Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Rights: Joseph Michael, made with the support of the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence
    Published 14 December 2022 Referencing Hub media

    The analogy of a braided river encompasses the weaving of knowledge streams/systems, with shared understandings where they come together. Taoho Patuawa, Sonja Macfarlane, Angus Macfarlane and Melissa Derby share their thoughts on mātauranga and including Māori perspectives when considering environment issues.

    Questions for discussion

    • How does the analogy of a braided river for independent knowledge systems work?
    • What does this analogy look like in your mind?
    • Sonja and Melissa share examples where Māori perspectives and voices were taken into account regarding environmental issues. What are some examples from your local area?


    Taoho Patuawa

    Kauri Ora Operations and Innovation, Te Rorora Iwi

    Science is just a word we use for the incremental acquisition of knowledge. Either it’s done in order for us to feel inspired and create knowledge or it’s done for a purpose for it to be applied to management. And when I think about what mātauranga is, mātauranga is really a lived experience. It’s a personal manifestation of all of your own personal dealings with how you accumulate knowledge.

    Sonja Macfarlane

    Māori Knowledge and Development Researcher, University of Canterbury

    The braided rivers really is a representation of different streams of knowledge and different ways of thinking and perceiving particular things. It’s about weaving together the knowledge streams to get a shared understanding. So that you look at what is the western view, what is a Māori view? How can we weave and braid so there’s a common space where there’s a shared understanding?

    Angus Macfarlane

    Professor of Māori Research, University of Canterbury

    It doesn’t just explore synergies – it enables synergies.

    We used to have these meetings once a month in Wellington, you know, the top scientists in New Zealand, and I learned so much from them, that’s for sure. At one of the meetings, what was a real eye-opener to them was we meet here once a month and we exchange our points of view. We’re making really good progress but what would you say to us having one of these meetings on a marae? And of course it dawned on them that they knew very little about their Treaty partner’s protocols.

    Taoho Patuawa

    All of the ways that knowledge are derived through a Māori lens on the world is something that’s intrinsically and absolutely available to us, you know. And those observations of the environment can potentially lead to how we might look at weaving in some of these mātauranga aspects into a space where we can, you know, monitor potentially changes over time.

    One size doesn’t necessarily fit all always. And the way that things are designed must therefore be kind of driven as whānau, as marae, as hapū or iwi, however you want to scale it, as how you apply your context to the specifics of what you’re up to, I suppose.

    Angus Macfarlane

    Sir Apirana Ngata, all of those years ago, when he was proposing to a high school student go and find your way in the world and have your destination clearly set out and take notice of the western world and never, ever relinquish your association with te ao Māori – with your ancestral roots.

    Sonja Macfarlane

    The Whanganui River, the Waikato River, the Rotorua lakes – when they were at a critical point of, you know, the quality of the water, the iwi got involved. There was a whole lot of process around what would happen. And now you look at what’s happened in terms of the quality of the water because the Māori voice was heard.

    Melissa Derby

    Senior Lecturer of Human Development, University of Waikato

    There would have been perhaps a time when people thought that’s crazy to think that a river, kind of like, is this legal entity and is recognised as having some sort of life force. There’s been more perhaps acceptance, promotion, understanding – all of that kind of stuff – of a different perspective, and in this case, we’re talking about a Māori perspective on environment and space and place and things like that.

    Angus Macfarlane

    The reality is that the streams spend more time apart than they do together, and when they do come together, it’s in an inclusionary way.

        Go to full glossary
        Download all