Mātauranga Māori (Māori Epistemology)

By Hōne Sadler.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Mātauranga Māori is a knowledge tradition or an epistemology that had its genesis in ancient Polynesia. It was taken to Awatearoa by the ancestors of the present day Māori where it developed further and thrived. It was further embellished over a period of about a thousand years and was refined by the succeeding generations, who added further to the epistemology, into a culture, although having its roots embedded in Polynesia, that was vibrant, adaptable, and alive and flourished undisturbed until contact with Europeans was made in the 18th Century. Sadly, further development and enhancement was halted after encountering Pākehā and their knowledge system. Although Mātauranga Māori continued to be the most influential knowledge tradition during nineteenth century Awatearoa, this dramatically changed over the latter part of the nineteenth century with the onslaught of colonisation. Its political and social structures were superseded by what might be called Western Knowledge. In the twentieth century, Mātauranga Māori had been seriously undermined and continues to be so as it is continually under siege by a range of contributing factors. A stark indicator of this, notwithstanding others, is the diminishing pool of speakers of Te Reo Māori (Māori language), the loss of the Whare Wānanga (Traditional School of Learning) where this epistemology resided, and the dearth of institutions devoted to its development and maintenance. Today Mātauranga Māori finds itself in a difficult situation and it certainly is at a crossroad for its survival. Many learning institutions now proliferate and lay claims that they are the receptacles, the repositories, the guardians and keepers of Mātauranga Māori. Some of these institutions have not served Mātauranga Māori well, but others have served to explore and express Mātauranga Māori and have been successful to varying degrees. There is also a new range of institutions that have arisen in recent years that serve to explore and express Mātauranga Māori such as Wānanga a modern innovation of the old schools of learning incorporating redefined and redeveloped pedagogy of the Wānanga of old. The political agenda has turned up the heat on one of these Wānanga which is the largest Tertiary Educational Institution in the country that of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, a Private Training Establishment, Māori driven and Māori lead, to the detriment of Mātauranga Māori. Traditional Universities didn't treat Māori well and there still remains the view by some academics from those institutions that Māori is not a discipline worthy of serious academic pursuit.

Keywords: Mātauranga Māori, Māori Epistemology, Māori Analytical Tools, Hakapapa, Māori Body of Knowledge

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 10, pp.33-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.065MB).

Hōne Sadler

Senior Lecturer, Māori Studies Department, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

A well respected elder of the Ngāpuhi Iwi (nation) whose territory is in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand. He is regarded as a font of knowledge in regard to Tikanga Māori (Māori Traditions), and Te Reo Māori (Māori Language) especially of Ngāpuhi. He has spent a lifetime of approximately forty years in education teaching across the spectrum from Primary to Tertiary. He is now Senior Lecturer in the Department of Māori of the University of Auckland specialising in the teaching of oral Te Reo Māori and Māori Philosophy and Traditions.


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