The Importance of Heritage
It is hard to verbalise (or for some to justify) the importance of heritage, especially in our current society obsessed with the 'value' of everything in monetary terms alone. However, there is no doubting, despite the difficulty in finding the right wording to express the sentiment, that for society at large there is an intrinsic value placed upon heritage irrelevant of cultural background.
The celebrated Māori politician and lawyer, Apirana Ngata (1874 - 1950), expressed the importance of maintaining his traditional Polynesian culture amongst that of the dominant European (Pākehā) culture in his native Aotearoa (New Zealand) as follows:
E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o te ao, Grow up O tender child in the days of your world,
Ko to ringa ki nga rākau a te Pākehā, In your hands the tools of the Pākehā,
Hei oranga mo to tinana. As means to support and sustain you.
Ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna, In your heart the treasures of your ancestors,
Hei tikitiki mo to mahunga. As a plume for your head.
Ko to wairua ki te Atua, Your spirit given to God,
Nana nei nga mea katoa. The source of all things.
Another well-known example, from England this time, of the importance of culture is attributed to Winston Churchill. Although not succeeding in explaining why heritage is so important to us, it is stated that after being told that Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort against the German state during World War II, the English Prime Minister was quoted as saying:
"Then what are we fighting for?"
Would it matter to swap English culture and arts for those of the Germans? Surely the world of capitalism and economics should not care. But it seems people do care. Therefore, it is perhaps not so much important to ask why we place 'value' on our heritage or to be able to express that sentiment succinctly, than it is to recognise that we do, as human beings, place a high intrinsic value on our heritage irrelevant of anything else.
Of course, as Gaels we are well versed in this sentiment of the importance of heritage:
<< ¡Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam! >>
Language, of course, is only one of the heritage assets that make up our whole heritage, both natural and man-made. In the Envision project, we place intrinsic value on all heritage assets as much as we do on language.