Māori ancestral knowledge about fungi to be taught in schools

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A new resource to reconnect students to Māori ancestral knowledge about fungi.  Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research have launched their new book Fungi of Aotearoa at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Maungarongo in Auckland.

Co-author Georgina Stewart says, “Traditional knowledge from ancient times has been included regarding the uses of some fungi species present in New Zealand.”

Manaaki Whenua Land Researcher Peter Buchannan says, “It occurred to me that this knowledge is not European knowledge, this is Māori knowledge- and do Māori know it?  Is it in the pūtaiao, the Māori science curriculum, is there a way to get it there?”

Buchannan says fungi are incredibly important but largely unrecognised.

“They help plants to grow and they help connect plants. They actually manage the whole decomposition and nutrient cycling process so in the environment fungi are incredibly important. They're also important for how people can use fungi. We use them for antibiotic medicine and food.”

In a project led by Landcare Research, students were taken to identify fungi in the forest and examine fungi species in the lab.

They found a fungi species not previously known to the international scientific community.

“We did various studies to determine that it was new, never been seen before, new to science internationally, and then we fashioned a scientific paper to formally describe those new fungi that the students had found.”

Co-Authored by Georgina Stewart, the bilingual resource was translated into Māori by Heeni Jacob to be made available for Māori immersion schools.

“There will be other knowledge within Māoridom which is not known outside, but what we tried to do is at least collate the knowledge which is in written form and reintroduce it back into the schools.  Students can understand a little about the importance of fungi.”

The booklet and teacher guide that will be going to 108 maori immersion schools across NZ.