Science traditionally refers to the methods and approaches used in the study of the natural world. For Māori, our science was rooted in observation, intuition, innovation and a deep connection with nature and the environment. This scientific approach is what led to practices such as rongoā (medicine and healing), mātaiarorangi (astronomy), mātai huarere (meteorology), ahuwhenua (agriculture) and ahumāra (horticulture) becoming part of everyday life for Māori.
By acknowledging the interrelationship traditional science has with the modern day, we can observe science through a unique lens that brings with it a deeper connection to, and a greater appreciation of, te taiao – our environment.
Technology, although evolved over the years, traditionally showcased the ingenuity and innovativeness of Māori. Māori were able to create tools that reflected their deep understanding of the natural resources they had at hand, as well as exemplify their knowledge of sustainability. Examples of such technologies were waka that were fashioned from particular types of trees that could withstand drastic environments and long ocean journeys; and the different kinds of hīnaki that came with them, which were intricately crafted to catch seafood more efficiently. Additionally, the construction of pā sites across Aotearoa showcased Māori ability to utilise the natural landscapes and resources around them, in order to create fortified living estates that had minimal effect of the environment. Traditional Māori technologies epitomise the harmonious relationship between Māori and their environment. In acknowledging these traditional practices, we can adapt and apply them in the development of new technologies to create more thoughtful and environmentally sustainable approaches.
Engineering techniques used by Māori were a showcase of how resourceful thinking and a deep rooted understanding of the environment can create functional and durable structures. Wharenui (meeting houses) showcase the intricate design and craftsmanship of Māori, who utilised natural resources to construct large communal spaces enriched with deep traditions and adorned with intricate design work throughout. Furthermore, the construction of pā sites demonstrated knowledge of strategic planning through the use of natural defensive features like ditches and palisades for protection. Geographical placements of pā sites further demonstrated the close relationship Māori had with their environment. The degree of engineering used to create structures such as agricultural terraces for cultivation also demonstrated Māori expertise in land management and sustainability. Traditional Māori engineering showcased a deep respect for the environment, as well as an ability to harmonise cultural heritage with practical innovation.
Mathematics for Māori encompassed a sophisticated system of knowledge and problem-solving methods. Underpinned by their connection to their environment, Māori mathematics includes various numeric systems and geometrical principles. Notably, Māori understanding of patterns and symmetries within art and design, as well as the environment, are demonstrated through aspects such as whakairo, kōwhaiwhai, raranga and whatu. Additionally, Māori had also developed numerous counting techniques for practical uses, such as fishing, farming and trading; navigation using celestial bodies showcased Māori ability and understanding of astronomy and geometry; the mathematical concepts applied in the construction of both wharenui and pā sites highlights Māori expertise in spatial arrangements and measurements. It is clearly evident that Māori mathematics illustrates the intersection of cultural knowledge and analytical thinking to overcome challenges.
Mātauranga Māori refers to collective knowledge systems passed down as taonga tuku iho through the generations that aid how Māori interact with, and is a direct connection to, their environments. Mātauranga holds deep knowledge of te taiao, traditional practices, history, genealogy, spirituality, arts and so much more. Mātauranga is integral to combining domains, such as navigation, healing, environmental management and ecological knowledge, with concepts such as whakapapa and tikanga, to help generate those deeper connections. But mātauranga Māori is more than just historical knowledge, as mātauranga Māori is a dynamic body of knowing – always evolving, changing and adapting to the needs of its people. It is also an integral part of the Māori identity, and guide Māori in their actions and decision making processes – connecting our present with our past, with a mind to create a better future.
This series of posters was created with an aim to inspire rangatahi Māori to consider STEMM as a viable and natural pathway for them. The hope is that by pointing out that te ao pūrau is part of te ao Māori and that our tūpuna had initmate knowledge of the STEM disciplines, and by acknowledging the existence of STEM in mātauranga Māori, our rangatahi will see that STEM is indeed in their whakapapa.
"Ko te ao pūrau, he ao Māori."
Thanks to NZQA for their support of these posters.