October 02, 2013
Te Matapunenga to drive legal debate
People wanting to argue from a basis of Maori custom now have a new resource to draw from.
Te Matapunenga is a compendium of references to the concepts and institutions of Maori customary law.
It’s been put together by Richard Benton, Alex Frame and Paul Meredith of the University of Waikato’s Te Matahauariki Research Institute, and published by Victoria University Press.
Mr Meredith, from Ngati Maniapoto, says by going back into the archives, they were able to find letters from rangatira like Ngati Porou chieftain Rapata Wahawaha explaining concepts to colonial ethnologists like Elsdon Best and Percy Smith.
"Also we were looking at the translation of the Bible. Looking at the term turangawaewae, we think we have traced not the concept but the term back to Isaiah 66:1, Heaven is they kingdom, earth is they footstool, so it was really delving back into people we thought might have some authority in discussing these terms, tracing them through time and how they were being articulated and how they were being understood," he says.
Te Matapunenga should prove useful for lawyers and judges when Maori customary terms arise in cases, and Maori may also find it a valuable resource.
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