While we're at primary school most kiwi kids hear Maori legends about things like creation, and stories about well known characters like Maui. For many of the people in my age group, this can be the first and last time we are ever exposed to Maori folklore and tradition unless we activly pursue the subject at High School or through further Tertiary education.
I work in an area where I help other folks to publish their web sites and content, and I've been interested for some time in issues surrounding pubication of web content related to or about Maori culture and events. So this year I enrolled myself in a Continuing Education course on 'Maori Processes and Protocols'.
Working with the Web I figured I'd be able do any required research and reading using the Web itself, and was subsequently surprised to discover that the majority of links returned by search engines were to commercial websites selling tours of New Zealand or greenstone carvings, or to writing clearly aimed at an audience of children.
It turns out from readings on the web and comments from our tutor, that this is likely to be because Maori knowledge has historically been considered tapu (sacred) and was to be restricted to those who needed to know it. Although this seems to be relaxing a little over time the recording of whakapapa (Geneology) especially is still a sensitive subject.
One of the tasks we were set early in the course was to find out what we could about various tales of Maui Tikitiki-a-Taranga. We were paired up and asked to look into a specific story of Maui and mine was the tale of Maui's death. I've made some notes on the story as well as some light coverage of others I came accross while looking into the topic.
The week we've been asked to look at stories arounf Tawhaki and his family. I was asked to look into the story about Rata and the Tree, and why he chopped it down. The moral of the story is to do with conservation and Rata not asking for permission to chop the tree down before doing so.