Maorimaps.com makes its debut

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(Stuff – MARIKA HILL) Move over Google Maps here comes Maori Maps, making it possible for Maori to find their way back to their cultural homes thanks to a website which has just been launched.

Te Potiki National Trust began setting up Maori Maps five years ago as a response to an emerging crisis Maori being alienated from their roots.

[sws_pullquote_right]Maori Maps aims to document more than 800 tribal marae to help save a heritage under threat. [/sws_pullquote_right] Otago University professor Paul Tapsell, who helped found the trust, said many young people did not know how to find their way back to their cultural homes, and as a result traditional marae the focus of tribal values since Maori arrived in Aotearoa were under threat.

Our people in the cities are disconnected from this incredible 3000-plus-year value system they once belonged to.

“That is partly why we have so many youth issues and young people drifting.

“They have no sense of connection to a unique and proud past, or sense of ancestral identity.”

The problem was not just an issue for Maori, he said. “This is New Zealand’s twin streams of identity. If we lose this, we will have lost what really makes us unique as a nation.”

Maori Maps would begin to reconnect Maori to their cultural heritage, Tapsell said.

“What we’re trying to do is to offer a pathway to the marae gate, where Maori can safely rediscover and maintain their tribal identity.”

“It’s part of the evolution of marae we need to find a way to evolve marae culture so it remains relevant and useful, as has been the case for thousands of years.

“Failing to find a way forward could see tribal marae culture die.”

The website allows users to locate historical marae, contact authorities, view photos and even get directions, and Tapsell hoped Maori Maps would help the 800-plus tribal marae revitalise themselves.

[sws_pullquote_left]Any earnings from the project would be used to develop programmes to reconnect youth and resources to home marae and improve Maori wellbeing. [/sws_pullquote_left] About a quarter of tribal marae were beyond rescue, half were in a “state of decline”, while the remaining quarter were in reasonable condition, he said. The “dying” marae were often isolated socially and geographically.

Tapsell said the traditional passing down of knowledge from elder to grandchild had been disrupted by urbanisation, so Maori Maps would reconnect many city-based people to their home communities and elders.

“It’s about sharing in what makes New Zealand unique.

“You take away the tribal marae way of being Maori, you take away New Zealand’s most important point of difference.”

The trust has already mapped and photographed marae in Auckland and Northland and work had started to include the rest of New Zealand.

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