Online Pacific voyaging knowledge now live

A website giving access to a treasure trove of traditional knowledge, expertise and historical information on Pacific voyaging, which has never been assembled in one place before, was launched during New Zealand Archaeology Week (23 April - 1 May).

A crowd of people gather for a meeting at night.
Participants and the panel of experts at the 2019 wānanga. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

Different aspects of traditional Polynesian voyaging can be explored through a series of audio, video and written presentations made by an extraordinary range of speakers.

The presentations were recorded at a ground-breaking wānanga held at Waitangi in 2019 which, for the first time ever, brought together the disciplines of traditional, practical, and academic knowledge of Māori voyaging.

The wānanga was convened by the Arakite Charitable Trust under the mana of Matutaera Tenana Clendon ONZM, with support from Tuia: Encounters 250. The event drew leading academics and artisans, tohunga kōkōrangi (astronomers and navigators), tohunga tārai waka (boatwrights and carvers) as well as anthropologists, archaeologists, traditional and academic historians, museum conservators, biologists, geneticists, and even a geochemist.

The objective of the wānanga was to assemble a broad range of people with different areas of expertise, knowledge and perspectives on Pacific voyaging to enhance understanding of this important aspect of our heritage. The wānanga was supported by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, the University of Auckland and the University of Otago.

“The web-based resource that was produced from the wānanga contains specialist knowledge presented by a gathering of exceptional tohunga and experts in their different fields,” says kaumātua and Arakite Trust member, Matutaera Clendon.

“The information recorded here will help advance our understanding of the story of voyaging in the Pacific. Although the subject matter is often quite specialist in nature, the presentations are very accessible and will be of great interest to a wide range of people.”

A selection of speakers and topics include:

  •           The late Professor Manuka Henare and Professor Dame Anne Salmond – the voyaging that set the scene
  •           Jack Thatcher – Becoming the Light: Historical, technological and cultural continuity of Pacific voyaging
  •           Professor Richard Walter – Hawaiki: An Archaeological Perspective
  •           Ral Makiha – Matariki, Living by the Seasons
  •           Dr James Robinson, HNZPT – the Mangahāwea Bay excavation
  •           Ockie Simmonds – the coming of the Māori
  •           Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith – DNA and the Pacific origins of settlement of Aotearoa

People can explore the wānanga material free of charge here.

- John O'Hare