MAORI PROVERBS

A Simple Saying . . . or Much More

A major health hui (gathering) at Pipitea Marae in Wellington this (June) month carried the name Tau Puehu, which means “settling the dust” — on the surface, quite appropriate for a meeting of minds that sought clarification of a wide range of issues: It came from “tau” which means “to settle” and “puehu” which refers to dust being blown around.

However the main speaker, Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia, dusted off a few metaphors in discussing the Tau Puehu theme — starting off with the link between dust mites and the range of asthma and respiratory conditions that affect Maori.

“In research relesed last week we learned that asthma prevalence and severity in Maori may in fact not be due to a higher incidence but rather to a longer duration of the condition resulting from reduced access to care,” said the Minister, adding that she had wondered whether the Tau Puehu theme was a cover for an attack on institutional racism.

She then harked back to a report in 1951 about the death of around 130 Maori from tuberculosis. The Minister of Health of the day advised that if your home had a wooden floor it was a good idea to sprinkle it with damp tea-leaves before sweeping it, so that the dust would not fly about while sweeping.

“The moral being that if you keep your house clean, and free of visitors, you are less likely to end up with the dust and dirt that TB germs thrive on,” said Tariana Turia, who then pondered the idea that the Tau Puehu theme was to start anew . . .

“To eliminate all the dust and dirt in the system that is affecting Maori health outcomes, and to prepare the way for a good sprinkling of damp tea-leaves to achieve the outcomes we all desire.”

Updated 17th June 2009