On June 8, 2022, the College celebrated Matariki with guest speakers Scotty and Stacey Morrison, and stunning performances from our Kapa Haka group. The Māori Advisory Group also honoured the dedication and commitment of its outgoing Chairman, Andre Morris, with a speech from His Honour Justice Christian Whata.
Matariki is an integral part of a complex and intricate stellar lunar calendar system created here in Aotearoa. In the modern world, we are accustomed to 365 (and a quarter) days for any given year. We travel around the sun which gives us our year and our time system, regardless of any other environmental factors.
There are a total of nine stars, Tupuārangi, Tupuānuku, Matariki, Pōhutukawa, Waitī, Waitā, Waipunaārangi, Ururangi, Hiwaiterangi. Depending on weather at the time, you may be able to spot the Matariki constellation and others just before sunrise on the eastern horizon here in New Zealand. It is a time of reflection, renewal and celebration.
Our Māori ancestors had a deep and personal connection to the apparent magnitude of stars and they knew that Matariki needed to be a certain height on the horizon, while the sun is below the horizon, for it to be visible. So over centuries of real life lived experience, these Māori ancestors sought to triangulate the position of the sun, the visibility of the stars, and lunar phase to tell where they were in their calendar system, and the correct lunar month.
Added to that, to make it all have meaning and purpose, which is essential, Māori cultural practices and even spirituality were built around this movement of time. One of the greatest practises Māori still hold dearest today.
This meant more than just “knowing” the information — it needed to become part of their practice. So, Māori lived it every day. They hunted, fished, gardened, undertook every activity, by the moon, the position of the sun, the pre-dawn rising of stars. Their whole lives were orientated not just around the sky, but their environment and their own human mortal connection to it.
Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems) had the ability to take the scientific principle and demonstrate to people that if they followed that star, they’d arrive at a certain location. Then, to make the premise have deep meaning to the people, that star became a deity.
Māori knew that when a certain star was visible, the birds would fly in a certain direction. So that star was named after those birds, which would lead to a particular land area, which was then embedded into a ceremony so that it had a tangible connection for people.
Mātauranga Māori is not locked in the past. It is still evolving and developing. It is a framework for our Indigenous knowledge systems, whether they are still purely traditional or whether we have incorporated other thinking and concepts and added elements of our Māoriness to them.The beauty of the upcoming Matariki holiday is that it’s one way in which mātauranga Māori will connect us all.
There isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t come from a culture or background where people looked up to the sky — for inspiration, for navigation, for understanding time.
For us, here at home, that time for inspiration, navigation and understanding not only the natural environment around us – but more importantly and on a deeper level, the way in which we understand one another in time will be front and centre as we celebrate Matariki this year.