Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (NPM) Research Director Dr Dan Hikuroa was encouraged by the amazing indigenous work from New Zealand and overseas presented at recent meetings in Canada. Dan was a delegate at the “Hands Back, Hands Forward” conference, and attended and presented at the 2012 American Education Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, both held in Vancouver in April.
The “Hands Back, Hands Forward” conference, co-hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, falls under the umbrella of two AERA special interest groups: Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific. The conference, held in the impressive University of British Columbia longhouse, was attended by approximately 120 people and, as well as providing a physical space, Dan says it was an appropriate cultural and spiritual space for the indigenous voice to be heard and discussions to take place.
“Hands back, hands forward” refers to a First Nations concept of reaching back to receive knowledge from ancestors; using and adding to this knowledge and then passing it forward to the next generation.
“This conference certainly grounded me by going back to the basic questions of what is research, and what is indigenous research and indigenous methodologies,” says Dan.
The theme for the prestigious AERA annual meeting which followed was “To Know Is Not Enough” and attracted about 14,000 delegates. Dan presented his talk “Who says Māui wasn’t a scientist?” and spoke about the low number of Māori students engaged in science and possible strategies to improve this; including using Maui as a role model scientist to engage with Māori students by encouraging them to think and act like Maui.
“Māui is a prominent demi-god mythical figure in Pacific tradition. Māui was extremely curious, willing to push boundaries and achieved many great feats. It is tempting to call Māui a scientist, but it would not adequately describe him. However, as it has been demonstrated some Māori knowledge is science, it could be said that Maui was one of the greatest scientific thinkers ever.”
Māui is a figure throughout Polynesia and could be a way of increasing participation in science throughout the area, says Dan.
Dan was one of several Māori academics at the AERA conference, including premier keynote Professor Linda Smith, former co-director of NPM, and Professor Graham Smith, lead investigator on NPM’s Te Pae Tawhiti: Māori Economic Development research, who gave a presidential address.