This week, pre-eminent scholar on astronomy, Dr Rangi Matamua (Ngāi Tūhoe) talks about the significance of Matariki with Delilah Pārore Southon (Ngāti Tuwharetoa,
Te Roroa, Whakatōhea) and how TV shows and Star Wars piqued his curiosity for science. This is followed by an extract from Te Kai A Te Rangatira, in te reo and in English.
As I look out my little crystal ball window, I think of the indigenous and traditional knowledge of our ancestors and how in many ways it has been repurposed for our modern society. I think in the modern world our indigenous knowledge bases and practices have so much to offer.
There is a depth of connection and knowledge that all cultures from around the world understand. In our modern world we stop thinking about our connection and our deeper meaningful connectedness to the cosmos and even to the environment. We start to view everything as a resource, and it's one of the real difficulties of being part of a market economy where everything is driven by numbers and finance — we've forgotten the fact that we're actually part of the environment. It's important to tune back in and listen to what the environment is telling us.
I always had a natural curiosity to ask questions and seek answers, and I have always loved science. This interest began in front of the television and the hours I spent with my father watching sci-fi programmes such as Doctor Who, Blake's 7, Sapphire & Steel, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. During my formative years, the Star Wars movies were released and my life changed. What they helped me to realise is that narrative is so important in connecting people to knowledge, especially Indigenous peoples. These programmes infused very scientific theories and principles such as interstellar travel, light speed, teleportation, alien life, the multiverse and other concepts with storytelling. And for me it was the stories and narratives that helped me to connect to this knowledge base.
My connection to the field of astronomy is actually part of my family heritage. It began some seven generations ago with my ancestor Te Pikikōtuku from the Ngāti Pikiao people of the Rotoiti region. He was a well-known expert and leader, and was acknowledged as a tohunga kōkōrangi (astronomy expert). His son Himiona Te Pikikōtuku inherited his father's mantle. Himiona moved inland to Te Urewera, to the heart of the Tūhoe people in Ruatāhuna. Here he settled with his partner and his in-laws. Their eldest child was Te Kōkau, who also became a tohunga like his father. Te Kōkau eventually passed his knowledge base to his son, Rāwiri Te Kōkau: four generations of Māori astronomers. These tohunga spent their nights, from sunset to sunrise, studying the night sky and making detailed observations of the celestial objects and the environment. Their knowledge base was passed down from father to son via oral transmission and shared observation.
For me, I'm hoping that Matariki can be one of those key elements that we reflect back on every year to what the environment and the world has given us to live with for the last twelve months. Matariki is a time to look at the promise of the new year ahead with all its blessings.
There are three elements of Matariki — the first is reflection; a time to be grateful and in our own way farewell the people that we have lost and be thankful for everything we have received.
It's about celebrating the present with feasting and merriment, and spending that time to reconnect with one another and think about how much time we've spent with each other. It's not about gift-giving. It's about sitting down and spending time. Time is the biggest gift ever. If you can spend that time to listen, to talk with each other — that's the presence.
And the last element is taking the time to plan for the future and looking ahead. That's what we can take out of Matariki, not just for now but also moving forward.
For me, Matariki is a legacy … it's part of who I am, it's part of my genealogy and my DNA. It's a mission, it's something my grandfather asked me to do. Share knowledge, share it. I always do that with the best intent and without any expectation.
As told to Delilah Pārore Southon
'I te nuinga o te wā, ko te tangata mū, noho mū nei, koia te mea tino mōhio'
Ko ētahi o ngā whetū, he whetū rangatira, koia te kōrero. Ētahi he whetū rangatira, ko ētahi he whetū ware. Ko ngā whetū nui, koirā ngā whetū rangatira ki te rangi, engari, ko te kōrero mō rātou katoa, mō te whānau mārama ko te whakataukī, "E kore te whānau mārama e tohe i a rātou anō." I te mea, kua hāneanea te noho i raro i ngā manaakitanga a ngā rangatira e iri nei ki te uma o Ranginui.
Engari, kei te hia au te kōrero mō ngā whetū e rua. Ko te mātāmua o ngā whetū ko Atutahi. Ko Atutahi i tohua, ko Atutahi i tāna whānautanga mai ko ia te tohunga, ko ia te whetū tapu katoa o te rangi. Ko tana teina ko Rēhua. I whāngaihia tērā ki ngā kaimārō, ki te mātauranga, he atua nui tērā i te rangi. Mēnā ka titiro koe ki te rangi, kei waenganui i te rangi i te pō, ko Te Mangōroa, ka kite koe i te huihuinga o ngā whetū kei runga ake i a koe.
Ko te whetū kaha te pīataata, ko te whetū kei waho i Te Mangōroa, te whetū nui kei waho ko Atutahi. I waiho tērā whetū ki waho i te mea kei te tapu ia. Anā, ka puta te kōrero koia te whetū tārake o te rangi.
Ko te whetū nui, te whetū rangatira katoa kei waenganui i Te Mangōroa ko Rēhua. E ai ki a mātou o Tūhoe, ka piki a Tāne ki a Rēhua ki te tiki i ngā kete o te mātauranga, koia te atua o te rongoā, ko ia kei te tihi o ngā rangi, kei te taumata o ngā rangi, ko Rēhua te atua nui. Engari ka aroha ia ki tana tuakana ki a Atutahi me tana kotahi kei waho o Te Mangōroa. Ka haere ia ki te kōrero ki tōna tuakana. Ka kī atu ia ki a Atutahi, "E hoa, hoki mai koe ki Te Mangōroa, hoki mai koe ki te whānau mārama. Kei konei koe me tō kotahi. Taku aroha nui ki a koe e noho kōkōmuka tū tara ā-whare ki waho o Te Mangōroa."
Ka mea atu a Atutahi ki a Rēhua: "Kei te pai. Ko taku mahi he pupuri ki te wairuatanga o ngā whetū. Nō reira me noho au ki waho ki te pupuri, ki te manaaki, ki te tiaki i te wairuatanga o te kāhui. Koinei taku mahi. Ko tō mahi he ārahi i te iwi, ko tāku he pupuri i te tapu, he pupuri i te wairuatanga, he pupuri i te mauri o te rangi. Engari, ki te hoki au ki te whānau whetū nei, ki a koutou, ka raruraru."
He tohutohu tēnei ki a tātou. Ko ētahi rangatira, ko ā rātou mahi he noho, he pupuri nei i te tapu o tētahi kaupapa. Anā, ka noho noa iho, ka tae atu ka kite atu koe, anei he pupuri nei i te mauri, he pupuri nei i te tapu, he pupuri nei i te mana o te kaupapa. Ētahi rangatira, ko ā rātōu mahi he kōrero, he ārahi, he mahi tahi me te iwi. Engari, kāore au i te mōhio ki tētahi tangata, rangatira rānei ka taea e ia ngā kaupapa katoa.
He tohutohu tērā ki a tātou. Me mōhio koe ki te wāhi ki a koe, ki ngā mahi ka taea e koe. Ki te kore koe e mōhio ki tētahi kaupapa, ki tētahi mahi, haere ki te kimi i te tangata mōhio ki ērā mahi, koinei, me whakaiti koe i ētahi wā, kāre e taea e au tēnei kaupapa, 'Ko wai te mea mōhio ki tēnei kaupapa?', ka tahi. Ka rua, kei pōhēhē tātou, ko te tangata mū, ko te tangata kore mōhio. I te nuinga o te wā, ko te tangata mū, noho mū nei, koia te mea tino mōhio. Nō reira koinei i tēnei āhuatanga, ko Atutahi kei waho e pupuri nei i te tapu. Ko Rēhua kei roto e ārahi nei i te iwi. He aroha nui tētahi ki tētahi, engari kei tēnā tāna mahi, kei tēnā tāna mahi.
'In most instances, the quiet one, the one who remains silent, is the most knowledgeable'
Some stars, are noble stars, that's how the story goes. Some stars are revered, while others are of low rank. The larger ones are the esteemed stars in the sky, however, the statement that encompasses all of the celestial bodies is the proverb, "The family of light will not quarrel with each other." This is due to the luxury of dwelling in the protection of the noble at the chest of Ranginui.
But I would like to speak about two stars in particular. The older star is Atutahi (Canopus). He was named Atutahi at birth and is the tohunga (chosen expert) and most tapu (sacred) of all of the stars in the sky. His younger sibling is Rehua (Antares). He was taught the esoteric lore and knowledge and is a paramount atua (supernatural being) in the sky. If you look in the middle of the sky at night, that's Te Mangōroa (The Milky Way), and you'll see the gathering of stars above you.
The star that shines brightly that sits outside of Te Mangōroa, the large star beyond is Atutahi. He was left outside because he was tapu. From this comes the saying, "He is the star that stands out in the sky."
The largest and most noble star in Te Mangōroa is Rehua. Our accounts from Tūhoe suggest that Tāne climbed to Rehua to obtain the baskets of knowledge, for he [Rehua] is the atua of remedies and resides at the apex of the sky. He is the most supreme atua. However, he felt sorry for his older brother, Atutahi, who was situated alone outside of Te Mangōroa. He travelled to speak to his brother. He said to Atutahi, "My friend, come back to Te Mangōroa, come back to the family of light. You are all alone. I'm deeply sorry that you are here, companionless outside of Te Mangōroa."
Atutahi said to Rehua: "It is okay. My responsibility is to retain the wairuatanga (spirituality) of the stars. Therefore, I must remain here, on the exterior, to hold, to take care of, and to guard the divinity of the cluster. This is my fate. Yours is to lead our people; mine is to preserve the tapu, the wairuatanga, and the mauri (life force) of the sky. However, if I were to return to the family of light, to you all, there would be trouble."
There is advice in this for us all. For some leaders, their destiny is to remain and shoulder the tapu of a kaupapa (topic/matter). In that, you just sit, you go, you look, and then, you retain possession of the mauri and the mana (spiritual power) of the kaupapa. Some leaders, they speak, they lead, they collaborate with the people. But, I don't know a single person or leader who can do it all.
That's a message to us all. You must know your place, know what you are able to accomplish. If you do not know about a topic or activity, look for someone more knowledgeable than yourself. You need to humbly say, "This is something that I cannot do on my own. Who is the one who knows about this kaupapa?" Also, do not make the mistake of thinking that the silent person is the uneducated one. In most instances, the silent one, the one who sits quietly, is the most knowledgeable. In this, we see the example of Atutahi on the outskirts preserving the tapu and Rehua leading the people from within. They both love each other, but know that each has his own role.
Extracted from Te Kai a te Rangatira. For information or to purchase the book, see tekaiaterangatira.com