What is Matariki?
Matariki is the Māori name for a group of seven stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. The rise of this star cluster and the sighting of the new moon in late May/early June marks the beginning of the Māori New Year.
Why is Matariki important?
Traditionally it was thought that the comong season’s crop could be determined by how visible Matariki was. (For example, bright and clear stars meant a warmer season and more productive crop.) But it was also an important time for the community to gather and reflect on the year gone by, as well as celebrate and plan for the year to come.
These days, it’s an opportunity to celebrate Māori culture, and to recognise the unique place we live in.
The Matariki story
The legend goes that Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children. But the separation made their son Tāwhirimātea, god of the winds, so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them to the heavens. (Matariki can be translated as ‘mata riki’ (tiny eyes), or ‘mata Ariki’ (eyes of God). These eyes are thought to watch over the land and its people.
Many also believe that Matariki is a mother, surrounded by her six daughters: Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi and Ururangi. When Te Rā, the sun, is weakened by his journey from the north in winter, Matariki and her daughters help him across the sky.
Matariki activities, lessons, and resources
1. Matariki inquiry unit
We’ve put together a great inquiry unit for Matariki, which you can download and print. It can be used across years 5–8.
2. Information about Matariki
- The Maori Language Commission have put together a fantastic booklet. (Seriously, it’s brilliant.) You can download it here.
- Read the Te Ara’s Beginner’s Guide to Finding Matariki
- Information about Matariki in the Te Ara Encyclopedia
- Museum of Te Papa – the Matariki story
- The Matariki story by Kete Korero (Then try making your own!)
- Matariki – Waitangi Teepa, Ready to Read (Gold)
- Celebrating Matariki – School Journal Level 2, Number 2, 2005
- Lanterns for Matariki – School Journal Level 1, Number 3, 2005
- Matariki – School Journal Level 2, Number 2, 2003
- Playing Ki-o-Rahi – School Journal Part 2 Number 2, 2010
- Making Manu Taratahi – School Journal Part 4, Number 2, 2006
- Matariki Returns – Connected 3 2003
- Celebrating Puanga at Ramanui – School Journal Level 2, November 2017
- Matariki Breakfast – André Ngāpō, Ready to Read
5. Get cooking!
Get your local iwi involved host a hangi for your school (or even community!)
Cook Rewana bread. There’s an easy recipe here. If you have juniors, read Waiting for Rewana Bread by Kiwa Hammond with them! (Read to Series, blue.)
Have any amazing Matariki lessons or activities planned with your class? Share them below!