Dr Pauline Harris discusses ways in which the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions (SMART) is regaining and sharing Māori astronomical knowledge. SMART’s vision is to empower young people and communities by realising Māori potential and success and to inspire the next generation to become engineers, scientists and astronauts.
Questions for discussion:
- How does maramataka connect celestial knowledge with environmental knowledge?
- Pauline talks about language as a vehicle for knowledge – how not having the language affects understanding and context. What do you think she means by this? (This issue is briefly addressed in the articles Cultural indicators for repo and Why climate change matters to Māori.)
Dr Pauline Harris
Astrophysicist, cosmologist, kairangahau Māori
Senior Lecturer, Te Kawa a Māui – School of Māori Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Chairperson, Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions
The revitalisation of Māori astronomical knowledge, at the moment, is really quite important to Māori communities. And there’s been a lot of work done by our tohunga, our Māori experts, who are working now to develop resources, online presence, going out and giving talks.
Since the arrival of Pākehā to Aotearoa, we’ve had a significant amount of Māori traditional knowledge or ancestral knowledge or mātauranga Māori that’s been lost. After the Land Wars, they restricted the transmission of knowledge to English within the public schooling system. The problem with that is when you don’t have your language as a vehicle for knowledge, it really hinders what knowledge can be taught and understood, for without your language, you truly don’t understand the context.
So I chair an organisation called SMART, which is the Society for Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions, and a couple of our main objectives are to revitalise our traditional astronomical knowledge, our tātai arorangi, and also to be able to produce educational programmes and do outreach with Māori kids and our general public to help educate them around what Māori astronomy is.
We’ve had a number of projects around Māori astronomy and maramataka, which is our Māori traditional calendar system, in which we have done extensive amounts of research connecting the celestial, which is our stars, our Sun, our Moon and planets, to things such as our environmental knowledge and our ecological knowledge.
And so we’re trying to revitalise our knowledge in a context where we’ve lost a lot of our knowledge. So it’s about rebuilding, recreating and bringing people together to understand how to build it again and how to build a future where our children value our knowledge.
Dr Pauline Harris, Victoria University of Wellington and SMART
SMART webpages, Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions
Okoha/Anakoha Native School, Nelson Provincial Museum, N Baigent Collection: 315921
Interior of Karioi Native School with tamariki holding slates, circa 1900–1909, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A12343
North Auckland’s Native Schools: Boy pupils at Whangape School, 1905, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19050413-2-4
Ruatoki Native School, circa 1900–1936, Archives reference: BAAA 1005 A440 Box 1, Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, CC BY 2.0
Children at toothbrush drill, Te Kaha Native School, 1944. Pascoe, John Dobree, 1908-1972: Photographic albums, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/4-001107-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand
Dr Harris at telescope, Project Mātauranga, Scottie Productions
Maramataka seasons illustration by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, from Listening to the Land, 2018 Level 3 Connected journal Cracking the Code published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand, Crown copyright
Maramataka chapter by Liliana Clarke and Dr Pauline Harris from Whaanga, H., Keegan, T. T. A. G., & Apperley, M. (Eds.). (2017). He Whare Hangarau Māori – Language, culture & technology. Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato University of Waikato, Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, New Zealand: Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies