Whakataukī and conservation of biodiversity in Aotearoa | He rongo i te reo rauriki, i te reo reiuru

Researchers: Dr Hēmi Whaanga, Tom Roa, Dr Priscilla Wehi, Associate Professor Murray Cox

Project Summary: This Marsden funded project aims to uncover the past relationships that Māori have with the environment through an interdisciplinary study of traditional Māori ecological knowledge as expressed through whakataukī (Māori ancestral sayings). The ‘wisdom of the elders’ about how best to manage the environment is rapidly being lost, as is Aotearoa’s biological and cultural diversity. This interdisciplinary research project draws from linguistics, sociology, history and evolutionary theory to explore the knowledge and understanding of conservation and biodiversity embedded in whakataukī. We combine rigorous and innovative methodologies associated largely with the Western tradition of scholarship with equally rigorous and innovative methodologies associated largely with indigenous approaches. Using both qualitative and quantitative techniques, we will investigate the contribution that whakataukī can make to contemporary issues associated with language and cultural sustainability, biodiversity and conservation. This project breaks new ground with an approach to modelling that sits at the interface between indigenous and mainstream understanding. We will collect and preserve a significant body of cultural and biological knowledge that might otherwise be lost, benefiting Māori language and culture, linguistics and conservation in Aotearoa.

Keywords: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, whakataukī, conservation, biodiversity, sustainability, indigenous knowledge.

The following people are involved in this project:

  • Dr Hēmi Whaanga Principal Investigator - Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe, Waitaha
  • Dr Priscilla Wehi - Associate Investigator (Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE), The University of Otago)
  • Associate Professor Murray Cox - Associate Investigator (Computational Biology Research Group - Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University)
  • Tom Roa - Associate Investigator Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato
  • Dr Luisa Maffi- Associate Investigator (Royal Roads University)
  • Prof George Appell- Associate Investigator (Brandeis University)