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Maori Culture and Taboos

Maori Culture and Taboos

Old Aug 10th 2012, 8:52 pm
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Default Maori Culture and Taboos

Im preparing for interviews at the moment and am enjoying reading about Maori culture. I still feel very ignorant about the do's and don'ts of what is polite or offensive to people from the Maori culture.

I'm aware that it's considered offensive to sit on a table (tapu/noa) and that one shouldn't pass food over someone's head. I've heard that its not on to touch a woman's hair and also that you shouldn't walk over a vegetable patch when you have a period (sorry !).

Any others that you have come across?

I'm paranoid I'll say something awful!
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Old Aug 10th 2012, 10:34 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Maori culture is fascinating & they do have some, to me, odd cultural beliefs & taboos, but when working with Maori you get heaps of guidance on things that you really shouldn't do. Like not touching someone's head without asking for direct permission beforehand (the head being the seat of all knowledge & memories, & is, therefore, tapu), or never entering a Maori home without removing your shoes .........I'm sometimes amazed at the collection of footwear outside open homes in this area.....an open invitation for shoe thieves. Or at least it would be if it wasn't for the fact that at least 50% of the shoes were jandals . There's heaps more customs, many surrounding birth & death, and as such are important to anyone working in health care, & any new employer would surely give you cultural training to be sure that you didn't inadvertently put your foot in it, so to speak.

However, I'm sure that I spotted somewhere that you're a potential consultant psychiatrist possibly looking at Rotorua (my home town ). As such my advice would be to really get a handle on the Treaty of Waitangi. Rotorua has a significant Maori population, you'll be able to find stats with a quick bit of googling, & Lakes DHB work very hard to ensure that Maori are getting equal access to health care in order to correct the inequalities in health. I'm a nurse, so working at a different level & in an entirely different field to you, but working on the principle that health care is health care & we're all working together to improve health outcomes, the nursing philosophy is all about partnership, participation & protection, working with Maori to engage with them & to protect their health & their rights to health care. The Treaty is basically all about recognising that Maori are the Tangata Whenua, & that their country was invaded by Western immigrants, who, by some fair means & plenty of foul, deprived them of their lands, heritage & customs (as you can guess there's lots of politics intrinsic to all that, even, or especially today, as politicians & iwi are trying to right those wrongs. I'm trying to avoid political debate here though). The Treaty applied to health care is very much about recognising that these days Maori score the highest in just about every deprivation index you can think of, & have higher morbidity & mortality scores, & shorter lifespans. So the push is to make sure that they have access to health care & culturally appropriate care.

You may also want to look up Maori models of health. I really subscribe to their health models, which are holistic, & not all about a disease process, but about the entire person and how if one area of health is out of alignment the whole person will be unbalanced. The 2 main models are Te Whare Tapa Wha, comparing a person to a house. The strong foundations & equal sides lead to well being. The 4 "walls' are Tinana (physical health)", Tana Wairua (spiritual health), Taha Whanau (family health) & Taha Hinengaro (mental health). Ta Wheke is an alternative health model, an octopus with it's head & tentacles all adding different dimensions to complete health. You can find info about these on the Ministry of Health website.

Not sure how helpful that all is, but I find much of it quite fascinating, & as I say, it's hard to work effectively in Rotorua without being aware of Maori health issues. If I've got anything wrong, or not explained thoroughly enough I do hope that someone will be kind enough to correct me. No politics though, please
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Old Aug 10th 2012, 10:44 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Pushkinias View Post
Im preparing for interviews at the moment and am enjoying reading about Maori culture. I still feel very ignorant about the do's and don'ts of what is polite or offensive to people from the Maori culture.

I'm aware that it's considered offensive to sit on a table (tapu/noa) and that one shouldn't pass food over someone's head. I've heard that its not on to touch a woman's hair and also that you shouldn't walk over a vegetable patch when you have a period (sorry !).

Any others that you have come across?

I'm paranoid I'll say something awful!
LOL, I was born and went to school here and I didn't know any of that. Some of us pakeha are a bit ignorant though. In fairness I have been away a long time, and a lot of this has come up in recent years. It's great that you are working to become culturally sensitive, and I encourage you to continue, but don't worry yourself too much.

The period thing angers me actually and I refuse to kowtow to such nonsense. Many Maori think it's stupid too. Also, different tribes have different rules so it's not set in stone.

The debate in this area is quite interesting and unfortunately debate is often stifled by fears of accusations of racism. Is it right that in this day and age that my mother who, as a school principal, is a senior member of the community, is not allowed to speak in a Marae because she is a woman?

Last edited by jmh; Aug 10th 2012 at 10:46 pm.
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 7:12 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Pushkinias View Post
and also that you shouldn't walk over a vegetable patch when you have a period (sorry !).
That's as stupid as women being forced to wear burkas yet because its Maori I suppose it makes it ok
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 8:12 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

We were across in Rotorua a couple of weeks ago and introduced to a Maori leader/elder, thankfully I was aware of the need to touch noses on introduction but still need to aware of other cultural differences. Rotorua is perhaps the heartland of Maori. We're on the Cornwall/Devon border at Holsworthy at present.
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 10:06 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by snaps View Post
We were across in Rotorua a couple of weeks ago and introduced to a Maori leader/elder, thankfully I was aware of the need to touch noses on introduction but still need to aware of other cultural differences....
Why do you feel the need to touch noses? Its Maori culture not yours ... I just shake hands.
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 11:40 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

My Pakeha husband was told off by a maori colleague not to sit on tables/desks as it offended her once many years ago.
You'll pick stuff up when you arrive, don't stress about it.
It is a very interesting culture though if you choose to delive into it.
(Greek Orthodox don't allow women to take communion when they are menstruating - such a load of sexist bollocks if you ask me)
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 1:38 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Bumptious View Post
My Pakeha husband was told off by a maori colleague not to sit on tables/desks as it offended her once many years ago.
Not just Maori, that is just uncouth in most polite circles, akin to sitting on sofa arms, sitting cross legged on chairs etc.
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 1:46 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

I actually dont give two hoots
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 4:11 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Tomsk, thanks so much for your comprehensive response to my query. I love learning about new cultures and am aware the best place to pick things up is when I am there. You're right, I'm a psychiatrist, so I have found it invaluable to be culturally aware in my career so far in the UK so am delighted you were able to be so helpful. One of the reasons I want to practise in NZ as a doctor is that I very much believe in a holistic approach and hate the way that a lot of NHS medicine and psychiatry is driven by proformas and targets - where does that leave the poor patient?!

Rotorua is my no 1 option and my interview is next week - fingers crossed. Amanda
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Old Aug 11th 2012, 10:48 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Pushkinias View Post
............. One of the reasons I want to practise in NZ as a doctor is that I very much believe in a holistic approach and hate the way that a lot of NHS medicine and psychiatry is driven by proformas and targets - where does that leave the poor patient?!
And you think NZ will be different because?
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Old Aug 12th 2012, 7:40 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

The table thing is not a Maori taboo. It's a "don't put your arse where food is prepared or served" thing.

Treat Maori people with the respect you would want to be treated unto you and you will be fine.

A lot of what is discussed comes from common sense like shoes in house ie leave your mud at the door thanks.

Respect and protocol of a Marae is important as is any sacred ground. Maori are a very proud people who on the most want to share. If you're unsure, approach a elder and ask. If you really want to impress, learn the language.
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Old Aug 12th 2012, 8:01 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Justcol View Post
That's as stupid as women being forced to wear burkas yet because its Maori I suppose it makes it ok
Women who are forced to wear burkas are violated on so many levels, I fail to see how it's as stupid at all..
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Old Aug 12th 2012, 8:09 am
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

[QUOTE=Pushkinias;10221959]Tomsk, thanks so much for your comprehensive response to my query. I love learning about new cultures and am aware the best place to pick things up is when I am there. You're right, I'm a psychiatrist, so I have found it invaluable to be culturally aware in my career so far in the UK so am delighted you were able to be so helpful. One of the reasons I want to practise in NZ as a doctor is that I very much believe in a holistic approach and hate the way that a lot of NHS medicine and psychiatry is driven by proformas and targets - where does that leave the poor patient?!

Rotorua is my no 1 option and my interview is next week - fingers crossed. Amanda[/QUOTE

learning about the Treaty of Waitangi & some Maori language before you arrive is the way to go...Maori culture is seeped in the holistic approach to life.. good luck with your interview
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Old Aug 12th 2012, 1:02 pm
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Default Re: Maori Culture and Taboos

Originally Posted by Pushkinias View Post
Im preparing for interviews at the moment and am enjoying reading about Maori culture. I still feel very ignorant about the do's and don'ts of what is polite or offensive to people from the Maori culture.

I'm aware that it's considered offensive to sit on a table (tapu/noa) and that one shouldn't pass food over someone's head. I've heard that its not on to touch a woman's hair and also that you shouldn't walk over a vegetable patch when you have a period (sorry !).

Any others that you have come across?

I'm paranoid I'll say something awful!
As others have said, the customs are only part of it - and if you are in an unknown situation, say at a marae, there will always be a supporter (advisor) for you. It's more about understanding that the Brits came and took away stuff that Maori were getting on quite nicely with thankyou (like making them sign over massive tranches of land to Queen Victoria by the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840). It's like, almost, being an invader just 180 years later. That's the bit that I probably still haven't got my head around.

In my view, they were wronged. The Principle of the Teaty and the subsequent reparations only started in 1976 - and John Key would like the settlements finished before 2014 ( not sure they'll manage that).

Read a good history of the British (and French) arrival in the 19th century and the development of the Treaty - such as the book by Claudia Orange. Then make up your own mind. But I find myself naturally respecting everything Maori just becauae we pakehe came and took most of it way in the first place. In my view.

Jan
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