So… this is a little unusual. At the same time, this is also a really powerful moment that has happened, and what better place than a river being granted the legal rights of a human being than in New Zealand?
That’s right. This week, Whanganui River, based in New Zealand’s North Island, became the first river in the world to, under the New Zealand parliament, be recognized as a living entity, and thus be granted such rights.
This decision comes after over 140 years of fighting to protect the river, by the Whanganui Maori tribe; who recognize it as not only the link to their well-being, but also as being a part of life. It will have two representatives for all legal matters going forward; one from the tribe, the other from the government.
While some might argue that this may be a strange decision made by the government, according to Chris Finlayson, minister of New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations, “…it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies.”
As strange as this all may sound, I think this is wonderful news. It’s a sign showing that the New Zealand government is becoming more understanding and respectful of everyone and everything that has always been there, prior to the arrival of European settlers several centuries ago.
Also, the fact that the Whanganui Tribe and the government are collaborating to make this bill work is progress that, unfortunately, is light years away from anything of the kind happening here in the United States, especially under the current administration.
Let’s hope that this bill can, at least, set an example for the rest of the world.