What is the reo of traditional navigation?

How, why, when and where were these navigational aids used in Māori navigation?

What are the perspectives of contemporary tohunga whakatere waka on Māori navigation aids today?

Which stars and why do contemporary tohunga whakatere waka use in Māori navigation?

In the past 40yrs, a regeneration of traditional navigation knowledge has occurred across Polynesia. However, a paucity of Māori navigation research is extremely prevalent.

This research aims to explore and enhance the contribution that Māori navigation, Mātauranga Māori and knowledge of navigation makes to current understandings of indigenous navigation, linguistics, culture, and te reo Māori. The premise is that much of the navigational knowledge and expertise of Māori is encoded and embedded in a distinct way within the language of karakia, moteatea, whakatauaki, whakatauki and pōrakau, and access to this significant pool of knowledge is hindered by a lack of proficiency of te reo Māori and a lack of knowledge regarding tikanga Māori.


  • Identify relevant karakia, waiata and te reo Māori sources that contain Māori navigation signs and waka korero.
  • Create a te reo Māori database of traditional Māori navigation signs.
  • Analyse star signs to better understand how, why, where and when these aids were used in traditional and currently interpreted in contemporary Māori navigation and their current.

Following a Kaupapa Māori methodological approach (Smith, 2012) to complete the research and unpack the knowledge collected, an examination of the extant literature derived from original manuscripts, published literature, documents and other sources will be undertaken. In particular we will research and explore references and accounts of the mātauranga of Māori navigation contained within traditional songs, chants, proverbs, myths, place names, and other depositaries.

Project commenced:

Research Lead(s) and Team

Ngāti Pikiao Te Rarawa Ngaati Maahanga Ngāti Haupoto
Te Hautaki Waiora Faculty of Health, Sport and Human Performance

Jordan started as a lecturer within Te Hautaki Waiora Faculty of Health, Sport and Human Performance at the University of Waikato in early 2018. Previously, he was a Māori Health Consultant based out of Whaingaroa/Raglan.