Preserving knowledge

Otago Museum science engagement co-ordinator, kaupapa Maori, Toni Hoeta wears an Arahanga family...
Otago Museum science engagement co-ordinator, kaupapa Maori, Toni Hoeta wears an Arahanga family cloak made by her great-great-grandmother, in celebration of completing her university studies and taking up her role at the museum earlier this year.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
To help mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, Star reporter Simon Henderson speaks with Toni Hoeta,  Otago Museum science engagement co-ordinator, kaupapa Maori, about her new role and how she has been sharing her deep knowledge of Maori language and culture.

Otago Museum science engagement co-ordinator Toni Hoeta is excited that her role allows her to share knowledge of her culture with others.

At the museum she has a focus on kaupapa Maori.

‘‘I help bring Maori concepts or Maori-focused ideas into science engagement.’’

Her role is to help the museum with anything to do with te reo Maori.

‘‘We try to translate as much as possible all of our science into te reo.’’

Miss Hoeta hails from Raetihi, a small town in the middle of the North Island.

She was proud to be the first person in her family to go to university, studying anatomy and neuroscience at the University of Otago and gaining an A in her master of science degree.

‘‘My tribe is a little bit different. We were run by women.’’

Most chiefs were men but in her tribe ‘‘genealogy and all of our passing of knowledge go through the women of the tribe’’.

This was typically done through the youngest woman in the tribe, which was the role she had.

‘‘So I am the youngest female, the same as my mum.’’

That did not necessarily mean she would lead the tribe, rather that she would preserve knowledge so it would not be lost.

As a prelude to Maori Language Week the museum has been promoting Te Reo Maori Word of the Day as a social media campaign.

‘‘With everyone being online with lockdown, it was the perfect way to start the conversation early,’’ Miss Hoeta said.

Staff from around the museum had been asked to contribute and Miss Hoeta had helped to check pronunciation and the background of words to ensure a logical translation.

‘‘When you are dealing with Maori words, they are not typically translated exactly from English to Maori.’’

Instead of simple transliteration it was important to also consider the meaning of a work.

An example was tuhura.

‘‘If you split it up it means ‘to look for’, but if you translate it in a generalised English way it means ‘discover’.’’

‘‘So it is just trying to teach people to revert back to the proper way of learning te reo, because it makes more sense that way,’’ Miss Hoeta said.

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