19 March 2020
Iwi, Hapū, Whānau and Marae
Tēnā koutou katoa,
MANAAKI, KIA KAUA TĒTAHI E MAHUE KI WAHO
Ko te tīmatanga ake o te aronga matua ko te wehi ki te wāhi ngaro te mātāpuna o ngā tini āhua e putaputa ai tātou te ira tangata ki te whei ao ki te ao mārama puta noa te ao tùroa e hora nei. Ka mihi tonu ki te papa taurikura puta noa ka tangi ake mō rātou o tātou huanga maha, karangatanga maha, whanaunga katoa hoki. Rātou katoa kua okioki ki a rātou, tātou kua mahue mai nei ki muri ki a tātou, kāti ake.
Tēnei rā te whai ake ki ngā kōrero e kī rā – ko te tawhiti o te mate katahi ka rapua; kīhei roa ka kitea…
Heoi noa, ngā mihi o te wā ki a koutou e ngā uri o Ngāti Whātua, e whai ake nei he kōrero, hei hakaaro māu mā koutou katoa e pā ana ki tēnei mea te mate urutā, arā, ko te COVID-19, Coronavirus rāini.
What is Covid-19?
Recently, an outbreak of a new coronavirus disease now called COVID-19 was identified. Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which cause illnesses such as the common cold and flu.
You will no doubt be aware by now that that COVID-19 has become a global pandemic and is beginning to play itself out in Aotearoa. The virus has already been confirmed in Tāmaki Makaurau and other parts of the country. The incidence of contraction is increasing in Aotearoa.
Who can catch COVID-19?
Anyone can catch COVID-19 so it is important that everyone takes precautions. Those that are most vulnerable to the disease include kaumātua (especially those above 70 years), our wahine hapū, our uri with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, heart conditions, hypertension, and those with an impaired immune system.
Pandemics in the past
This is not the first time we have seen a pandemic in Aotearoa. The 1918 influenza had a devastating toll on our Māori people with over 2,160 deaths. Our people died at a rate that was seven times higher than for non-Māori deaths.
There have been occasions in our Te Tai Tokerau history where our people have relaxed kawa, tikanga and our customs and traditions for the wellbeing of our people. In more recent years we have had the experience of SARs. Our response then was to change the way in which hariru took place at hui.
In earlier times the realities have been more devastating on our people and we have needed to take our tūpāpaku straight to the urupā with no hui mate. Only one or two people were designated to care for the body and the burial. We hope we do not to see a repeat of these times.
There is a kōrero Takahia te tikanga, kia ora ai te tikanga
, which essentially means some of our customs and traditions must be broken, for our customs and traditions to survive.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua is mindful of how sensitive this kaupapa is for whānau and have only the health and wellbeing of our uri in mind when raising this matter and suggesting rautaki / strategies.
What can we do?
Changes to tikanga are never made lightly. However, given the potential harm to our people we must take steps to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing. For now, we need to consider our tikanga relating to hariru. When we greet our visitors, whether it be in a pōwhiri situation or one or more persons meeting, we should do it in a way that does not compromise each other’s health and wellbeing.
There are alternative forms of hariru that can be used. This includes the ‘Kahungunu Wave’. Ngāti Kahungunu Chairman, Ngāhiwi Tomoana, used the following tupuna kōrero, Ngā Tukemata ō Kahungunu, as a response to COVID-19:
It is alright not to hongi, it is alright not to kiss, it is alright not to hug, it is alright to put a rāhui around yourself and around your whānau and friends.
A rāhui is a protective measure for a place, for things and for people. Kawa and tikanga are often a reason to dutifully follow custom and tradition currently practiced on the marae and other places. However, tikanga demands that we do what’s tika or what’s right for any occasion.
Another alternative to hariru is through the use of Heru Hāpai. It doesn’t require touching and greets whānau with a Heru Hāpai symbol, a two-finger salute by either tapping your fingers (Māpere and Manawa) on your heart or on your rae (top right temple on your forehead). These can be done in conjunction with other iwi social media initiatives.
The significance of Heru Hāpai is captured in the kōrero of kaumātua Bernard Makoare:
It is ancient kōrero which refers to the chiefly heru or comb proudly held aloft in the topknot of rangatira. It also alludes to the carrying of identity proudly around the vast ancestral lands of Ngāti Whātua and therefore is a fitting maxim to reinforce identity, pride and connect to the environment. The Ngāti Whātua Heru Hāpai kaupapa fits under the overall kaupapa for the Rūnanga which is whakapakari or grow forth and never give up like the tenacious kawariki flower . . . Small but resilient.
We suggest using Heru Hāpai as a unique alternative hariru.
We encourage everyone to stay in touch with the government’s daily announcements on coronavirus
. It is important for our whānau to stay abreast of the advice that is being provided and to make sure each whānau member has awareness, and that whānau develop plans to keep each other safe.
If there are kaumātua you know that may not have any support, please reach out to them and take them in to your network. The same applies to whānau members that are impaired in any shape or form and may need support.
If you get sick, please stay away from kaumātua as we do not want them catching the virus.
At the very least our whānau and mokopuna need to talk about COVID-19.
Below we have identified other things we can each do to minimise the risks of contracting coronavirus.