Tūpuna Parenting with Elizabeth Emere Harte

We are honoured to share this heartfelt kōrero from Elizabeth Emere Harte of Ngāphui and Ngāti Porou.

“Do pēpi ever stop being tapu? Kao, they stay tapu, sacred and protected, for their whole lives. Just like you.” - Tūpuna parenting

Elizabeth Emere Harte is the founder of Tūpuna Parenting, an initiative centered around raising pēpi and tamariki with traditional Māori parenting. This method of parenting is one of gentleness and love which is what tūpuna Māori have demonstrated throughout the generations.

Elizabeth inherited this kaupapa from her mum, Helen Mountain Harte, and her Nanny, Emere Makere Waiwahaka Kaa. Elizabeth's mother was a teacher and a researcher; her Nanny was a nurse and a midwife; and both were also mothers and grandmothers. Through that whakapapa, Elizabeth’s whānau inherited their beautiful mātauranga.

In speaking to traditional Māori parenting, Elizabeth explains that in pre-colonial times Māori were gentle, respectful and loving parents and whānau. This narrative has been passed down through lots of sources, from pūrākau (oral histories), waiata oriori (traditional lullabies), whakataukī (Māori proverb) and early explorer accounts. Europeans also saw this and wrote about it in their books and letters. From all this, Elizabeth explains that the depiction of parenting in media like ‘Once Were Warriors’ is not how Māori raise their pēpi and tamariki. She shares that “our tamariki are taonga. We want all whānau to know this truth”.

Elizabeth explains about the two pou of tūpuna parenting, mana and tapu. Pēpi are born tapu (sacred) and are protected and respected because of it. Pēpi are also born with mana: both tapu and mana are interconnected, you can’t have one without the other. Therefore, our pēpi are worthy of respect from birth.

Elizabeth encourages us to look at our own whakapapa and find whānau stories and pūrākau that respect the gentle parenting ways that are still passed down. When we reflect, often people recall their koro, kuia, kaumātua and remember their beautiful stories that are passed on through the generations. Elizabeth encourages people to think about the fact that they too will one day become kaumātua and kuia. As such, it’s important to reflect on how our mokopuna will remember us. What message will we leave for our whānau, community and te ao? For her own tamariki and mokopuna it is to “hold fast to our ways, be gentle, be loving, be kind.”

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