Exploring Māori tradition

24 November 2016

University of Waikato honours student Tiriana Anderson is researching why some Māori traditions exist.

University of Waikato masters student and Māori Liason Advisor Tiriana Anderson

University of Waikato student Tiriana Anderson (Ngāti Maniapoto/Rereahu) is researching tikanga (Māori custom) and why some Māori traditions exist.

Tiriana’s looking at why women can’t lead whaikorero (oratory) on the marae. This is the focus of his Honours year of a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori and Pacific Development and te reo Māori.

“I’m looking at it from a development perspective and how colonisation has shaped the Māori culture,” Tiriana says.

Tiriana became interested in this topic when he noticed a shortage of whaikorero speakers at his own marae. “My dad passed away in 2013 and at his tangi there was almost no one from our marae to lead the whaikorero,” he says.

After this, Tiriana and his uncle started a project to teach the family all the things needed to run a marae such as how to speak te reo, run the kitchen and lead a karanga.

The project went for two years, and it worked. “Now I can go onto my marae and there’s a whole crew available to back me up,” Tiriana says.

The next step in the project is to re-build the wharenui (meeting house) because the current one is “falling apart”.

While he’s busy planning for that, Tiriana’s finishing off his Honours papers and getting ready to take on another research project over the summer.

Recently he was nominated by the University’s Human Research Ethics Committee for a $5000 Health Research Council of New Zealand summer studentship, and got it. Tiriana will spend the summer researching how tikanga can inform the use of big data.

The former Nga Taiatea Wharekura school student originally wanted to study medicine. Many of his ancestors and family members had suffered and died from preventable diseases and Tiriana wanted to ensure future generations didn’t experience the same fate. After exploring the options, Tiriana realised he wanted to be the person to tackle the issue before it got to the doctor. So he chose to do development studies with the hope of working with policy in the future.

Next year Tiriana plans to take on a Master of Māori and Pacific Development while juggling his community projects.

“I don’t know how I find time for it all but somehow it works,” Tiriana says.