Mātauranga Māori must be protected

By Tumamao Harawira

Take Māori knowledge out of Pākehā universities - that's the call from Māori astrologer Rereata Mākiha.

"Our knowledge should be housed in its own institutions. There is no place for it in Pākehā institutions, it's a waste of time."

A letter, published in the NZ Listener magazine last week, was signed by seven professors from the University of Auckland: Kendall Clements, Garth Cooper, Michael Corballis, Douglas Elliffe, Elizabeth Rata, Emeritus Professor Robert Nola, and Emeritus Professor John Werry.

In the letter about Māori knowledge, the professors said it should not have parity with western science in the school curriculum, which is being planned.

The main objection the professors have is that students will be taught that science was used to oppress indigenous peoples of the world. 

But Rereata Mākiha says the approaches of the two disciplines are totally different. 

"Māori look for connections, connections based on genealogy and stories that have been passed down."

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is one of the institutions that has deeply embedded Māori knowledge into every aspect of its being but also wants its students to understand different points of view.

University rejects academics' comments

Chief executive Wiremu Doherty says Awanuiārangi has long maintained a stance" that there should be a collaboration between the two, where one isn't above the other."

"That is the epitome of utter contempt to say, in their ignorance, that Māori knowledge is lower."

Mākiha says students must learn Māori knowledge in its right context. 

"Look to the signs in the sky, and on land, and on the sea, and the connection it has to man."

University of Auckland vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater has made it clear that while the academics are free to express their views, they do not represent the views of the university.

"The university has a deep respect for mātauranga Māori as a distinctive and valuable knowledge system," she says.

"We believe that mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete. They are complementary and have much to learn from each other."