$2m boost for ‘undervalued’ mātauranga Māori

By Te Ao - Māori News

This story is written by Peata Melbourne

Mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) projects run by hapū and iwi nationwide have been given a breath of new life thanks to a $2 million funding distribution from Pouhere Taonga (Heritage NZ).

Twenty grants in total have been awarded under the Te Awe Kōtuku programme to help revitalise and retain mātauranga Māori in areas of ancestral landscapes and Māori built heritage – areas too often overlooked and undervalued, according to Pouhere Taonga’s Programme Coordinator, Matene Simon.

“The feedback from our hapū and iwi is that Covid has presented so many barriers for our people to get back to their marae and learn from their kaumātua. This pūtea has made it easier for iwi to reconnect with their marae and that means creating an opportunity to reconnect and break down the barriers – it was hard enough before covid hit,” says Simon.

Mātauranga Māori projects that are considered ‘vulnerable’ received up to $25k and include traditional fishing methods like the use of taruke – cray pots made from the muka of a kiekie plant, and tokatū – traditional fishing nets that only a handful of people know how to use these days. Whatu mauri stones used in māra kai (food gardens) are becoming a lost practice too, as is having māra specific for bugs and other māra to grow food for human consumption.

“Maramataka knowledge is also a huge vulnerability. We’ve seen duplication of kōrero rather than kōrere to help people understand how it works, and giving them the tools so a person can figure out for themselves what it means for them personally when observing the skies,” says Simon.

More than half of the applications from iwi and hapū for the funding were for cultural mapping with iwi wanting to reclaim the original names for landmarks in their rohe.

In Blenheim, Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau are using the grant to create digital content that tells the stories of their tūpuna and significant sites across Te Tauihu, with a primary focus on the Whakatū (Nelson) area. 

Rangitāne o Wairau covers a territory stretching from the Waiau-toa (Clarence) River in the south to the Wairau (Marlborough), including the Nelson Lakes, and north to Kaituna and the Marlborough Sounds and west into the Whakatū (Nelson) area. There are 3932 registered members of Rangitāne o Wairau, most of whom reside outside their rohe. Therefore, making the resources innovative and accessible was a priority, according to Corey Hebberd, General Manager at Te Rūnanga.

“This will be delivered through a series of hīkoi with experts in mātauranga Māori with knowledge of our sites of significance, in an effort to revitalise ancestral landscape histories, to tell our pūrakau and to develop and instill confidence amongst our people to share their connection to our whenua in Te Tauihu,” says Hebberd.

The first of the mātauranga Māori projects funded will kick off on the 21st of this month in Te Araroa where Hinerupe and its members are looking at reclaiming their land markers. The second round of funding will be open for applications later this year.