Tīpuna Māori, Māori ancestors, read the rising of whetū (stars) in alignment with lunar phases of the moon, the māramataka, in order to better understand the nature of coming seasons.
Of important significance to Ngāi Tahu, Puaka – also known as Rigel – is a blue-white star seen above the constellation of Tautoru, or Orion’s Belt. Marking the end of the tītī (mutton bird) and tuna (eel) season, these taonga species are still gathered today as part of mahinga kai or traditional Ngāi Tahu food gathering practices.
While many iwi acknowledge different narratives about whetū in different ways, the rising of Te Iwa o Matariki, a cluster of nine stars during mid-winter, signals the start of a new year. Traditionally during this time of year, crops were harvested, and seafood and birds which had been collected, were stored away.
The rising of Matariki marks an ecological shift in season. It is a time to reflect and remember those of our loved ones who passed on in the previous twelve months, and signals a time for us to plan and set intentions for the twelve months ahead.
Here on campus, Puaka is the name given to our UC Library building – Puaka-James Hight, and Matariki is the name of our central Registry building. Alongside other UC buildings which carry the names and narratives of navigation and exploration, the characteristics of whetū and celestial bodies have been overlaid across our campus in order to provide a map for our ākonga (students) and kaimahi (staff) as they journey through campus, their studies and experiences here with us at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha.
Ka rewa a Matariki ki runga, ka piri te aitanga a Tiki
When Matariki rises above, humanity gathers.
Click below to listen and practice your pronunciation of the word Matariki.
Click below to listen and practice your pronunciation of the word Puaka.