Iho - a cord between two worlds : Traditional Māori birthing practices
Tikao, Kelly Waiana
Traditional Maori birthing practices are a fascinating insight into how Maori once lived, survived and perceived their world. This thesis aimed to take a closer look at traditional Maori birthing practices and rituals that aided pregnancy, labour and birth. Providing more knowledge on this take (subject matter) and highlighting the relevant health strategies already in place, could aid the potential recognition and integration of traditional Maori birthing knowledge into all maternity services. This course of action could potentially contribute towards the improvement of hauora Maori (Maori wellbeing) and bridging the gap between Maori and non-Maori health inequalities. Information collected through qualitative interviews with 20 Maori participants aged between 26- 86 years and representing a range of iwi and hapu are presented alongside knowledge obtained from the small yet rich array of literature. A kaupapa Maori framework assisted collection and analysis of the information shared by participants. This was deemed the most appropriate and relevant framework to use for this study. An explanation is given in this thesis as to what is a Kaupapa Maori framework and how it was utilised in this piece of research. A story of how the world was created according to my Great Grandfather is shared, alongside other known deities representing birth and conception in Te Ao Maori (the Maori world). The rest of the information provided by the participants or found within the literature is pan tribal. The heart of the thesis focuses on traditional Maori birthing practices and rituals – what were these practices and why did Maori follow these traditions? The thesis then moves to consider possible reasons for why Maori strayed from their own birthing knowledge and practices, in favour of Western medical birthing models. An overview of New Zealand's midwifery history and the role of Maori kaiwhakawhanau (birth attendants) prior to colonisation and our Maori midwives registered currently is elaborated on in the later chapters. The creative component of the Masters of Science Communication Degree was to produce a 25-minute documentary that complimented the theme of this thesis. The film, "Iho- a cord between two worlds" provided a synopsis of what are traditional Maori birthing practices told through the sharing of birthing experiences of four Maori whanau. The use of drama, interviews, archival images, filmed workshops and footage that captured intimate birthing moments, allowed the knowledge within the film to be expressed. Like the cycle of life, this thesis concludes with a return to the beginning, a rebirth, and a look at what has been learnt from this research, from those who have shared their knowledge and memories for the purposes of this study; and within previously recorded literature. Once this knowledge has been established the question then becomes, will midwives, Maori whanau, medical professionals and District Health Boards take this knowledge, grow it and implement traditional Maori birthing practices into the services they provide. This will ensure such services meet their obligations to their overarching Health Plans and would ultimately allow them to have an exciting influence on ensuring whanau Maori have a positive and enriched birth experience.
Advisor: Fleming, Jean
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
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