Reviving ancient Māori knowledge

The aims of the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions are to find modern day uses for ancient Māori astronomical knowledge (tātai arorangi).

Most of this knowledge was reinterpreted during the colonisation of New Zealand or eventually forgotten.

Post doctorate fellow, Dr Pauline Harris, chairs the society whose research ranges from analysing texts describing celestial based navigation right through to conducting current research on Maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar. The calendar is predominantly based on traditional ecological knowledge and was used to determine when to fish and plant crops.

Another goal of the society is to share this knowledge with iwi and eventually the wider community. This is partly achieved by outreach programmes in schools and the provision of educational resources to teach the community about tātai arorangi. The discoveries made by the society have been presented at conferences and also other interest groups such as the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The second season of Project Mātauranga, a programme that showcases Maori science innovation, features Dr Pauline Harris, Tohunga whakairo (master carver) Dr Takirirangi Smith, and others discussing the revival of tātai arorangi knowledge. The video can be viewed on the Māori Television website.