Adapted: Professor Mason Duri (Tangata Whenua)
These guiding principles talk about of how we look after ourselves and our communities. He has written in a Maori context however, these guiding principles can be easily applied to us all.
It is expected we will lead by example. A way of working together
WAIRUA / SPIRITUALITY is acknowledged to be the most essential requirement for health. It is believed that without a spiritual awareness an individual can be considered to be lacking in wellbeing and more prone to ill health. Wairua may also explore relationships with the environment, between people, or with heritage. The breakdown of this relationship could be seen in terms of ill health or lack of personal identity. When confronted with a problem Maori do not seek to analyse its separate components or parts but ask in what larger context it resides, incorporating ancestors or future generations to discussions. This may mean the discussion goes off on a tangent but the flow will return to the question.
HINENGARO / MENTAL Thoughts, feelings and behaviour are vital to health in Te Ao Maori (the Maori world). Maori may be more impressed with unspoken signals, eye movement, bland expressions, and in some cases regard words as superfluous, even demeaning. Maori thinking can be described as being holistic. Understanding occurs less by dividing things into smaller and smaller parts. Healthy thinking for a Maori person is about relationships. The individual whose first thought is about putting themselves, their personal ambitions and their needs first, without recognising the impact that it may have on others is considered unhealthy. Communication through emotions is important and more meaningful than the exchange of words and is valued just as much, for example, if Maori show what they feel, instead of talking about their feelings, this is regarded as healthy.
TINANA / PHYSICAL Is the most familiar component to all of us. For Maori the body and things associated with it are Tapu (sacred/special). There is a clear separation between sacred and common. For instance the head is regarded as tapu and Maori do not pat each other on the head, nor should food be anywhere near a person’s head. When this happens it can be perceived as unhealthy. Hairbrushes should not be placed on tables nor should hats.
There is also the question of personal space to take into account. Maori consider stepping over someone as rude and demeaning to that person’s mana (personal authority/power).
However there are different ways in which respect is shown to another person. For example Maori tend to have minimal eye contact and respect each other’s space in formal situations.
Body language is also an important feature to note.
WHANAU / FAMILY
Te Taha Whanau (family health) is the prime support system providing care, not only physically but also culturally and emotionally. For Maori, whanau is about extended relationships rather than the western nuclear family concept. Maintaining family relationships is an important part of life and caring for young and old alike is paramount. Everyone has a place and a role to fulfil within their own whanau. Families contribute to a person’s wellbeing and most importantly a person’s identity. A Maori viewpoint of identity derives much from family characteristics. It is important to understand that a person carrying an ancestral name will often be seen as having the qualities of their namesake.
It is important to be aware for Maori, a person’s identity is gleaned by asking “Where are you from” rather than “What is your name?” Maori identity is based upon an ancestral Waka (canoe) a physical landmark, which is usually a Maunga (mountain), a body of water Awa (river), Moana (sea) and a significant Tupuna (ancestor). Once this is known people can share a common bond.
TAKATAAPUI – is the Māori word meaning a devoted partner of the same sex. In modern terminology, a person who identifies as Takataapui is a Maori individual who is queer, in other words Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, plus others who identify as belonging to the Rainbow community (LGBTTIQ+).
However, the name Takataapuhi has been adopted by many non-Maori as a queer identity for themselves as well.