The study of traditional Māori medicine or rongoā has been providing Te Wānanga o Aotearoa students in Tauranga Moana with more than just a whole new range of practical skills.
It’s also provided a pathway into a much greater understanding of te ao Māori (the Māori world) and our relationship with te ao turoa (nature).
Those who’ve been studying the year-long Level 4 Certificate in Rongoā with kaiako (teacher) Rangituaia Walker have also been gaining new skills and understanding with te reo Māori and tikanga (protocols).
“We’ve been able to go deeper into the wairua side of things. We went back to basics, learning about Ranginui and Papatūānuku (the sky father and earth mother) - the beginning, background and whole origins of te ao Māori, as well as rongoā. I felt like I connected more this year than I have with any other programme,” says tauira (student) Claire Stott, who works as a pharmacist.
Another tauira, 23-year-old Natasha Bailey, says she has always felt a connection with the ngahere (forest) and outdoors but it was her desire to learn more about Aotearoa’s native plants that drew her to study rongoā.
“The class has been amazing and gone so much deeper than I expected. I thought I’d be in class learning about what our native plants do but it's also very wairua and whanaungatanga-based and I feel more connected on all levels,” she says.
Truck driver Francis Edwards was inspired to study rongoā by his nana who was a tohunga (expert) in rongoā back in her day. But he too has learnt more than he originally expected from the class.
“It’s been more about getting a connection with our whenua (land) and understanding more about tikanga. Rongoā guides you in your te reo Māori journey as well because there is so much mahi to do in the class,” he says.
Tauira also spoke highly of their kaiako Rangituaia and were impressed by the class environment that TWoA was able to offer.
“Rangituaia is amazing and very encouraging. She listens to your ideas and it’s a lovely environment. We have all really thrived,” says Claire.
For all three tauira the class has been so valuable that they have enrolled to study the Diploma in Rongoā in 2022.