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By Tara Carr

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 28) - A book on the traditional knowledge of Atiuans in the ara-po or the phases of the moon has been launched and will be made available to all schools in the Cook Islands.

The book entitled 'Taruku te ra, no'otake te marama, e vari te ara-po' is in Cook Islands Maori and was launched last Wednesday on Atiu.

National Environment Service officer Tania Temata says the book contains the traditional knowledge of the Atiu people about the ara-po, how they understand and define it and how they relate it to traditional management of natural resources.

The book also goes into how the phases of the moon affect harvesting, planting and fishing on the island and their way of living. It also tries to define what the traditional meaning of each name of the phases of the moon. Each island may have its own interpretations but this is Atiu's.

Temata says that this is the first time a book like this has been published and the main purpose behind it is to help retain the knowledge of our elders.

It all started in 2000 as a project with NES on traditional environmental management, with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

The Koutu Nui chose the island of Atiu to be the project site as Atiu's traditional leaders are very proactive in their traditions and oral history including environmental management.

Temata would like particularly to thank Teariki Rongo who was contracted by NES to gather the information and compile it into the book. She says he never gave up on the project as it was a lot of hard work since the book is in Maori and there was a lot of going back and forwards to verify the information collected.

NES is especially grateful to the taunga (traditional experts) who contributed valuable information - Upokoina Teiotu, Paiere Mokoroa, Moetaua Boaza, Tura Koronui and all those who attended the workshops on Atiu.

Illustrations in the book were provided by Tuaine Teiti and Julia Rongo and their work is acknowledged.

Since the launch, the books have been presented to the Are Korero o Atiu (House of Orators), now the Historical Society of Atiu, for their own distribution and to on-sell. Funds will go toward supporting their work on the collection of traditional knowledge.

"We are proud of this book and we hope Atiu will be too. Atiu should be proud of their leaders who had the foresight to record in writing what they know about the ara-po for the benefit of future generations. The issue about our oral traditions is that once it's put in writing, there will be a lot of people out there who will criticize the information, and try and link it to the sciences, astronomy and so forth.

"The important thing is that we have recorded the information, and a lot of verification was carried out. That's what traditional knowledge is all about. It is what people have believed in and know from experience that it works for them - the scientists can argue for or against it, and that's why traditional knowledge is such an important part of modern science now," says Temata.

NES will be giving copies of the books to the Ministry of Education for schools as well as copies to the National Library.

NES hope the Ministry of Education will use this book as an important resource in teaching children about traditional management of resources and about the ara-po.

Those who want to buy this book can do so through the island secretary Man Unuia of Atiu.

Temata says NES will wait to see how well received the book is, and if there is a need for it, another project may be arranged.

Temata says that the book could easily be applicable to the whole of the Cook Islands but there is specific information that relates solely to the island of Atiu.

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