Takerei Norton and Helen Brown along with David Higgins from the cultural mapping team at Ngāi Tahu presented a session on Kā Huru Manu, the Ngāi Tahu digital atlas dedicated to recording and mapping traditional Māori place names and histories in the Ngāi Tahu tribal area.
David Higgins set the scene for what would prove to be a wonderful adventure into place names of Te Waipounamu. David was one of the first people to provide material for the mapping project, and his involvement was acknowledged as being important for encouraging others to become involved and highlights a vital aspect of the project – the need for trust and the building of relationships. Past attempts had been made to create an atlas or list of place names but all to often mistakes were made, be it incomplete information, shortened names, wrong spelling etc. It highlighted for me the importance of inclusiveness and the willingness and need to leave the office and travel to the people on their local marae – to build trust so that the conversations can be ongoing.
The speakers, Takerei Nathan and Helen Brown stressed how the website has been created without a huge fascination with software and the whistles and bells that can accompany digital achievements. However, that said, this is a fantastic website and many a web designer could learn something about visuals, layout and the sheer in-depth nature of what this site contains.
This project is self funded by Ngāi Tahu, so no need for compromise and shortcuts. A dedicated group of people have travelled the South Island visiting marae, verifying, researching, talking and gathering colossal amounts of information. Each place name, be it a river, settlement, a place for kai, traditional travel routes, rivers and lakes is extensively checked and rechecked to make sure that to the best of their ability the information they have is correct. Nothing goes on the website until there is complete approval from the marae. Over 6000 place names have been identified, but so far about 1600 names are in the atlas, the marae will say when the rest of the names can be unlocked and made public.
Dive into the website Kā Haru Manu , look at the map and see all those thousands of green dots that signify an important place name, and then spot the small red dots that signify native reserves – a map can say a thousand words, the red dots are few and far between. Read the stories and discover so much about where we live and our history.
This was a wonderful session with a group of enthusiastic and dedicated people. Top this session off with an hour of Dame Anne Salmond and you have the makings of a great way to spend a dreary Christchurch Friday morning.