|dc.description.abstract||Tangaroa (Māori god of the ocean) is a kaitiaki (guardian) of the human brain and one of the prominent marine atua (deity) in Māori culture (Best, 1928; Marsden, 2003; Pomare & Cowan, 1987; Whatahoro, 2011). Atua are central to a Māori worldview and personify physical elements of the natural world. The mātauranga (Māori knowledge) of Tangaroa is embedded in pūrākau (cultural narratives) and whakapapa (genealogies). Pūrākau are cultural narratives that contain traditional Māori knowledge, history and whakapapa, such as the interaction of man and atua, the formation of the universe and the creation of man (Lee, 2009; Smith, 1922; Whatahoro, 2011). This whakapapa, expressed through pūrākau, traces the deep and intimate connection Māori have with atua and how this connection ultimately supports hauora Māori (Māori health) (Cunningham, 2016; Mita, 2016; Phillips, 2018).
Māori health has been successfully examined through various health models that reflect a holistic view. Prime examples include Te Whare Tapa Whā (Durie, 1984), Te Pae Māhutonga (1999) and Te Wheke (1991). However, there is a gap in mainstream health of indigenous perspectives of the brain and brain health specifically. With Māori life expectancy rapidly increasing (Ministry of Health, 2019; Pool, 2019) and therefore the increase in age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Māori brain health is an urgent need. However, there is limited relevant research on Māori brain health and similarly Māori understandings of the brain. Te Rangi Hīroa first highlighted the importance of mātauranga surrounding the brain when he used the term wairoro (Hīroa, n.d) to describe and define the brain. His term provides an early link between the brain (roro) and water (wai) to Tangaroa, highlighting the significance of this atua for Māori brain health.
The aim of this research was to explore a Māori philosophy towards understanding the brain and investigate whether whakapapa and pūrākau of Tangaroa can provide insights to Māori perspectives of brain health. The overarching methodology was Kaupapa Māori Theory which is grounded on Māori ways of knowing, doing and understanding and are considered valid in their own right (Smith, 1997). This research used the Kaupapa Māori principles of Tino Rangatiratanga (self-determination), Taonga Tuku Iho (cultural aspirations) and Ako Māori (culturally preferred pedagogy). Additionally, the principles of pūrākau, whakapapa and atuatanga (all things atua) were utilised. The methods of the study involved archival research, analysis of whakapapa and semi-structured interviews.
For the archival research I examined four pūrākau and the whakapapa connection between Tangaroa and the brain. These were: Tangaroa – son of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, Takaroa – husband to Papatūānuku, Tangaroa and Ruatepupuke – the origin of traditional carving, and Ngā Kura Huna o Rua – the hidden schools of Rua. These pūrākau depict Tangaroa as the kaitiaki of the brain and an atua connected to waitai (seawater), toi whakairo (art of carving) and the acquisition of mātauranga Māori.
The main findings of this research were discussed in three analytical chapters. The first, analytical chapter entitled Kōrero Poutohu discussed emergent themes around Māori brain health, these were: tāwariwari (flexibility); raranga (weaving); mārama (understand) and; waiora (wellness). These emergent themes are then implemented into a Māori brain health model I will further introduce. This chapter also discussed that although there is current research on Māori brain health regarding traumatic brain injury (Elder, 2013, 2015; Dudley, Wilson & Barker-Collo, 2014), there is limited research that provides a basic understanding of the brain via mātauranga Māori. The second analytical chapter entitled Kōrero Poutokomanawa examined 9 emergent themes pertaining to pūrākau of Tangaroa, these were: the power of Tangaroa; mauri (lifeforce); iwi (tribe) specific narrative; whakapapa to the sea, human intelligence from the sea; influence of European religion; effects of colonisation; tohunga (expert) and pūrākau of Aotearoa. These emergent themes contributed to the finding of Tangaroa as guardian of the brain. The final analytical chapter entitled Kōrero Poutuarongo introduced a Māori brain health model, Te Āheinga Pū Reretahi that delivers a mātauranga Māori approach to understanding the brain while recognising Tangaroa as kaitiaki of the brain. ||