Maramataka

Name of case study

Maramataka

Location

Aotearoa New Zealand

Year

N/A

Scale

 Landscape scale

Area / size

N/A

NbS employed

 Traditional calendars

Type of NbS

Management / social / political

Initiator

N/A

Funder

N/A

Matariki (Pelaides) star cluster. The rising of matariki in the northeast signals the beginning of the Māori new year and the completion of the cycle of the Maramataka. Matariki is celebrated in Aotearoa New Zealand and is marked by a public holiday. Photo by Stephen Rahn
Climate change benefits
  • Changes in phenology
  • Changes in rainfall
  • Loss of food production
  • Loss of other ecosystem services
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Climate change adapatation
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Food security and quality
Ecological benefits
  • Provision of raw materials
  • Habitat provision
  • Food production (for humans)
  • Species maintenance

Summary of case study

The Maramataka is the Māori traditional calendar, Indigenous to Aotearoa, New Zealand. The historical basis of cultural life for Māori, it is used primarily to guide planting, fishing, and hunting activities (Harris et al., 2013). As a nature-based solution, it enables adaption to climate change by aligning human activities with the natural cycles of the environment. Underlying Maramataka is a complex generational knowledge system, containing information about locally specific ecological elements and markers, astronomical knowledge of many celestial objects, the phases of the moon, and climatic and seasonal factors.

Maramtaka are numerous and vary throughout Aotearoa New Zealand (such as between inland and coastal people), but there are many similarities between most. Recently Roberts et al., (2006) published and compared 43 collected Maramtaka, presenting the phases of the moon as the main basis for Maramtaka, with the beginning of the month signalled by the phase immediately after the new moon. Each moon phase possesses a name and often an associated oral tradition, for example, the new moon phase is the time when “the moon is said to have died and gone to bathe in Tāne te Waiora (the life-giving waters of Tāne) (Harris et al., 2013). 

Like many things in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world-view) the moon, some stars, and celestial objects have whakapapa (genealogy/lineage) to atua (ancestor with continuing influence/deity) described in the Māori creation story, in which the separation of the sky father Ranginui and the earth mother Papatūānuku was caused by the deity of the forest Tāne Māhuta, in the process creating the natural world in the light-filled space between them.

Most Maramtaka contain 28-30 named moon nights, but because the actual moon cycle is only 29.5 days long, there is a need for periodic correction. To calibrate the discrepancy between the solar and lunar cycles, the addition or removal of some moon nights probably occurred. Most Maramtaka contain 12 or 13 months and utilise the rising of the star constellations Matariki (Pleiades) or Puanga (Rigel) as the marker of the new year. 

Maramtaka contain instructions about particular activities to occur according to each moon night. These often reference energy (lunar or solar) and relate to oral traditions. Today many fishing guides are still based on information included in Maramtaka, and modern interpretations of Maramtaka are becoming more popular as methods of organising gardening, farming, and wellbeing activities (National Library of New Zealand, 2022; Warbrick et al., 2023). It remains important to recognise Maramtaka as precious living Indigenous knowledge, and to acknowledge the specific iwi (tribes) to which they belong.

Traditional calendars like Maramtaka can enable people to adapt to climate change because they rely on environmental indicators rather than a codified calendar (Avia, 2021; Kassam & Bernardo, 2022). Maramataka specifically in Aotearoa New Zealand has the potential to be used in climate change adaptation by regulating activities and energy flows in tune with the natural environment (Warbrick et al., 2023).

Like other traditional calendars in Oceania, Maramtaka have the potential to mitigate climate change by following natural cycles to engage in appropriate activities but are also significantly affected by changes in climate, weather and plant and animal phenology caused by climate change (Chambers et al., 2021).

Maramataka can encourage an awareness of the reciprocal nature of people’s relationships with the environment and increase the productivity of activities like farming and fishing (Harris et al., 2013; Leah Tebbutt, 2023). Increasing the use of Maramtaka in the workplace can have implications for working conditions, and improve health and wellbeing outcomes (Warbrick et al., 2023)

Maramataka underpins a wider cultural way of relating to the environment (Harris et al., 2013). Preserving and promoting Maramtaka is an important way to strengthen and recognise Indigenous knowledge. Some knowledge of Maramtaka has been permanently lost due to the pressures of colonisation, and its replacement by Western time systems (Roberts et al., 2006). The numerous variations of Maramtaka throughout Aotearoa New Zealand represent precious ancestral knowledge and represent the diversity of the landscape and Indigenous people alike. Modern, recorded Maramtaka are also a means for all people to engage with local Indigenous knowledge.

The value of Maramataka is wide-reaching but difficult to specify in monetary terms. There are numerous environmental (Clarke & Harris, 2017), productivity (Leah Tebbutt, 2023), health and well-being, and socio-cultural benefits to utilising Maramataka in policy, business, industry, healthcare, and daily life (Warbrick et al., 2023).

Read More
A Maramataka from a book by Elsdon Best, ‘Fishing methods and devices of the Māori’ (Best, 1929). Charles Devonshire’s (1977) paper ‘Origin of a Maramataka’ discusses the origin of a handwritten Maramataka identical to the printed version above. Devonshire finds that it is indeed the same version contained in Elsdon Best’s works and includes scans of an original from the diary of Ihaka te Tai in the Whangārei Museum archives.
References
  • Avia, J. (2021). Traditional knowledge and climate change lessons of resilience from the Pacific. Comparative Law Journal of the Pacific (CLJP)/Journal de Droit Comparé Du Pacifique (JDCP) Journals, 26, 193–202.
  • Best, E. (1929). Fishing methods and devices of the Maori. Dominion Museum.
  • Chambers, L.E., Plotz, R.D., Lui, S., Aiono, F., Tofaeono, T., Hiriasia, D., Tahani, L., Fa’anunu, ‘Ofa, Finaulahi, S., & Willy, A. (2021). Seasonal calendars enhance climate communication in the Pacific. Weather, Climate, and Society, 13(1), 159–172. https://doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-20-0035.1
  • Clarke, L., & Harris, P. (2017). Maramataka. In He Whare Hangarau Māori—Language, culture & technology (pp. 129–135). University of Waikato.
  • Devonshire, C. (1977). Origin of a maramataka. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 86(1), 81–83. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20705227
  • Harris, P., Matamua, R., Smith, T., Kerr, H., & Waaka, T. (2013). A review of Māori astronomy in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 16(03), 325–336. https://doi.org/10.3724/SP.J.1440-2807.2013.03.08
  • Kassam, K.S., & Bernardo, J. (2022). Role of biodiversity in ecological calendars and its implications for food sovereignty: Empirical assessment of the resilience of indicator species to anthropogenic climate change. GeoHealth, 6(10). https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GH000614
  • Leah Tebbutt. (2023, August 13). Maramataka another layer of diversity to a Bay of Plenty farm. RNZ. https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/countrylife/audio/2018902254/maramataka-another-layer-of-diversity-to-a-bay-of-plenty-farm
  • National Library of New Zealand. (2022). Ngā kitenga o te maramataka: Insights into the Māori calendar. https://youtu.be/HJqFG1RDNZQ
  • Roberts, M., Weko, F., & Liliana Clarke. (2006). Maramataka: the Maori Moon Calendar. https://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/server/api/core/bitstreams/6eb5e823-90ba-4063-b596-100e293fe183/contentWarbrick, I., Makiha, R., Heke, D., Hikuroa, D., Awatere, S., & Smith, V. (2023). Te maramataka—An Indigenous system of attuning with the environment, and its role in modern health and well-being. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3), 2739. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20032739

Further resources:

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