About the Project

For many years, the knowledge of indigenous peoples has been the preserve of Western anthropologists and ethnographers. Like other indigenous people, Māori are concerned with the ongoing neglect, misuse and erosion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). The Wai 262 claim brought against the NZ Crown in 1991 by six Iwi (Ngāti Kuri, Ngāti Wai, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Koata) has drawn our attention to the ‘fragile’ state of Māori taxonomic TEK within Aotearoa. This situation is further compounded by the loss of key knowledge holders over the years and their scarcity today.

While biodiversity today is based on the Linnaean system of classification of flora and fauna, the typical Māori classificatory genealogy (whakapapa) is founded on a relationship that incorporates many deities within Māori cosmology and the natural world.  The uniqueness, richness and diversity of Māori classificatory systems, is captured in early writings of Grey, Cowan, Best and Beattie and oral sources such as whakapapa, mōteatea and whakataukī. Recent studies exploring cultural considerations when naming new species reveal a critical need for the restoration and preservation of TEK in the naming of flora and fauna and further research to explore the interface between Māori TEK and Science.

The aim of this research project is to explore and record traditional classification systems of naming flora and fauna within Tainui-waka. It also aims to investigate the relationship between indigenous taxonomy systems of Tainui-waka and the current Linnaean classification system in the appropriate naming of flora and flora.