Raro timu raro take - Ngai Tahu birthing traditions. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsTikao, Kelly Waianashow all
The restoration of Ngāi Tahu customary birthing rituals and practices may offset the disempowerment and historical trauma this iwi has endured. Colonisation begot greed for land that eventuated in the Crown securing 34.5 million acres of land from Ngāi Tahu which left the iwi essentially landless. The Crown breached the Tiriti o Waitangi by restricting Ngāi Tahu access to their mahinga kai sites and their valued resources. This magnified the injustices that included the loss of political autonomy. Customary rituals and practices were substantially impacted by this history of events including those associated with birth. Assimilation and eventual hospitalisation of birth eroded away the ability for Ngāi Tahu to use their own approaches to health and wellbeing.
This doctoral research sought to discover what remains of Ngāi Tahu customary birthing knowledge and practices, and is it sufficient to empower revitalisation? Will education providers in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (tribal boundary) prioritise more Ngāi Tahu customary birthing knowledge and practices in midwifery and health programmes?
This doctoral thesis embraced kaupapa Māori as a philosophical foundation and research methodology. A mixed methods qualitative approach examined historical sources, such as archival documents, visual and audio, creation narratives and Māori art. These historical references were triangulated with qualitative individual and group interviews with Māori elders, Māori midwives, Māori midwifery students, midwifery lecturers and Māori artists. Thematic analysis coordinated the amassed data from: interviews, literature and Māori art symbolism into layers of information. The whakapapa of mātauranga gathered in this thesis enabled the richness of customary birthing narratives to be told.
Although our living repositories struggled to recall detail of customary birthing practices and rituals, all has not been lost. This research understood that stored within the land and sea scape, written into the symbolism of Māori art and archived in kawa often expressed at tangihanga awaits the remnants of Ngāi Tahu creation knowledge. The challenge begins on how to best activate and sustain the implementation of this mātauranga Māori. Who will prepare the cultural practitioners to deliver ancestral birthing practices to Ngāi Tahu whānau birthing at home, or in primary and secondary birthing settings?
Growing capacity within the small but eager Māori midwifery workforce to develop their teaching skills and confidence to be midwifery lecturers alongside a focused recruitment of Ngāi Tahu students into midwifery is necessary. Professional development for Ngāi Tahu midwives to learn Ngāi Tahu customary birthing rituals and practices, te reo Māori me tikanga through a series of wānanga and nohonga is also desired. These Ngāi Tahu led measures are essential to best manage the growth of the Ngāi Tahu population, who are young and generative.
In New Zealand there are no kaupapa Māori standalone primary birthing units and too few kaupapa Māori antenatal programmes. This research highlighted the struggle to campaign for customary birthing knowledge and practices to be included into midwifery training and maternity services. Māori health knowledge and practices in mainstream health services and midwifery training appear to be additional. When something is supplementary there is a real risk of it being removed. There may be value in the establishment of independent Kaupapa Māori primary birthing units and antenatal programmes that prioritise and sustain Māori knowledge whilst nurturing culture in whānau. First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada have already established maternity clinics and antenatal classes in their communities. These clinics are enlivening the integrity of cultural practices amongst the First Nations and Inuit peoples.
It is also key to share customary birthing practices and creation narratives more widely and directly in educational curriculums within the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (tribal area). These avenues capture the ears and minds of young Māori and non-Māori to become champions of traditional knowledge. Teaching others of the existence and importance of this knowledge is how it remains relevant and available to them in their birthing plans when this time comes.
Customary birthing knowledge and practices reinforce whakapapa lines and how critically important the taiao (environment) is for the advancement and wellness of Ngāi Tahu. Restoration of Ngāi Tahu birthing knowledge will have a liberating effect on the life course, cultural identity and wellbeing of Ngāi Tahu whānui. And, will contribute towards the reconciliation of the historical trauma inflicted upon Ngāi Tahu whilst simultaneously delivering a vibrant future. Maranga mai, tū tonu, tū tonu Ngāi Tahu e!