The National Iwi Chairs Forum has travelled to Raungaiti Marae and presented an emeritus professor with its Te Whare Pūkenga Award.
Wally Penetito was recognised with the living taonga award by the 86 iwi that make up the forum for recognition of significantly impacting the lives of Māori across Aotearoa.
The 83-year-old, who works in education, has helped support whānau alongside iwi-based researchers to exercise passion and integrity when researching and writing their tīpuna histories.
In 2009 he became the first Māori to be appointed as Victoria University's first professor of Māori education.
He is a prolific writer, and published the book What's Māori About Māori Education? in 2010.
Other accolades he has received included an award for excellence in education in 2017, given to him by Ngāti Hauā.
More recently, he became the first Māori to be appointed professor of education at Victoria University, and awarded the title of emeritus professor.
The Iwi Chairs Forum said it was through his mahi that he upheld the value of mātauranga Māori, shown in his writing, teaching and mentoring leadership interrupting racism in education.
Ngāti Hauā chairperson Mokoro Gillett said he did this by exposing mātauranga Māori across the board.
"With his knowledge and his encouragement, and his alerting us to think that are pertaining and peculiar to Māori and our knowledge, our mātauranga, and we can consider it and say how it's been happening in the past to improve Māori education and Māori statistics in general across the board in all areas, we look to what he's done and we see it and use it as a guideline for us and in to the future," Gillett said.
Te Whare Pūkenga was established in 2021 by the Iwi Chairs Forum to recognise rangatira who have enhanced the lives of all whānau in Aotearoa.
The accolade is given to someone whose actions embody the forum's values, including rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, tikanga and pono.
His educational career has been dedicated to equity for Māori in education, which the Iwi Chairs Forum said would continue to shape the educational outcomes for future generations of Māori.
Gillett said he was encouraged by Penetito's research that showed a timeline of where Māori education started.
"To know that where and how Māori education began for us is history but also how we with our thinking, enable us to teach our own people. Also he's written some books on the Treaty of Waitangi in terms of education too, so it's been really helpful for us when we look at his book - we can reference his books and take encouragement and help us and guiding us in education for Māori," said Gillett.
Gillett said his work was incredibly valuable to Māori.
"Without that writing and without that research, the studies that he's done does help us and it's important for us to know that knowledge is there... It's not to say that he's got it all, but to make us research and think, how can we understand mātauranga Māori and how can we apply it in situations, in education programmes for today's settings. So it's really important that we gather his knowledge "
Penetito still writes and continues to guest lecture in institutions globally.