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What Is Rongoā

What is rongoā?

Rongoā is the traditional holistic Māori healing system, which often uses the medicinal properties of New Zealand native plants.Long before pharmaceuticals arrived in Aotearoa, Māori relied on native plant based remedies to keep themselves and their mokopuna healthy. They were able to gather a wide range of tools to fight infections and diseases through the use of rongoā. Māori drew upon a wide range of healing plants in making decoctions, splints, brews, infusions and teas to treat wounds, mental conditions, skin diseases, internal ulcerations or tumors, bleeding, constipation, headaches and migraines, blood conditions, muscle aches, bone fractures, and so on.

Rongoā is the body of knowledge of how to do this.

What are some examples of rongoā in practice?

As a holistic practice, rongoā includes fighting ailments and illnesses that afflict the mind, body and spirit. Rongoā could work by replenishing mauri (spark or life force), bringing things in better accordance with tapu (natural law) and healing wairua (spirit).

How can you incorporate rongoā into your life?

Interestingly, rongoā is still in extensive use today. However, the native plants used in rongoā can be toxic. Furthermore, it is important that gathering of rongoā plants is carried out in a sustainable way. Rongoā training is of course very valuable for those wishing to have any insight into the safest, best practices applicable to your needs. 

What are some of the main healing plants used ins rongoā (and what were they used for)?

Koromiko, which contains active phenolic glycoside, can be chewed for diarrhea and dysentery. During the Second World War, New Zealand soldiers received dried koromiko leaves to effectively combat this condition. 

Pūriri leaves have a medicinal quality. It has been used in an infusion for ulcers and sore throats.

Kawakawa leaves can be chewed to alleviate abdominal distress and tooth pain. Also can be used for cuts and wounds.

Harakeke has a sticky gum in it which can be applied to painful boils (a deep fungal infection of the hair follicle resulting in rough skin growth).  

Kōwhai contains toxic alkaloids in the tree, so requires rongoā training to use. However, the kōwhai is a very applicable plant, with bark, flowers, leaves and juice all operating medicinally. 

Why is Karakia important before practicing rongoā?

(NOTES Rongoā refers to the traditional Māori medicinal practices in New Zealand. Rongoā was one of the Māori cultural practices targeted by the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907, until lifted by the Maori Welfare Act 1962.)

What rights protect indigenous peoples?

a. Worldwide 

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 is an up to date statement with international force that affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different. 

It affirms that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of mankind.

Many laws relating to indigenous peoples are a legacy of colonization.

One of the many ways you can see that indigenous peoples have suffered differently than other peoples around the world is that the 4 countries which did not sign the legislation initially were the ones with a strong colonial backdrop in their heritage, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA. However, these four nations have since joined the agreement.

Many legal protections are written in international law and then transferred into national legislation. 

The twentieth century was very different to the century before it in that there was greater acknowledgement of the sufferings of indigenous peoples under colonization, and a strong desire to see their languages, cultures and ways of life rehabilitated and supported.

b. New Zealand 

In New Zealand, Māori have the right to be recognized as the tangata whenua, the first inhabitants of Aotearoa New Zealand, under the Treaty of Waitangi 1840.

In recent history, Māori have had their right to the foreshore and seabed quashed, but have witnessed a revival of their language, te reo, and cultural, sporting and performing arts activity.

Furthermore, because Māori did not adopt an economic system that came from Europe, their socioeconomic rights depend on customary rights to land. These are the focus of the Waitangi Tribunal, with many iwi from around the country bringing claims.

What is Kaupapa Māori methodology?

 In a narrower sense, kaupapa refers to the aspirations of a given community.

In a wide sense, kaupapa means the collective vision, aspiration and purpose of Māori communities.

Kaupapa that are found in Māori communities are the following:

 1. Tino rangatiratanga

To be self-determined or determining. Tino rangatiratanga is sovereignty, autonomy, control, self-determination and independence. It is an aspiration for Māori to own their own lives.

2. Taonga Tuku Iho

Cultural aspiration. Te reo māori, tīkanga and mātauranga māori should be flourishing, taught, recognized.

 3. Ako Māori

Using culturally preferred pedagogy. This means using the valid teaching and learning practices that are uniquely found among Māori.

4. Kia piki ake i ngā raruraru o te kainga

Literally translated, “to climb above the problems of the home”. Overcoming negative socioeconomic forces experienced by Māori communities through policy and principle. 

5. Whānau

Family stabilise kaupapa Māori. The whānau is the centre of initiatives to improve health, and wellbeing of communities. 

6. Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Not surprisingly, upholding and challenging the Treaty of Waitangi is one of the most important kaupapa. The Treaty’s affirmation of the tangata whenua status of Māori is a basis for Māori to challenge the status-quo and affirm indigenous rights.

7. Āta

Growing respectful relationships. This kaupapa accords correct behaviour legitimacy. It strikes a chord with tīkanga māori. A correct way of growing sustainable, meaningful relationships is to put in effort, energy, respectfulness, reciprocity, reflection and discipline.

What is Mātauranga Māori?

Mātauranga is knowledge that you find in Māori life. The pūrakau (stories, myths and legends); kawa and tīkanga (protocols and rules about what is expected on the marae); customs at a pōwhiri, hui, or tangihanga; rongoā; kōrero (story-telling) and whakapapa (genealogies); and values-teaching. 

Mātauranga is a kaupapa but it also is something which, when Māori have it, they are encouraged to achieve their kaupapa. Mātauranga is consequently so important.

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