Te Mauria Whiritoi: The sky as a cultural resource - Māori astronomy, ritual and ecological knowledge

Researchers: Dr Rangi Matamua, Dr Pauline Harris, Dr Hēmi Whaanga, Dr Ann Hardy

Project Summary: Overview: Since antiquity, people have always used the canvas of the night sky to embed historical, scientific and cultural knowledge. Early cultures orientated their beliefs, practices and understandings around the movement of the celestial bodies. Their detailed observations were interlaced with ecological and environmental information that was manifested and reaffirmed in ceremony and cultural practice. A new Marsden funded project, Te Mauria Whiritoi, will examine Māori beliefs, practices and observations in relation to astronomy, ecology and ritual. Using archaeoastronomy, cultural astronomy, oral history, semi-structured interviews, surveys, Wānanga and environmental observations, our research team, led by Dr Rangi Matamua (University of Waikato), with Dr Pauline Harris (Victoria University of Wellington), Dr Hēmi Whaanga (University of Waikato), Dr Ann Hardy (University of Waikato) and Dr Kaliko Baker (University of Hawai‘i at Manoa), will investigate how astronomy impacts upon ritual practice and is influenced by ecological and societal change. It will explore the interconnectedness between multiple disciplines from a traditional context, while also examining its contemporary application in our modern society through celebrations such as Matariki. This project will identify the sophisticated knowledge that is still encoded and integrated across many aspects of Māori life and is embedded within the Māori landscape. We will collect and preserve a significant body of indigenous astronomical knowledge that might otherwise be lost, benefiting cultural and linguistic sustainability and environmental practice in Aotearoa.

Keywords: Marsden, Whiritoi, astronomy, Matariki