Alf’s mates needed a serious reproving when they mocked something they heard on National Radio.
The item that tested their credulity and triggered their mocking was about a Whangaroa kuia who told the Waitangi Tribunal the 1907 Tohunga Suppression Act had terrible consequences for her mother.
Listeners to this bit of radio news were told her mother could foretell the future.
But the Tohunga Suppression Act did those who practiced her craft a serious mischief.
It was intended to discourage indigenous faith healers and people who – among other things – practiced fortune-telling, or prophesying, or whatever you care to call it.
In fact it was passed with what seemed to be the good intention of replacing tohunga as traditional Māori healers with “modern” medicine.
This was a big mistake, of course, because modern medicine costs heaps of money, whereas a good tohunga’s diagnosis involved a holistic approach that included mauri (spark or life force), wairua (spirit), and tapu (natural law), and maybe brought whakapapa into considerations.
Then the tohunga would go to work with healing herbs and plants found in abundance, or massage, or incantations and prayer, or wai tapu, which involved water therapy, including suffusions, steam and heat applications.
More of this should be encouraged, because it would save heaps on our health bill, although Alf does observe that the modern=day tohunga is dipping into the public trough for a chunk of the health budget.
Oh, and another thing.
The Tohunga Suppression Act was introduced by Sir James Carroll, a politician of Irish and Ngāti Kahungunu descent, who was the first Maori to hold the cabinet position of Minister of Native Affairs and for a while was acting prime minister.
But that is to divert.
Let’s get back to the Radio NZ item.
Ani Taniwha gave evidence this week at the Tribunal’s Ngapuhi inquiry, Te Paparahi o Te Raki.
Mrs Taniwha said her mother could foresee the future, but her father feared she would be punished and tried to rid her of her gift, with help from the church.
She says her mother’s abilities as a matakite or a visionary were misunderstood by health professionals and eventually she was committed to the psychiatric ward at Porirua Hospital.
Alf’s mates reckon that if they bumped into someone who reckoned they could foresee the future, they might be tempted to have him or her banged up in a psychiatric ward, too, although they are a somewhat crass bunch and lacking respect and they referred to this as a loony bin.
This attitude is disappointing to Alf, who reckons his mates failed to give due weight to the next bit of the story:
Mrs Taniwha says her mother once warned her whanau to look after their land at Ngawha, now the site of a geothermal power station, because she foresaw something electrical being built there.
She said in the days gone by, people like her mother would be trained as tohunga and their gifts developed.
By not understanding the Maori world view, we Pakeha have lost a great deal and missed out on benefiting from the talents of these visionaries.
This morning, for example, the scientists at GeoNet desperately need a visionary to help them work out if Wellington is about to be toppled by the big one or not.
Labour Party leader David Shearer then could hire the soothsayer to tell him is he is about to be toppled and by whom.
And she then could pop along to the Treasury to work with Pakeha soothsayers – known as economic forecasters – in shaping the next set of Budget forecasts.
There’s bound to be a job for someone with her foresight up at the Weather Office, too.
Just one thing puzzles Alf: surely Mrs Taniwha’s mum could see what was coming, before she was carted off to Porirua.
Why didn’t she take preventive measures of some sort, like running away – deep into Tuhoe country, perhaps.