Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au: I am the River and the River is Me. So say Iwi Māori who live alongside the Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in recognition of their inalienable connection to the land and water they call home. Fundamental to Māori cosmology is the idea that the whenua – the land – is an extension of the self: a relation, an ancestor, a placenta, a home. In recognition of this connection, several features of the landscape in Aotearoa/New Zealand—including the Whanganui River—have gained recognition as legal persons.
But what does it mean for a river—or a forest—to have legal personality? The legal personhood of nature is a legal tool that is being increasingly used worldwide, and which can better recognise human responsibilities for nature by implementing and encouraging a different relationship between people and the natural world. How can creating space for indigenous conceptions of the land, and indigenous mana motuhake (self-sovereignty) help to build food sovereignty? Join a panel of jurists, activists and food producers from Aotearoa/New Zealand to explore these topics in greater depth, and to consider how we can decolonise our relationship with indigenous knowledge, and embrace “two-eyed seeing” – weaving together Indigenous knowledge and Western science to enhance our perspectives and broaden our understandings.