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A return to traditional healing

Rongoā Māori, or simply rongoā, is a traditional Māori healing system that has been passed down through generations, and knowledge of the practices was once considered tapu [sacred].

Reanne Tawharu is a kaimirimiri [practitioner] in Featherston who practices mirimiri and romiromi –practices that are encompassed by the rongoā healing system and rooted in Te Ao Māori [a holistic worldview that emphasises the importance of relationships between nature and people].

Tawharu wants to give back to kaumātua by hosting a Kaumātua Hauora [elder health] day for those over 65 this week on September 14.

“I feel like they’re left out of society a little bit,” she said.

She hopes focusing on them this Thursday will “make them feel a part of our community”.

The day is for them to support their tinana [body] as well as their wairua [spirit], and hinengaro [mind].

Three kaimirimiri will spend the afternoon “helping and supporting our kaumātua”, she said.

While talking to the Times-Age about the event, Tawharu acknowledged the history of rongoā and the suppression of its practices as well as te reo Māori.

“Revitalising Te Ao Māori is just as important as te reo,” she said, noting she is very happy to be bringing a deeper understanding of tikanga [customary practices] and traditional taonga [cultural treasures] “back into our community”.

Earlier this year, when the since-passed Therapeutic Products Act was debated by a select committee regarding whether the legislation should regulate rongoā health, is was likened to the Tohunga Suppression Act, which prohibited the use of natural Māori healing practices when it was introduced in 1907 and was only repealed in 1962.

The act criminalised rongoā practices and aimed to replace traditional practices with Western medicine.

There were few prosecutions under the Tohunga Suppression Act, but the practice of rongoā Maori was pushed underground.

As well as this causing the practice to become less unsafe, the identities of tohunga [experts] were kept secret, and rongoā was never discussed outside Māori communities.

    The Kaumātua- Hauora Day [65+] will be held at Featherston Community Centre. September 14. 12.30pm – 3pm.

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