top of page

Indigenous knowledges

Māori are Tangata Whenua (the people of the land), the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Māori approaches to managing the environment and interactions between humans and the natural world were based on traditional knowledge, worldviews, and values.

Tangata Whenua
the people of the land

Pre-colonisation, Māori had long undisturbed occupation of Aotearoa and developed an intimate understanding of the environment over generations.


As Tangata Whenua, Māori established a unique culture intrinsically linked to land and developed a ‘strict system designed to regulate human activity with respect to nature’.


The night sky 
a repository of knowledges

An example of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) in relation to space is the Maramataka.


The Maramataka is a stellar, lunar, ecological calendar developed by Māori. It was used to guide the planting and harvesting of crops, fishing and hunting.


Maramataka translates as ‘moon rotating’.


The phases of the moon were combined with the movement of the sun and stars, along with other environmental and biological indicators to track the passage of time.


It continues to provide a connection to ancestral knowledges and promotes tikanga (customs).

Society Of Māori Astronomy Research & Traditions

A bicultural vision

The colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand is founded on negotiated treaties and agreements made between nations of hapū (the primary political unit in traditional Māori society) and the British Crown.

There are two sets of founding documents which were written in both English and Māori (but not an exact translation of each other), entitled He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni/The Declaration of Independence New Zealand (1835) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi (1840).

Each agreement reaffirmed the continued authority of Māori tribes over their tribal territories and legitimised a form of colonial authority over new settlers. The terms set out in the founding documents provided a bicultural vision and framework for the co-existence of two distinct authorities and foundation of a bicultural society.


Breach of Treaty 

Despite the Treaty agreements which reaffirmed Māori independence and their authority over their tribal territory, legislation was enacted which breached the treaties.

Between 1840 and 1870, British colonial forces fought to wrestle land away from tribes to open up land for new settlers. The New Zealand wars
began between the colonial settler government and Māori.

A Māori resistance tradition opposing colonisation began.

By 1900, tribal land estates dwindled from 29,880,000 hectares to 3,200,000 heactares through land confiscations.

This displacement had a profound impact on Māori economic welfare. The Crown took no account of aboriginal title and ignored Māori Treaty rights in determining national and local regulations, policies, and plans.

The Tohunga Suppression Act 1908 coupled with land alienation had a detrimental impact on the ability of Māori to continue to exercise their responsibilities and obligations of kaitiakitanga, a Māori cultural expression which relates to western forms of sustainability.
bottom of page