Funding that gives Maori innovators the feathers they need to fly


From re-indigenizing the maps of Aotearoa to showcasing and teaching traditional kaimoana gathering practices, Maori with big ideas are bringing them to life with the help of Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust.

In 2004, Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust was established under the Māori Fisheries Act to promote Māori education, training and research through a managed fund of $20 million. Each year, the trust offers a annual cycle of philanthropic funding for initiatives that help Maori pursue excellence in education, science, leadership and innovation.

Two grants make up the annual funding. The first is the Tonganui Scholarship, which offers three $10,000 scholarships to Māori advancing tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori in the oceans sector. The second is the Pou Herenga Tangata Awardconsisting of five $5,000 awards that either support rangatahi Maori who aspire to community leadership or organizations that support rangatahi to become leaders in their community.

Recipients of Te Pūtea Whakatupu funds are officially recognized as members of Ngā Auahitūroa, the trust’s dynamic and ever-growing network of over 300 alumni. Last year, a total of 37 applications were received with nine projects funded ranging from Te Tai Tokerau to Moeraki.

One of last year’s Pou Herenga Tangata recipients was Kaea Tibble (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Pikiahau-Waewae), 20, who used her grant to start a decolonization project and re-indigenizing the map of his whānau’s whenua using GIS (Geographic Information System Mapping Technology).

“Maps have traditionally been colonization tools,” Tibble explains. “So we are indigenizing the colonial tools”.

Kaea Tibble, recipient of a 2021 Pou Herenga Tangata award (Picture: Supplied)

The project aims to regain ingoa and purakau Tibble tūpuna which are embedded throughout the Tokorangi Valley; an idea pioneered by Tibble’s father and inspired by the work of native groups in Minnesota.

Unlike the globes that sit on desks or the maps we stick on the wall, GIS maps “are really detailed and have different layers,” says Tibble, who likens the technology to the layered nature of mātauranga surrounding given place names. by tupuna. “These maps are really about layers, and whakapapa is also about layers,” he says. “So I think there are some pretty strong parallels between the two.”

Tibble organized several hui and wānanga bringing together GIS and kaumātua experts, and as a result, started filling in these layers. “Generally, the lens hasn’t focused on the significance, beauty and connection that comes from place names,” he says. “We were fortunate to kōrero with people who gave their time to contribute to this kaupapa and talk about the importance of names, the importance of spaces and the importance of places.”

The project is ongoing, the more people are involved, the more stories and layers are added to the map. Tibble hopes the mapping creates a space where those without easy access to the marae can still access these stories and place names wherever they are, and that as more people involved in the project, they will be able to apply their skills. learned to cards in their own rohe.

Another project that received one of the Pou Herenga Tangata awards is the Gisborne-based rangatahi entrepreneurship club, Tāiki e! Next generation.

Led by Cain Kerehoma, the rangatahi club grew out of an entrepreneurial community space he launched in 2019 called Taiki e!. For Kerehoma, entrepreneurship and innovation pave the way for Maori resilience. “Being an isolated region in an isolated country, it gives us the opportunity to keep our people working here,” he says. And for those who have left to look for work outside the region, it is an opportunity to “bring them home”, he says.

The rangatahi-based club started last year as a natural evolution of the original club. The doors of space are open to all, with hundreds of rangatahi participating in markets and events since their inception. Every Monday, a group of 30 rangatahi show up for their weekly after-school get-togethers that offer mentorship and a range of entrepreneurial development activities. At the front of the space, they’ve created a pop-up shop where rangatahi between the ages of 14 and 24 are offered the shop for free for a few weeks to sell goods like vintage clothing, dried flower arrangements, candles and photos.

Pou Herenga Tangata award winner Cain Kerehoma (Picture: Supplied)

The $5,000 pūtea they received as part of the prize was mainly used to develop a rangatahi-led escape room, which they launched in May, the first of its kind in Te Tai Rāwhiti. Groups pay $120 to play the game which involves solving a series of puzzles while the wall clock counts down for 60 minutes. So far, Kerehoma says he has received visits from around 100 groups.

The concept developed from rangatahi’s feedback as a way to generate revenue to ensure the club’s self-sufficiency, but also to provide a real business model to learn from. Rangatahi are employed within the company, but also participate in the management of company finances, marketing, health and safety and general operations. It’s “learning about entrepreneurship hands-on, rather than just preaching about it,” says Kerehoma.

“With the right tools, our rangatahi show me time and time again that when they practice good tikanga and are surrounded by people who help them, they are able to create very beautiful things,” he says.

Deane Gage’s kaimoana gathering workshop, funded by a Tonganui scholarship (Picture: Supplied)

Funding recipient, Deane Gage (Te Whānau in Apanui, Ngati Maniapoto, Tainui), used his funding from the Tonganui Fellowship to also propose a community enterprise in the form of a three-day kaimoana wānanga gathering held earlier this year .

Gage grew up diving and fishing in the hapū Te Whānau a Apanui and Whānau a Pararaki, learning these practices and customs from his parents, grandparents and extended whānau.

“Growing up, I thought everyone knew how to pick kai, how to fillet a fish, how to open a kina,” he says. “As a child, you learn all those things that you take for granted.”

He applied this knowledge to his master’s thesis at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, researching the mātauranga behind collecting kai from the ocean, and developed the wānanga program to help connect people to the ocean and land, emphasizing the practice of tikanga.

In January, the free wānanga held at Te Tai Rāwhiti saw around 30 people, aged two to 55 and over, learn fishing, diving and hunting habits and customs, customs and protocols. Through practical and theoretical modules, the program aimed to ensure the food security and sovereignty of the Gage community as well as to enhance the mana of local rangatahi by being valuable to their iwi, hapū, whānau and kaumātua.

Deane Gage’s kaimoana gathering workshop, funded by a Tonganui scholarship (Picture: Supplied)

Deane sees wānanga as a pilot, which he hopes will become a more regular event. “People have lost that connection,” he says. “So there is a real need.

For another Tonganui scholarship recipient, Te Aomihia Walker, funding contributed to a six-month residency in Iceland as part of UNESCO’s GROh Fisheries training program between 2021 and 2022. Walker has completed an overseas research project focusing on a fisheries policy called “landing and discarding” – what fishermen can return to port and ashore, and what that they must return to the ocean. Walker looked at the activity through an indigenous lens known as ‘etuaptmumk’ or ‘see with two eyes’ and developed key principles for developing landing and discarding policies using both Western knowledge of conventional fisheries management and Māori mātauranga equally.

In the last funding round, Te Pūtea Whakatupu also offered a unique STEMM-focused fund, Māhe Mātauranga, where 20-year-old Te Whetu Kerekere (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Te Aitanga a Hauiti) and 21-year-old Gemella Ana Hera Reynolds – Hatem (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tahu Poutini, Ngāti Mamoe, Waitaha) were good recipients. The funding went to a project that translated and reconceptualized a University of Otago genetic resource for schools called ‘Who killed the Kiwi?‘.

Deane Gage’s kaimoana gathering workshop, funded by a Tonganui scholarship (Picture: Supplied)

While studying forensics and genetics at the University of Otago, Kerekere came across the English language resource pack that uses hands-on science laboratory techniques and was instantly hooked. And she saw the potential of translating the resource for kura nationwide, “breaking down its core components and rebuilding it in a more tea-ao Maori way,” she says.

The duo worked to redesign the resource in a way that students and teachers could engage in science, without having to leave their Māoritanga at the door. Named, ‘Mā Wai te Kiwi i Matenga?’ The Resource Pack is a practical, fun, and educational tool that uses real-world science lab techniques. Kerekere and Reynolds-Hatem hope to distribute the resource to kura kaupapa and wharekura nationwide to help increase the capacity of students, teachers, and scientists in a way that preserves the integrity of dual-knowledge systems. “I remember thinking about when I was at kura kaupapa and we had almost no science,” Kerekere says. “Imagine a little pēpi somewhere in kura doing this task and it ignites their passion for science.”

Having been discouraged by funding hurdles along the way, Kerekere sees funding as more than just a sum of money, it has also provided an invaluable mantle of support for the project. “It was also good to know that there were people there to support us,” she says. “That there are other Maori, tuakana, kuia and koroua who want to help us, who want to see this as much as we do, it helped along the way when it was difficult.” Mā te huruhuru te manu ka rere ai, adorned with feathers, the bird is able to fly.

Applications for the Tonganui Scholarship and Pou Herenga Tangata Award are open now and close on September 15.

To learn more about the successful applicants for the Pou Herenga Tangata Award and the Tonganui Fellowship, or to apply for this year’s funding round, visit:

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