Kōrero O Te `Ōrau, which translates as, “knowledge of the sky, land, and sea”, is an environmental organisation in the Cook Islands dedicated to improving the wellbeing of its Indigenous Peoples and their environment.
Kōrero O Te `Ōrau was incorporated in 2017 and consists of Cook Islanders with diverse backgrounds who contribute their expertise working to protect their culture and natural resources. The focal areas of its work are research, Indigenous support, education, and media outreach.
The team conducts marine and terrestrial scientific research, including the incorporation of traditional knowledge on marine and terrestrial governance. Kōrero O Te `Ōrau strives to ensure sustainable development is pursued in tandem with the safeguarding of cultural heritage and values.
An example of Kōrero O Te `Ōrau support is the inclusion of the Aronga Mana (traditional leaders) and Iti Tangata (Indigenous people) of the Cook Islands in the management of their 50 nautical-mile seaward boundary and the tribal lands of their Matakeinanga (jurisdiction).
The team also runs a regular education programme, which focuses on strengthening the connection of young people with the natural world through scientific and culture-based learning. The course covers subjects ranging from agriculture, botany, climate change, ecology, marine biology, taxonomy, research skills, Cook Islands traditional knowledge and practices, and life skills.
Kōrero O Te `Ōrau also provides support to natural resource managers to promote an integrated management approach that mixes traditional/local knowledge with modern science. Finally, it is creating a media and publications unit that showcases articles and videos for local and international knowledge sharing, and it promotes research discoveries in the Cook Islands for the rest of the world to view.
In 2021, Kōrero O Te `Ōrau co-organised a unique educational and advocacy project, where a small team took part in a two-month ‘Vacca’ voyage travelling to the ‘Pa Enua’ or outer islands of the Cook Islands. Vacca voyaging is an ancient tradition of Polynesian islanders, where long-distance ocean journeys are carried out on traditional outrigger boats, using navigation techniques which have been passed down from generation to generation. This trip saw the crew visit eight outer islands, where they carried out education, advocacy, and ecological surveys.
Kōrero O Te `Ōrau is an excellent example of a cross-cutting partner which fits into the themes of multiple programmes, therefore Synchronicity Earth supports it through both the Biocultural Diversity Programme and the Ocean Programme.