May 9, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Journey of Many Thousand Kilometres Puts Marae on the Map

4 min read

A journey to all of the ancestral marae of Aotearoa New Zealand finishes on 1 June 2013 when the national Maori Maps website is fully launched.

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 6.35.17 PMThewww.maorimaps.comwebsite, which takes visitors to the location of almost 750 marae throughout the country, was the brainchild of Otago University professor Dr Paora Tapsell and broadcaster Rereata Makiha.

From 2008 Tapsell led a research team made up of photographer Krzysztof Pfeiffer, kaumatua Renata Tane and Ike Reti, and a roster of volunteers to do what few if any others have done visit and document all of the tribal marae.

The team drove thousands of kilometres around New Zealand to locate and photograph each site from the gateway.

On the way they relied on local knowledge to direct them, often discovering marae they didnt know about, or ones that have never been documented.

What motivated this effort over a five-year period? Marae are in crisis, Tapsell responds.

They have never been mapped and can be really hard to find. New generations of Maori are growing up without any connection to their home marae, lacking a key to identity and well-being.

If our grandchildren fail to reconnect, the marae and all they represent will become extinct. That would be a loss to all humanity New Zealand is the only culture left with an active marae culture.

The outcome is an interactive website, based on Google Maps, that lets users navigate by a range of filters to locate marae. It now contains information for a national level, following an earlier pilot that completed Northland and Auckland.

We have about 98% of the ancestral marae around the country listed on the site.

Maori Maps provides an archive of information and photos, while respecting that marae are homes by taking the visitor only as far as the kuwaha (marae gateway).

The Auckland-based Te Potiki National Trust, a registered charity, manages the project. Potiki refers to youthfully minded explorers, reflecting Maori Maps goal of reconnecting Maori rangatahi (youth) to their ancestral links and whakapapa.

Many of our young people are completely disconnected from their ancestry and Maori traditions, Tapsell says.

If we successfully reconnect descendants back to their marae, its like turning on the oxygen. They will know more about themselves and where they come from they will flourish and so will their communities.

Marae too are in desperate need of support from their offspring. About a third of the marae we visited were in a state of disarray, a third were struggling, and a third were doing well. They need people.

Te Potiki National Trust is now seeking support to complete the full translation of the site into Te Reo, create a Maori Maps app and publish the first Maori atlas, while developing social programmes to reconnect young Maori with their marae.

Tapsell says the project has been a privilege, yet one carried out with the weight of a very significant responsibility. Our goal with Maori Maps has been to put marae back on the map, somewhere they’ve never been before, so future New Zealanders can all benefit from what makes our nation unique.


Case study

Jade Aikman-Dodd (Tainui, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Awa)

Jade is a 23-year-old student at the University of Otago, completing a Masters in Social Anthropology. He is also a convert to Maori Maps.

Because I was brought up in the South Island, I was able to use this site to locate some of my marae in the Waikato region, which Id never seen before.

With the information he gained from the site, in April Jade made his first visit to Opureroa and Te Rangihouhiri marae on Matakana Island, near Tauranga.

Ive become part of a whole community that I didnt know before, he says.

As well as helping him personally, has been an indispensible study tool for him, and has inspired him to make marae the centre point of his thesis.

Its hugely important for Maori. It will help people like me, who were brought up away from their home turf, to locate their marae.

For many living in their home area, the marae continues to be a significant part of their lives. Its an important space for their identity, community and whanau.

Others are hugely disconnected however, especially if they live in the city. They may not even know where they come from.

By engaging with marae, Jade says hes made a lot of friends, got to know relatives, and has a better sense of his own identity.


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