Caring for our Oceans – exploring cultural connections and kinship with whales

March 9, 2023
11:00 am (AEST)
Online (via Zoom)

Please join ORKA (the Ocean Rights and Kinship Alliance) for our 2023 webinar series, which explores our connections and kinship with the ocean and our interconnected community of marine life.


Communities and peoples throughout Oceania have had long standing ancestral relationships with migratory marine animals. This webinar, the first in a series of five, invites us to consider how Oceanian cultural connectivity and kinship with migratory marine animals is important today as the world considers how best to care for the ocean for present and future generations. Our first webinar will focus on whales.

In Oceania, whales are ancestors and family, they are voyaging companions; their yearly migrations to Pacific Islands are indicators of upcoming flowering, planting and/or fishing events; they have traditionally provided cultural sustenance and have been a part of Oceanian knowledge that traverses the vast liquid continent, surpassing national borders and connecting islands and peoples.


Tēvita O Kaʻili

Tēvita O Kaʻili hails from various ancestral places in Tonga, Fiji, Rotuma, and Sāmoa. He is a direct descendant of Moana Nui deified ancestors Tangaloa (Kanaloa), Māui, and Hina. He is the author of the book Marking Indigeneity: The Tongan Art of Sociospatial Relations (2017). Currently, Tēvita is a Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Sustainability at Brigham Young University Hawaiʻi. Tēvita received his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Washington (Seattle, Washington, USA) in 2008. He is a leading proponent of the Indigenous tā-vā (time-space) philosophy of reality, or tāvāism - an Indigenous philosophy that was formulated by Hūfanga-He-Ako-Moe-Lotu Professor Dr. ʻOkustino Māhina and his students. Tēvita specializes in the cultural arrangement of time-space, Tongan ecological relationality, Indigenous anthropology, transnationalism, Moana Oceanian deep history, and Indigenous Tongan deities. Tēvita and his wife, Elizabeth J. Rago (Māori, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine from Aotearoa), live on the Ahupuaʻa of Kahuku, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi.

Helen Naupa

Helen Uruknte Nompunesau Naupa is a cultural researcher and community worker for the Erromangan Cultural Association, a community-based group on the island of Erromango in southern Vanuatu. She has worked for many decades on gender rights for the Vanuatu Government and various civil society organisations, most recently focused on cultural heritage documentation and preservation with her own communities. She will share about the ECA's recent work to gather traditional stories about the relationship with the ocean, and traditional knowledge, called Netai en Namou Toc (stories of Mother Ocean), with particular attention to whale-related stories and knowledge.

Ma`ara Maeva

Ma`ara Maeva is the potiki or last child in a family of 13 and was born and raised on the island of Mauke, Cook Islands. From a very young age he began ‘bush’ intuition where amongst many things he became immersed in the va tapu o Tangaroa, the sacred realm of Tangaroa god of the ocean. It was during those early years that he was exposed to and interacted with many creatures including whales (approx. 14). He is steeped in the cultural traditions and knowledge of his heritage. He is a trustee member of the Cook Islands Ocean voyaging group ‘Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation. He holds a master’s degree in archaeology from the university of Auckland and works as a Learning Specialist at Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland NZ .


The Ocean Rights and Kinship Alliance (ORKA) is a network of people around the Pacific (and beyond), who are working to protect the rights of oceans to thrive and be healthy, and to promote greater understanding of the cultural relationships and kinship we share with ocean life. Our members come from all corners of the Pacific Ocean, and beyond. We emphasise the diversity of our cultural and genealogical connections to the ocean, and the importance of maintaining this diversity.

ORKA began as a two-day workshop in November 2018, convened in Auckland by the late Sue Taei. The purpose of the workshop was to draw on emerging legal thought around the rights of nature and legal personhood, and think about how these could be applied to the ocean – both within and across national jurisdictions. Since 2018, our network has continued to meet and collaborate on a range of events and projects.

For more details about ORKA, please visit the ORKA information page hosted on the AELA website.


The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to increasing the understanding and practical implementation of Earth-centred governance, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics, Indigenous knowledge systems and the arts. AELA is pleased to be auspicing the work of ORKA.