Matariki Williams

Te reo and critical-thinking skills Matariki developed in Māori Studies and History prove invaluable to her role in mātauranga Māori at Manatū Taonga.

Portrait of Matariki Williams. Matariki has brown hair and wears glasses and a lilac-coloured collared shirt.

Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Hauiti, Taranaki

It was while on a noho marae during my Māori Studies degree that I first experienced thinking in te reo Māori. It was quite a mind-blowing experience but also demonstrated to me the duality of what it means to be Māori in today’s world. This was reflected during my undergraduate study, where I was also studying History. Having Māori Studies, which interrogates history, anthropology, politics, and language from a Māori point of view, was an invaluable counterpoint to my History degree, which was not from that point of view. My time at Te Kawa a Māui provided me with the tool of criticality, of looking at knowledge both inherited through my whānau and presented through the academy and determining my own truth.

For me, the most important part of the degree, has been te reo Māori. Through te reo I gained a deeper appreciation of te ao Māori, and the practices that I had been part of on my marae my whole life but had taken for granted because I hadn’t understood them. Te reo has always had the ability to be a great connector of people, and not just Māori people but anyone who engages with it. Working in the arts, it is a privilege to hear our reo everywhere and know that people appreciate it. From an employment perspective, having the skills that the Māori Studies degree gave me in terms of te reo and feeling comfortable in privileging Māori worldviews has served me well. In fact, they are skills that have I have used in each and every role that I have held.

When I decided to start a Master’s in Museum and Heritage Studies, I had my eyes firmly set on a role in the Mātaraunga Māori curatorial team at Te Papa. As I mentioned, my undergraduate degrees provided a strong foundation for me to start postgraduate study, even as I went from being one of many Māori students in a course to being the only Māori student in a course. Māori Studies gave me confidence; it affirmed my already strong identity and for that I will always be grateful.

I would recommend Māori Studies to anybody, to everybody! For Māori, it’s a course that is culturally safe and boldly Māori. For everyone else, it is an opportunity to access histories that are underrepresented and provides skills that enable people to connect.

Update: Matariki is currently Pou Matua Mātauranga Māori, Senior Historian, Mātauranga Māori at Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage in Wellington.