Te hau ora o naga kaumatau o Tuhoe: a study of Tuhoe kaumatau mental wellness
Tuhoe is considered to be one of the last bastions of 'traditional' Maori language and culture. The main purpose of the research was to examine the mental health status of Tuhoe kaumatua (elderly). Even before the research was undertaken anecdotal evidence indicated that a significant feature of the Tuhoe aging population was the apparent absence of mental health problems. Kaumatua are however particularly susceptible to physical diseases that afflict modern Maori, regardless of geography or tribal origin. To explore the health status of Tuhoe kaumatua, the study needed to take into account external cultural influences and, in particular, the colonial experience. This justifies a comprehensive theoretical approach that includes European philosophical influences which, it will be argued, have impacted on Maori lifeways. Notwithstanding, the study draws principally on Maori conceptualisations of the world, mainly because kaumatua mental wellness was considered to be inextricable to Tuhoe language and culture. The research attempted to isolate those factors that sustain kaumatua mental wellness. In determining the causal factors of wellness it soon became apparent that the practice of traditional Maori healing, embedded in ancient esoteric knowledge, was of considerable significance. This feature is apparent from the outset. The opening karakia of the Tuhoe tohunga (specialist/healer), Hohepa Kereopa invokes ancient Maori atua (Gods) and endows the work with an aura of spiritual protection. He has stipulated that both the karakia (prayer) and mihi (greeting) remain in Maori (Tuhoe dialect) because he believes that the essence of these rituals are best preserved in the Maori language. Throughout this entire body of work Hohepa Kereopa maintains a discernible and enduring presence.