Mātauranga Māori is a term that refers to a body of knowledge that arrived here from Polynesia by the ancestors of the Māori and developed here in Aotearoa.
The arrival of the colonisers to Aotearoa and their subsequent settlement in Aotearoa disrupted, halted growth and in many cases, caused deletion of bodies of knowledge within mātauranga Māori. Māori knowledge and language has been side-lined from the education systems and attempts to remove its existence were near successful.
At the School of Science in Society researchers are contributing to the revitalisation of mātauranga Māori, creating projects and programmes that work at the interface between “western” science and mātauranga Māori, to bring back ancient ancestral knowledge. Dr Sara Belcher, from Te Arawa, is working at this interface. Her particular interests lay in putaiao (science) and how we can bring tikanga and kaupapa into our natural resource, conservation and biosecurity management practices and policy. There is a vast knowledge of resource management in Te Ao Māori accumulated from hundreds of years of successful kaitiakitanga, knowledge that may provide the key to the successful preservation of our natural heritage and our social and economic sustainability.
Sara has had an extensive career in the Local Government biosecurity sector and now sites on the New Zealand Ecological Council. Her background is reflected in her research portfolio with the National Science Challenge and Predator Free 2050/Genomics Aotearoa. This research involved looking at the cultural and ecological impacts and implications for genetically modified wasps and rats. Her assessment tool was able to measure the impact of this technology on whakapapa, wairua and mauri.
Sara views part of her role in the School of Science in Society is delivering mātauranga Māori components into new and existing courses. She says she is in the position to reach more students that may not have had the opportunity to be exposed to mātauranga Māori previously. She also believes that she, and other wahine Māori scientists, have a responsibility to support one another in our Kaupapa Māori research and restore the mana of mātauranga Māori.