Ngāti Maniapoto mum on a mission to normalise rongoā Māori

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A Ngāti Maniapoto mum is on a mission to normalise rongoā Māori in everyday use. The good Samaritan is sharing her knowledge of traditional rongoā healing practices and karakia to whānau who need it for free.

Erina Wehi-Barton, known as Edz offers up a prayer to the heavenly realm as she enters the medicinal forest.

“Whānau drives me. Being able to educate our whānau to be resourceful in today's ao,” she said.

“There's a lot of struggle and I think if our people return back to ngā mahi mai i ō mātou tūpuna, ngā mahi tawhito (the ancient practises of our ancestors), we'll actually be okay.”

A fantail is a guardian and a good sign.

“There are many guardians here. First in this tree and also the birds. Rongoā is at its potency is when these fulla's come out.”

Erina is harvesting kawakawa leaves, one of the common Māori medicines for many ailments.

“Kawakawa is the same shape as your manawa, as your heart. A lot of whānau tend to drink this or utilise this as a poultice. They say that the rau (leaves) that have been eaten by the ngāngara (insects), are the best to pick.”

She says it's mainly for skin purposes aye, like a lot of our whānau have eczema due to kai. And also kawakawa tea for a good flush out in the morning.

Knowledge Edz credits to her many mentors.

“That being my grandparents Hinepu Bell and Charlie Wehi. Also, I'd like to acknowledge papa Whata Karaka, Te Whare Clarke and papa Joe Delamare as well.”

And it's through the kumara vine - word of mouth and The Kumara Patch facebook page that you can find her.

“Whānau usually ring. A couple of weeks ago we had a whānau ring for something for cancer. I usually tuku karakia and then just follow the Atua and his blessings in the ngāhere, harvest from there. “

And she's not fussed about payment. Edz is happy to be able to gift her knowledge to those who need it.

“To educate our whānau and to normalise rongoā. No sweat for our whānau to walk into a pharmacy, but when it comes to walking into the ngāhere, a lot of times they get the hebegebe's you know.”

“And I just want them to know that hey, that's ours.”