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Medicine Amongst the Maoris, in Ancient and Modern Times



That tuberculosis existed amongst the Maoris before the advent of the Europeans, I feel certain.

Phthisis. When I had diagnosed the ailment of the grand-daughter of the venerable tatooed Hitiri te Paerata as phthisis, he placed his hand upon my knee and said, "My son this disease has been in our family for generations. He momo matou no taua mate. We inherit that disease. "It is called "kohi" by the Maoris. The name refers to the wasting effect of the disease. It is also called "Kaiuaua" by some tribes, the meaning being similar. Both kohi and kaiuaua are ancient Maori words. They were regarded essentially as conditions produced by the attack of demons. Earle who was in New Zealand in 1827 remarked on them number of cases he saw about Taupo and the hopeless attitude which the Maoris took towards the disease. They said it was due to the attack of an atua and it was useless to struggle against it. The Maoris recognise that the tendency to "kohi" runs in certain families. It is usually attributed to makutu aimed at a certain family with the view of causing it to die out. Such a family is a "whare ngaro" or lost house. The children will die, there being perhaps only a single survivor out of a large family. Unless some tohunga of power can remove the cause, the family will die out. An elderly man amongst the Nga-Puhi, who suffered from tubercular disease of the hip in childhood, informed me that he lost 9 brothers and sister from page 73 the kohi disease because his mother trespassed on a tapu spot when in her first pregnancy. He, the youngest, was the only one to survive but he has one leg shorter than the other as a result of tubercle. There are numbers of leading families now almost extinot, the reson, in most cases, being attributed to past witchcraft. This distinctive feature of inherited tendency with wasting disease (kohi) leads me to claim that tuberculosis was present in ancient days.

Bone Disease.

Bone disease was also common. In the North I picked up the trail of a Maori disease demon named "Toketoke". His bite was usually directed towards the lower extremity. Redness, swelling, pain, came on usually over the tibia. Then an absces formed which discharged quantities of pus and very often pieces of bone. Toketoke sometimes attacked the arm, thigh or back. At a large meeting, I was told of a case of Toketoke. The old men with tohungaistio proolivities said the case showed the pathognomonic signs of Toketoke. I saw the case which proved to be a typical one of tubercular disease of the tibia, with suppurating sinuses discharging pus and pieces of bone. I asked the old men how long Toketoke had been in existance and they carried his origin back several generations sufficient to prove his pre-European existence. The term "kaiuaua" is also applied to these bone diseases. Bones from old burial places have been found to show a necrosis with the formation of a sequestrum and sinuses.

Tuberculosis of The Glands.

This form of the disease is very common and many Maoris are seen at present with fearfully scarred and disfigured necks. The condition is looked upon as ancient, to be due to disease atuas and to descend in families. The condition has old Maori names, "hura" and "hore".

Tubercular Ulcers.

Ulcers no doubt of a tubercular nature were termed "pokapoka". They are said to be due to the gods Papaka or Ruamano.

Abdominal Tuberculosis.

Many of the cases of great wasting due to abdominal tubercle are included under the terms "kohi" and kaiuaua and took part in creating a "where ngaro" or lost house.