Matariki Tāpuapua: Pools of Traditional Knowledge and Currents of Change

  • Hēmi WhaangaEmail author
  • Rangi Matamua
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 30)


The study of astronomy has shaped cultures, societies, science and religion and influenced the evolution of all peoples. For Māori, the results of thousands of years of living with, studying and talking about the stars were woven into the language, culture and environment. Traditionally, Māori held a vast knowledge of astronomy, and their studies of the night sky played an important role in everyday life. This knowledge has, unfortunately, become less visible in the glare of contemporary European culture. However, in the last 20 years, there has been a renaissance in Māori astronomy and astronomical knowledge and, in particular, the revitalisation of the Māori lunar calendar (maramataka), ocean navigation and the Matariki (Pleiades) celebration. We focus on the celebration of Matariki and explore how this traditional practice is returning to play a significant role in the modern cultural landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Indigenous knowledge Social change Māori astronomy Matariki (Pleiades) 


  1. Agrawal, A. (1995). Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge. Development and Change, 26(3), 413–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aveni, A. F. (2003). Archaeoastronomy in the ancient Americas. Journal of Archaeological Research, 11(2), 149–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aveni, A. F., Urton, G., & New York Academy of Sciences. (1982). Ethnoastronomy and archaeoastronomy in the American tropics. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  4. Battiste, M. A., & Henderson, J. Y. (2000). Protecting indigenous knowledge and heritage: A global challenge. Saskatoon: Purich Pub.Google Scholar
  5. Berkes, F. (1993). Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In J. T. Inglis (Ed.), Traditional ecological knowledge: Concepts and cases (pp. 1–10). Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.Google Scholar
  6. Berkes, F. (2008). Sacred ecology (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Berkes, F., & Berkes, M. K. (2009). Ecological complexity, fuzzy logic, and holism in indigenous knowledge. Futures, 41(1), 6–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Best, E. (1922). The astronomical knowledge of the Maori, genuine and empirical: Including data concerning their systems of astrogeny, astrolatry, and natural astrology, with notes on certain other natural phenomena. Wellington: Govt. Print.Google Scholar
  9. Best, E. (1996). Tūhoe: The children of the mist (4th ed.). Auckland: Reed.Google Scholar
  10. Bicker, A., Sillitoe, P., & Pottier, J. (2004). Development and local knowledge: New approaches to issues in natural resources management, conservation and agriculture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Carlson, J. B. (2011). The Maya calendar and 2012 phenomenon studies: An introduction. Archaeoastronomy, 24, 1–7.Google Scholar
  12. Davis, A., & Wagner, J. R. (2003). Who knows? On the importance of identifying “experts” when researching local ecological knowledge. Human Ecology, 31(3), 463–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Efrosyni, B., & Robert, H. (2012). Aitia, astronomy and the timing of the Arrhephoria. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 107, 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ekers, R., & Kellermann, K. (2011). Introduction: Discoveries in astronomy. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 155(2), 129–133.Google Scholar
  15. Estrada-Belli, F. (2011). The first Maya civilization ritual and power before the Classic Period. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Hakaraia, L. (2006). Celebrating Matariki. Auckland: Reed.Google Scholar
  17. Hakaraia, L. (2008). Matariki: The Māori New Year. North Shore: Raupo.Google Scholar
  18. Hamacher, D. W., & Norris, R. P. (2011). “Bridging the Gap” through Australian cultural astronomy. In C. Ruggles (Ed.), Archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy: Building bridges between cultures. ‘Oxford IX’ International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy – IAU Symposium No. 278 (pp. 282–290). Cambridge University: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hannah, R. (2013). Greek temple orientation: The case of the older Parthenon in Athens. Nexus Network Journal, 15(3), 423–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hardy, A. (2012). Re-designing the national imaginary: The development of Matariki as a contemporary festival. Australian Journal of Communication, 39(1), 103–119.Google Scholar
  21. Harris, A. (2004). Hīkoi: Forty years of Māori protest. Wellington: Huia Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Harris, P., Matamua, R., Smith, T., Kerr, H., & Waaka, T. (2013). A review of Māori astronomy in Aotearoa-New Zealand. The Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 16(3), 325–336.Google Scholar
  23. Hunn, E. (2007). Ethnobiology in four phases. Journal of Ethnobiology, 27(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huntington, H. P. (2000). Using traditional ecological knowledge in science: Methods and applications. Ecological Applications, 10(5), 1270–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, D. (2011). Interpretations of the Pleiades in Australian Aboriginal astronomies. In C. Ruggles (Ed.), Archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy: Building bridges between cultures. ‘Oxford IX’ International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy – IAU Symposium No. 278 (pp. 282–290). Cambridge University: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kellert, S. R., Mehta, J. N., Ebbin, S. A., & Lichtenfeld, L. L. (2000). Community natural resource management: Promise, rhetoric, and reality. Society and Natural Resources, 13(8), 705–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kirch, P. V., Ruggles, C., & Sharp, W. D. (2013). The panana or sighting wall at Hanamauloa, Kahikinui, Maui: Archaeological investigation of a possible navigational monument. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 122(1), 45–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maina, C. K. (2012). Traditional knowledge management and preservation: Intersections with library and information science. International Information and Library Review, 44(1), 13–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Martin, J. F., Roy, E. D., Diemont, S. A. W., & Ferguson, B. G. (2010). Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): Ideas, inspiration, and designs for ecological engineering. Ecological Engineering, 36(7), 839–849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Matamua, R. L. (2013). Matariki – The seven sisters. In Take a closer look: New Zealand stories in stamps (pp. 23–27). Wellington: New Zealand Post.Google Scholar
  31. Matamua, R. L., Harris, P., & Kerr, H. (2013). Māori navigation. In G. Christie (Ed.), New Zealand Astronomical Society yearbook 2013 (pp. 28–34). Auckland: Stardome Observatory Planetarium.Google Scholar
  32. Mazzocchi, F. (2006). Western science and traditional knowledge: Despite their variations, different forms of knowledge can learn from each other. EMBO Reports, 7(5), 463–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miyazato, T. (2007). A cultural anthropological study of the Matariki tradition and the Maori new year. Bulletin of the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Aichi Prefectural University, 8, 193–211.Google Scholar
  34. Moller, H., Berkes, F., Lyver, P. O. B., & Kislalioglu, M. (2004). Combining science and traditional ecological knowledge: Monitoring populations for co-management. Ecology and Society, 9(3), 2. Accessed 25th January 2015.Google Scholar
  35. Nakata, M., Byrne, A., Nakata, V., & Gardiner, G. (2005). Indigenous knowledge, the library and information service sector, and protocols. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 36(2), 7–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nicholas, C. (2004). Introduction: Cultural astronomy. In C. Nicholas, P. Curry, & M. York (Eds.), Astrology and the Academy, papers from the inaugural conference of the Sophia Centre, Bath Spa University College, 13–14 June 2003. Bristol: Cinnabar Books.Google Scholar
  37. Pihama, L., Smith, K., Taki, M., & Lee, J. (2004). A literature review on kaupapa Māori and Māori education pedagogy. Auckland: Auckland UniServices Ltd.Google Scholar
  38. Posey, D. A., & Plenderleith, K. (2004). Indigenous knowledge and ethics: A Darrell Posey reader. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Roskruge, N. (2011). Traditional Maori horticultural and ethnopedological praxis in the New Zealand landscape. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, 22(2), 200–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ruggles, C. L. N., & Saunders, N. J. (Eds.). (2003). Astronomies and cultures. West Sussex: Ocarina Books.Google Scholar
  41. Sillitoe, P. (1998). The development of indigenous knowledge: A new applied anthropology. Current Anthropology, 39(2), 223–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith, G. H. (1997). The development of kaupapa Maori: Theory and praxis (PhD Education). Auckland: University of Auckland.Google Scholar
  43. Smith, G. H. (2004). Mai i te Maramatanga, ki te Putanga Mai o te Tahuritanga: From conscientization to transformation. Educational Perspectives, 37(1), 46–52.Google Scholar
  44. Smith, L. T., & Reid, P. (2000). Māori research development. Kaupapa Māori principles and practices. A literature review. Wellington: Te Puni Kōkiri.Google Scholar
  45. Tāwhai, W. (2013). Living by the moon: Te maramataka a Te Whānau-ā-Apanui. Wellington: Huia.Google Scholar
  46. Te Kokau, R. (n.d.) Untitled personal manuscript. Unpublished Manuscript. Ruatāhuna: Aotearoa.Google Scholar
  47. Temara, P. (2011). A Māori world view: The connection and identification with the environment. In Waitangi Tribunal (Ed.), Wai 796: The Report on the management of the Petroleum Resource (pp. 23–38). Wellington: Legislation Direct.Google Scholar
  48. Turnbull, D. (1997). Reframing science and other local knowledge traditions. Futures, 29(6), 551–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner, N. J., Ignace, M. B., & Ignace, R. (2000). Traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. Ecological Applications, 10(5), 1275–1287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Walker, R. (1984). The genesis of Maori activism. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 93(3), 267–282.Google Scholar
  51. Walker, R. (2004). Ka whawhai tonu mātou: Struggle without end (Rev. ed.). Auckland: PenguinGoogle Scholar
  52. Williams, J. (2013). Puaka and Matariki: The Māori new year. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 122(1), 7–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao, School of Māori and Pacific DevelopmentUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations