Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Day of Maori History and Culture

The signed Treaty explained.
New Zealand's most historic site is located here in the Bay of Islands at the northern end of the North Island. From Opua Marina, we can see across the water to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Maori Chiefs signed their first accord with the British Crown. It is known as the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Triiti o Waitangi).
Many of the places in New Zealand have
names like this. It is going to be challenging!
This is known as New Zealand's founding document which was signed on February 6, 1840. Unfortunately, like many treaties in the world involving the indigenous peoples, they are still disputing the meaning of some terms of it. It seems there are two signed version so: one Maori and one British. And guess what! They differ in the interpretation of what the governance means.
This thing is huge!
The Maori wanted the British to govern the non-native people who raising hell in the town now known as Russell across the bay. The British version claims to govern all people in the country. So you can imagine the many challenges to the treaty over the years.  And it is still on going.

Beautiful and intricate carvings on the bow and stern.
We saw the worlds largest ceremonial war canoe. It takes a minimum of 76 men to paddle it. Women are not allowed in the canoe except for an occasional dignitary, such as Queen Elizabeth. The canoe (waka) is named NGATOKIMATAWHAORUA. And I thought German was difficult to pronounce!

This special waka is sheltered in the waka house near the shore so they can roll it out into the water for a special ceremony ever February 6th for Waitangi Day celebrations.

She greeted us and explained the ceremonial
procedures and how we should behave!
This waka measures 35-meters long and can hold up to 140 people. The carvings on the bow and stern are very intricate and depict the stars used for navigation. They also trail off the stern several stands of plant vine with feathers to collect mussels and fresh water. The many ways to survive that the native people have developed on each island we have visited are fascinating. They definitely live in harmony with nature. There is much to learn from their ways.  They are so respectful of the universe and our planet.

Our Chief awaiting the arrival of the haka delegation. He was
warned to be serious and not confrontational back to them!
I wonder what would have happened if he had!
We also visited the Treaty House and the carved traditional meeting house (TE WHARE RUNANGA) where there was a demonstration of traditional dance and music. Dennis was invited to be the "chief of the tribe of visitors" and had to perform chiefly duties on our behalf. This included accepting a peace offering and giving a speech which he did with eloquence.

This is a haka. The first meeting is somewhat threatening as
they show their strength before laying a peace offering on
the ground. You accept it by picking it up. Now friends.
The Maori tongue is an interesting topic. It is often depicted in tattoos and graphics. We learned that it is an act of defiance and only men are allowed to stick out their tongues. When they confront an unknown situation they thrust the tongue and make a loud sound to show their strength and determination. It is a challenge for strangers.

No they are not kissing. Just touching nose to nose and
forehead to forehead as a sign of peace.
They also use their eyes to express. It seems like they have smaller irises so there is more of the white eyeball showing. As they open their eyes very wide you see a unique expression. We learned that the women use their eyes and jut their chin to show disrespect or to challenge. I must say this is a look you cannot ignore as their eyes say it all! Most interesting!

The cultural performance included singing (waiati) stick games, poi, Maori weaponry as well as the famous haka.

Only the men are allowed to stick out their
tongues as a show of defiance and strength.
Our Chief's words were appreciated by the Maori. WHEW!
I love their beautiful woven patterns found everywhere.

The traditional meeting house is being renovated.
I wouldn't want to meet these four in a dark alley!
A smaller waka
This is a very old waka

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