Dear Jeanne Moos,
I recently saw your short two minute piece on the Williams’ family traveling to Aotearoa (New Zealand). When I heard you say “decorated bums” my ears gave into you and your quick commentary on this tattoo tradition that goes back many, many, years.
My parents have taught me to remain respectful of elders so I write this to you with love and frustration in my heart for you and what your two minute spiel had done on the “powhiri”, the welcoming ceremony that had taken place for the Williams family.
These “decorations”(on the bum) you speak of is our tradition to the Pacific peoples, and for the Maori the “koru” tatau patterns have deeper meaning then decorations, they have purpose and meaning; everlasting and evolving life, and growth.
The nose rubbing with Maori elders is called the “hongi”, the breath of life, in which people exchange each-others breath in the journeys they’ve taken to reach each other in their life’s path. Elders are leaders, they carry with them family stories and life lessons integral to our well being. It is of high honor to be privileged to exchange the breath of life with our elders.
And the “challenge”, you speak of is called the “wero”, a simple and yet sometimes challenging for people to understand in respect to where you walk and where you stand. If a fern is placed at your feet, and you pick it up, it is an acknowledgment and a respect to the land in which you walk. If you step on it, it is a sign of where you stand in that respect.