Traditionally, tatau pounamu was a peace agreement between warring hapū and iwi. Rangatira would hui and negotiate with the two parties to try to ‘close the door’ on past troubles and build new relationships. Some tatau pounamu involved the gifting of taonga, perhaps a greenstone mere, to bring about lasting peace.
A tatau pounamu might help today to support and guide tamariki, especially at times when their behaviour is challenging and is upsetting or frustrating their whānau. It works best to negotiate whānau limits and boundaries when everyone is calm.
Pages 7 and 8 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 2 are about tatau pounamu
Just like our tipuna, we want our relationships to be peaceful and lasting. The aim of our tatau pounamu is to make peace — hohou te rongo. So if there has been raruraru, it’s important to restore the calm. Love, warmth and gentle guidance helps keep everyone’s mana intact.
Āta kōrero — be clear in your instructions
Āta whakarongo — listen carefully.
Considering the issues
Tatau pounamu at an individual whānau level does not mean that gifts must be exchanged so peace can reign. It might just mean making time to think and talk about the issues or challenges facing the whānau and affecting their relationships. Whether the problems are between the parents themselves, or them and their tamariki, or the extended whānau, anything that affects the well-being of the mokopuna deserves attention.
At this age mokopuna are listening and watching and taking their cues from the people around them about how to behave. They will be noticing if the kōrero around them is negative, or the behaviour is aggressive or antagonistic.
Being able to make peace, forgive transgressions and move on, however difficult it may feel at the time, can be beneficial in the long term. Whānau are showing their tamariki that no problem is so big that it can’t be helped by some open and honest kōrero. The symbol of the tatau pounamu can simply be a visual reminder of the commitments made towards peace within the whānau.
Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei
Pursue that which is precious, and do not be deterred by anything less than a lofty mountain.
These two articles from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s Kura Pounamu exhibition give historical information about tatau pounamu. They highlight the significance of gift exchanges in honour of important agreements and the binding nature of the tatau pounamu.
- Arama Rata, James H. Liu and Katja Hanke: Te Ara Hohou Rongo (The Path to Peace): Māori conceptualisations of inter-group forgiveness, published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology Vol. 37, No. 2, July 2008
This research paper considers an indigenous perspective on forgiveness and its associated links to psychological wellbeing. The investigation was prompted by the fact that much of the body of research about the benefits of forgiveness has been sampled from Western populations and focused on forgiveness at an individual level.
- Ngā tohu whānau – Six key things known to promote the best relationships between, parents, whānau and their tamariki.
SKIP resource: Thinking about Parenting [PDF, 2.9 MB], page 10 — Parents make mistakes too