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The Autobiography of a Maori

Poisoned with Tutu

Poisoned with Tutu

With the school closed, spring, summer, autumn and winter were one long holiday, for the children roamed everywhere, looking for peaches which were then growing wild, for kotukutuku or konini berries, and squeezing the sweet juice of the tutu.

I was a victim of tutu poisoning and I might have died from it. Our elders had not forgotten to warn us repeatedly against eating the kernel of the karaka and the fruit of the tutu, I was not ignorant, for my mother and I had often gone out to pick tutu berries page 28and I had watched her straining the fruit before giving me the juice to drink. I had gone out with other children and we found tutu berries in abundance and ripe. While the others carefully strained the berries, I, out of sheer bravado, began filling my mouth with the delicious fruit and challenging my companions to see me "drop down dead." On our way home I felt queer and then I felt dazed. My companions and I had parted and there I was, like a drunken man trying to find my way home. I could hardly see when I was near our house. My mother found me looking underneath the house. By the purple marks on my lips she gathered at once that I had been poisoned with tutu. Then I lost consciousness. My father took me down for a dip in the sea and the cold water brought me round a little. He then lit a fire on which he put piripiri (native burr) and as it smoked he hung my face over the fire so that I might inhale the smoke. The treatment seemed to have done me good for I revived. For days I lay in bed feeling weak after my strange experience.