days ago, only to be beaten down into the dirt by two days of rain. What faith.

This week's contributor is Mr. Garry Watson, a leader in Rongoa Maori, which is the energy and use of herbs for wellness. Companion to Rongoa Maori is the aspect of being Kaitiaki (caretaker) of the earth that heals us. In other words, it is our duty to administer to the needs of the earth, as it is her duty to take care of our needs. It is a relationship between us and our earth.

I met Mr. Watson at the Natural Products New Zealand Summit, filled with vitamin and supplement companies, we just happened (you know I believe it was more than happened) to sit side by side for the 3 days. Our interests are entirely congruent, both with unbounded faith that we can be of assistance to our earth and its people, but we are from entirely different cultures. It excites me to offer you a teaching that is filled with reverence and also gives some insight into the issues of "ownership" of the water that we are witnessing right now in New Zealand.

Considering recent reports on the very poor quality of New Zealand's water, his teaching is needed for all of us.

In Check it Out, Mr. Watson makes a way for people interested to learn about Kaitiaki. I believe this is a big deal, as it has been held close to the hearts of its people, to offer to anyone interested is a gift. In Check it Out Too, I share a rainbow from Rainbow Falls!

With respect, Becky

Dr. Mike Joy, contributor to WWF Report on NZ Water Quality-The Dying Myth of a Clean, Green Aotearoa

Guardians of the World of Light

by Garry M. Watson

Te Ao Marama- The World of Light

Kia ora koutou. Greetings to one and all. We bring you greetings from the sacred lands of Torere nui a Rua, greetings from our mountains, and greetings from our sacred rivers.

Let me invite you on a hikoi, a journey of discovery across a new cultural landscape, providing you with an opportunity to see the wonders of our lands from a cultural perspective. For me and for my whanau/family our relationship with our waters and our relationship with our river is a sacred one. For us our river is tapu. It is where we walk, where we play, and where we pray. It is the wellspring of all knowledge and it is the wellspring of life and health.

It is the river that cleanses us and it is the river that feeds us spiritually. In its most remote locations, it is a pristine and untouched environment, devoid of all human habitation for more than 150 years. A place where our ancestors once lived and hunted in pre-European times.

In the midsections of our river, we begin to see modifications, we see the impact of pine plantation and a reduction of biodiversity.

In the lower reaches, we see industrial farming and massive modification. These are European adaptations and land use practices that impact significantly on traditional values. The privileges we have as tangata whenua, as people of the land, and the traditional use practices we have been granted, come with an obligation. That obligation is to protect the purity of our waters. This is the role of the kaitiaki, the guardian of the sanctity of these waters.

Our elders taught us about the elements of water, the elements used for cleansing, the elements used in dedication ceremonies, and the elements used in healing. Each of these 3 different elements has a specific source and we identify those sources as we travel from the pure headwaters of our rivers, down into the lower wetlands where there was a mix of saltwater and fresh, and finally out into the pure seawater. Each of these elements has its own place within our rituals.

We were also taught to read the gender of water. Some sources, creeks, and tributaries have a feminine form, some have a male. Some of those waters are demanding, some of those waters nurturing and within a complete catchment, each had a role to play within an overall balance.

Indicator Species

Maintaining the purity of water requires detailed observations, spanning many generations. Within our tribal lands in these pristine and remote locations, all things live in unity. They live within one complete ecosystem made up of a wide range of biodiversity. Within that biodiversity, we have icon indicators. If those indicators are missing, we know that the purity of the water is compromised.

Some of the indicators are large and very obvious. Take for instance the Whio, the blue duck. Once found across most of the river systems within New Zealand, now they are rare and threatened. So too is the torrent fish. Interestingly both the torrent fish and the Whio have exactly the same beak/filter-feeding systems within their mouths. When one disappears so does the other as they feed on the same micro invertebrates in the river torrents.

Another indicator is the Hochstetter's frog, unchanged for 60 million years. They are now very rare. Spray residue passes across the membrane on the backs of these amphibious creatures in parts per million. It kills them or it deforms them within their reproductive systems. When they go we must ask ourselves what is this indicating. If the frog's reproductive systems mutate as a result of spray residue from toxins such as those found in Roundup, what will these toxins do to us as humans? Where so much is used in industrial farming and where we feed ourselves on the grain that results from that farming practice, we must ask ourselves, is male fertility dropping in countries that use vast amounts of these toxins?

Evidence suggests that it is, and alarmingly so.

Traditional Knowledge

So, as we see these impacts on our environment and on our people, we turn today once again to our traditional knowledge, to our Matauranga Maori, the ancient teachings of our elders. We do this, to clean and heal ourselves. We rebuild the old kawa, the protocols that our elders used, born of 30 generations of detailed observations, and oral recording. We watch the icon indicators, we revise the use of our traditional plant species and remedies and we teach our children to be kaitiaki, to be guardians, so we can future-proof our culture and its traditions.

Within the source of pure water, which we see as the tears of our ancestors that roll down the face of our elders, the granite face of our mountains, we know that the maintenance of the sanctity and the purity of our water is a key to our survival.

As more and more of our rivers are modified and polluted, we see the telltale signs at the beginning of that devolution, the loss of these icon indicators, and we hear in our minds the voices of our elders forewarning us of what will come. And in recognising that traditional knowledge, we pay homage to Tangaroa in all that we do. It is he who is the Atua, the God of all our waters, and it is he who carves the landscapes of our Nation carving without dust.

The Sharing of Treasures

Those things that are handed down to us as teachings and as taonga (treasures) are there to be shared by all who seek that wisdom and support. We are proud to be able to maintain the teaching ethos handed to us by those who have gone before, as we run the programs we do. Healing clinics and the waananga, the centres of learning we facilitate, which are all critical components of our obligation to share our knowledge – for the betterment of all.

We believe that through an amalgam of western knowledge and traditional teachings comes a new understanding and enlightenment, and if all things rotate within the circle of life, as we have been told, then a return to the traditional practice of preserving the sanctity and the purity of water, has already begun.

As you travel in the flow of life, never forget to return to its pure source. It is there you will see the life force of the water, reflected as the sparkle of light within the tears of joy that roll down the granite faces of our elders, as they wake each morning to give thanks – looking out across the vast wilderness in the headwaters of our homelands.

Journey well and Journey safe. Mauri ora. (Good health)


Check it Out

From the Ngahere Trust site, one of the avenues through which Mr. Watson works and teaches:

"The universe and I are not apart; we were born from the same source. We were formed from the same material. The stars are the eyes of the night, the rain is the blessing that washes the earth, the leaf that harnesses the sun, the rainbow that joins sky and earth, the insect that burrows, the bird that swoops, the fish that darts. All are simply the unique faces of Io-the-all."

Mr. Watson's passion for the protection of the native bush stems from his whakapapa & from a traditional Maori values base. He is well versed in the Tikanga, the whakapapa o Tane, rongoa, and the interrelationships between the species found in the native bush and mankind. He has a natural rapport with both adults & rangatahi alike & and his use of hands-on learning & anecdotes make the training programmes he runs a great success. As Chairman of Nga Uri o Te Ngahere Trust, he is passionate about the protection of the forest and the development and uptake of integrated and sustainable resource management practice based on Tikanga Maori.

He has invited people to contact them if they want to join in these Teachings and within the Rongoa Maori programmes. If interested, you can contact Mr. Watson directly.

Garry M Watson | Chairman - Nga Uri o te Ngahere Trust
Ph: 07 315 6997

Check it Out Too

Students Adopt A River

Students from Kerikeri Primary (my daughter Helena's school) have just adopted the stream that flows past their school. Read this clear and motivating story of how we can all be involved as caretakers.

Principal Paul Lindsay is pleased with the children's efforts. "Wairoa Stream is a stunning example of such a waterway," he says.

"Kerikeri Primary School is committed to taking on the role of kaitiaki (guardian) to protect the wairua (spirit) of Wairoa Stream now and in the future."

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is on my morning walk, and I've visited it many, many times since moving here 18 months ago, but I'd never seen the rainbow. Last week, for the first time ever, I went down there with my camera to film the falls, and…. There was the Rainbow!! I cannot tell you how exciting it was to be there, it lasted for about 15 minutes and was gone. Water is a healer, and never so apparent as watching it fall. One and a half minutes of the dance of light and water. Enjoy!


Emotional Intelligence Telesummit

I want to let you know this is coming, because it will be a fantastic event, and there will be something in it that will deeply impact you. I have the honour of being one of the presenters in this summit, so have gotten to watch it come together first hand. What's happening is special.

"They're more resilient and flexible when things get tough, and they're held in the highest regard by their bosses, peers, co-workers, and others. In this powerful half-day workshop, you'll learn why EQ is far more than just a handy set of 'people skills' and why many leaders feel it's the one skill you must have to be successful in today's workplace!"
Learn More & Register



"The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing." 
~John Muir


Thank you for passing along the sunshine!

About the author

Garry M. Watson

KAITIAKI O TE AO MARAMA (Guardian of the World of Light) | TAINUI TE WAKA | Ngaitai / Tuhoe

Mr. Watson has extensive practical experience working with indigenous peoples in sustainable resource use and environmental protection. He has worked internationally as well as in NZ on resource development, fisheries, and housing programmes in Tonga, Chile, Australia, Rapanui, the Cook Islands, and Tahiti, always with indigenous groups & flax roots communities. He is one of New Zealand's leading researchers in Rongoa Maori the use of Maori Medicinal plants and is a director and co-owner of Trinity Bioactives Ltd, a company that specialises in bioactive research and Nutraceutical development.

Mr. Watson has trained many hundreds of people in kaupapa Maori programmes such as; Rongoa Maori, rangatahi development Maori housing development, trustees training, community group development, strategic & operational planning, and environmental / land management practices. The resources he has developed for training have received excellent peer reviews from experts in these fields both within the community & within Government.

Mr. Watson's practical experience of the ngahere/ forests is based on his many years of service as a kaitiaki [guardian] of the forests, rivers, and the Mountains of his tribal homeland in the East Cape region of Aotearoa. He still maintains that role, spending extensive periods of time in the Mountains on ecological research & restoration projects.