Matariki and Puaka

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and prepared by Jacinta Beckwith, Kaitiaki Mātauranga Māori.

We are getting ready for Māori New Year with a little foyer display celebrating Matariki. Down south we also celebrate Puaka (known as Puanga up north).

Matariki atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa, e

Whāngainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa, e.

Matariki rising in the broad heavens

Nourish those below with the first fruits.

For Māori, naturally occurring events were traditionally used as markers to indicate the end of one season and the beginning of the next. These markers included migration patterns of birds and fish, the flowering of plants and the movements of stars across the sky. Matariki is a star cluster that disappears below the horizon in April and whose reappearance in the pre-dawn sky around late May – early June marks the beginning of a new phase of life. In recent years, there has been increasing focus across Aotearoa on Māori New Year, usually celebrated in June and commonly referred to as Matariki.

Māori names for the star cluster are Matariki, Tupua-nuku, Tupua-rangi, Ururangi, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī and Waitā. With revitalisation of Māori astronomy, recent research on Matariki suggests the cluster includes two more stars: Pohutakawa and Hiwa-i-te-rangi. Some iwi celebrate a different cluster of stars called Puanga or Puaka. Mōriori considered Puaka as the three poles that held up a whata (food storage platform). Different iwi have their own traditions and some of these have been recorded in accounts collected by Beattie and Shortland, in letters and in the Māori-language newspapers, providing insight into how Māori viewed Matariki, Puaka, and the significance of this time for agriculture. Te Wehi’s letter to the Editor of Te Waka o Niu Tirani acknowledges the marking of seasons by the stars which guided the planting of kūmara (sweet potato). John White’s letter to the Editor of Te Wananga details oral traditions relating to kūmara and cultivation. Te Paki o Matariki, the official newspaper of the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement) used images of the seven stars in its masthead.

Matariki is strongly associated with the celebration of harvest, especially kūmara crops which would have been gathered and stored in specially prepared pits to ensure a year round supply. Pātaka kai (storage houses), like those illustrated by Sir William Fox, were filled with food. There was a close connection between the stars and food supplies, the visual appearance of the stars at rising were a portent of weather to come. The brighter the stars in their pre-dawn rise, the more favourable the season ahead and planting would begin in September. If the stars were hazy and closely bunched together, a cold winter was in store and planting held off until October.

Beattie, James Herries. 1920. List of vegetable foods in Record of interviews with Maori in Canterbury, Section 15. Hocken Archives Collection, MS-0181/004.

Matariki is a time for coming together in celebration, to reflect on the past and plan for the year ahead. We gift food, share stories, remember whakapapa (genealogy) and our ancestors who have passed on. It is also a time to reaffirm principles and protocols that teach us how to live in balance with the natural world.


Williams, Jim. 2013. Puaka and Matariki: The Māori New Year. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 122(1), pp. 7-20.

Rerekura, Sam. 2014. Puanga: Star of the Māori New Year. Auckland: Sam Rerekura, Te Whare Wānanga o Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu.

Mead, Sidney M. & Neil Grove. 2001. Ngā Pēpeha a Ngā Tīpuna: the sayings of the ancestors. Wellington, N.Z.: Victoria University Press.



  1. Te Wehi. 1874. Ki a te Kai Tuhi o Te Waka Maori. Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani. 10:19, pp. 239-240. Māori-language newspaper published by the government. Hocken Published Collections, Williams 367.
  1. Beattie, James Herries. 1920. Record of interviews with Maori in Canterbury, Section 15 – Vegetable Foods. Hocken Archives Collection, MS-0181/004.
  1. Shortland, Edward. 1850-1855. Information passed from C. Brown to W. Martin which lists some Māori names of stars in Volume containing notes on Maori language, customs and traditional history. Hocken Archives Collection, MS-0096.
  1. Beattie, James Herries. 1920. Record of interviews with Maori in Canterbury, Section 21 – Meteorology & Astronomy. Hocken Archives Collection, MS-0181/004.
  1. Leach, Helen. 1984. 1,000 years of gardening in New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z.: Reed. Hocken Published Collections.
  1. Spooner, Judy & Maraea Aranui. 1992. The Maori kai cookbook. Havelock North, N.Z.: Kahungunu Publications. Hocken Published Collections.
  1. Maori Women’s Welfare League. 1976. Recipe calendar 1977. Wellington, N.Z.: Maori Women’s Welfare League Inc. Hocken Published Collections.


Te Paki o Matariki. 1894. Māori-language newspaper published by the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement). Hocken Published Collections, Variae 18.


Fox, Sir William. Rakawakaputa, P. Cooper Plains, 1848-1851. Reproduction. Watercolour, pen & ink on paper: 175 x 250mm. Dr T. M. Hocken’s Collection. Hocken Pictures Collection. View online:

Fox, Sir William. Pitoni, 1850. Reproduction. Watercolour on paper: 170 x 250mm. Dr T. M. Hocken’s Collection. Hocken Pictures Collection. View online:


International Archives Day 2017

Friday, June 9th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Today (9 June) is International Archives Day. Created in 2008 to raise awareness of the importance of archives, and of what archivists do, the date was chosen to commemorate the establishment of the International Council of Archives (ICA) on 9 June 1948.

Archives and archivists across the world use the day as an opportunity to promote what they do, and to promote the use of archives.

I thought I would take the opportunity to write about an interesting archival volume I looked at recently. This volume encapsulates for me what is so interesting about working with archives and how researching the stories documented in archival items can lead us down many different narrative pathways.

The volume originally caught my attention on the Hākena catalogue because the name in the title was clearly unusual and to my eye looked just wrong! A spelling mistake maybe? Making sure the description of archives is correct or as correct as it can be is one of my responsibilities here so I decided to have a look at it.

Port Moeraki day book, Misc-MS-1513, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena

The title was “[Tubinanini], Robert George : Port Moeraki Day Book (1858 – 1873)”. The titles of archival collections are constructed with the name of the creator of the collection first, and then a brief descriptive title. This is in accordance with the standards set by the ICA.

So in this case the archivist had (not unreasonably) taken the most obvious name that they could find on the volume, and decided to use that as the creator portion of the title. They had enclosed this portion in square brackets to show that they were unsure of the correct spelling and that this was their interpretation of the hand writing.

It is a tall 19th century volume bound in white velum, looking a bit like Harry Potter might have doodled in it with some odd notes and diagrams in one section. Some pages have been cut out towards the end of the volume.

The front of the volume, note how carefully the words Day Book have been drawn, along with the image of waves at sea.

It clearly started life in October 1858 as a day book (sometimes called a cashbook) – a book that records financial transactions in date order. The front of the volume seemed to have been labelled in a couple of different hands and at different times. The words included “Trigonometry”, “Day Book”, “Robert Geo. Tubmanini” (my reading of the problem name), “Port Moeraki”, what looks like the initials “B. F.” and a doodle of waves. Perhaps the doodler spent a lot of time at sea?

“Tubman” with the letters “ini” seemingly added later in darker ink.

Despite being acquired in 1974 the volume was not catalogued until 1998 when it was added to the online catalogue Hakena, things have changed since then and it is a lot easier to quickly research names and places by a quick “googling”.

I started with the name Robert George Tubinanini – the reason I have noticed the record on Hākena in the first place.

My googling quickly told me that a Robert George Tubman was the Head Master of the Moeraki School between 1890-1895 and that he died serving in the Boer War. There is a nice biography of Robert available from the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand website, that includes a photo of his family’s gravestone in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery.

Robert Tubman’s trigonometry notes?

It seems likely that he is the Robert Geo. Tubmanini named on the cover of the volume and that the  Harry Potter doodles are his trigonometry notes. What is not clear is why his name has the extra “ini” on the end (another idle doodle perhaps?) and why he had the day book and used it as a notebook.

Typical entries in the volume, note Hertstel shipping 3 boat loads of timber for [North Otago?]

Back to the daybook portion of the volume. This is a particularly detailed example of a day book, and list transactions in date order, with the person’s surname, the goods purchased, shipped or received and the cost. I noticed that there were regular entries under particular names, clearly the store was a key institution in this community. Some names were European but there many Maori names as well. A keen researcher of Moeraki history is sure to find much of interest.

The luxuries of life in the Moeraki in 1857

The names Wi Te Pa, Pokuku, Riruha, Pita, Hokopa, Rawiri, Ohua, Karauria all appear regularly but there are many others. European names include McGlashan, Haberfield, Hastie, Hopkinson, Adam, Thomas, Mason, Tom and more.

Several entries under local Maori names

One name that stood out was Hertslet, it is unusual and cropped up almost daily. This time I headed straight to Papers Past, the National Library website which has revolutionised access to the myriad information contained in early NZ newspapers. I found that Henry Charles Hertslet regularly advertised the services of his store at Moeraki as well as other business ventures. He was also a Justice of the Peace for a time. An entry in the Otago and Southland volume of the 1904 Cyclopedia of NZ which revealed that Hertslet had a background in the “Public Records Department London” in the early 19th century before migrating to NZ. This was a nice serendipity as the Public Records Department is now known as the Public Records Office, and is the national archives of the UK. I guess you could say he had worked as an archivist, like me!

From what I found online, Mr Hertslet clearly had a long and varied career as an early settler in several parts of NZ but is mainly associated with Oamaru, Moeraki and Naseby. According to C.W.S. Moore’s book, Northern Approaches, and Gavin McLean’s Moeraki 150 years of Net and Plough Share H.C. Hertslet was landing agent for Moeraki from 1851, and later purchased a schooner, Queen, to run a service between Moeraki and Oamaru employing Maori from Moeraki to man the boats.

Wages paid to Fitzgerald in 1867

At the back of the book are further dated lists of payments but these appears to be wages paid to a number of workers including Fitzgerald, Frederick Cockerill and Joe. Thompson. The work done was activities like delivering firewood, ploughing, harrowing and draying.

To sum up, this volume is a record of the transactions of the Moeraki store kept by either Mr Hertslet himself or one of his employees, sometime later it came into the hands of Robert Tubman, who seems to have taken advantage of some blank pages to write up his trigonometry notes. Later again it was acquired by the Hampden Historical Society which donated this volume to the Hocken along with around 40 others when the Society was wound up in 1974. In archivists jargon it has multiple provenance, it was created and used by more than one creator but is all the richer a source of history for that. It leads us to several narratives – the lives of Henry Charles Hertslet, and Robert Tubman, and to the broader social and economic history of Moeraki in the mid 19th century. Family historians may be interested to find references to the day to day dealings of their ancestors.