Tātai Arorangi (Māori Astronomy)

My name is Dave Owen, owner and manager of Te Awamutu Space Centre. I have written this page in response to questions about how we cover Māori astronomical knowledge at the Space Centre. The short answer is that we do include aspects of tātai arorangi but with some very important caveats.

I have been told by kaumātua and tohunga kōkōrangi that it is inappropriate for pākehā to teach tātai arorangi. Being pākehā, I must respect this so I no longer do it.

In addition, I have received a lot of criticism by Māori for including tātai arorangi in my displays, which have been labeled "cultural appropriation". I have been accused of "cashing in" on Māori astronomy, especially in relation to Matariki. It has been made very clear to me that I should leave all promotion of tātai arorangi to Māori.

To further complicate things, there is much debate over whether the variations of tātai arorangi around Aotearoa are genuine historical knowledge or the results of colonisation. For example, I'm told that Tangaroa is the name used by most iwi for the planet Neptune, so it really needs to be included in my displays. However, some experts say it is derived from Greek mythology and therefore it is offensive to have in my Māori displays. This leaves me in a no-win position.

I should note that many Māori customers tell me to stop worrying about all this and just do what I think is right. However, what I think is right is to heed the advice of Māori experts, and they are telling me to stay out of tātai arorangi altogether.

My current plan is a compromise. I have kept some Māori displays and I try to include te reo in many of the activities we offer. I also invite tohunga kōkōrangi to speak on special occasions, but this obviously isn't part of our everyday offerings.

In summary, if you want to learn about tātai arorangi, my venue is not the best place to do it—not because I don't want to include it, but because Māori don't want me to. Instead, I recommend the following:

Maori Astronomy
Above: Some of the Māori astronomical information we have on display.