Haka fracas-don't hate me 'cause I'm white.

Now I'm not a big fan of beauty parades, let me get that out of the way for the get-go. So this post must be read carefully before you judge my point of view.

Background: New Zealand Miss Universe contestant Samantha Powell performed a haka as part of her performance to win the title. At the end she stuck out her tongue. Not the done thing, apparently. In Maori tradition women don't stick out their tongues. It's a guy thing. Tongue sticking out. …guys. Really important - like women being required to sit at the back of the room (even though in Maori there weren't any rooms).

Some Maori people have taken arms against Samantha Powell, criticising her for her lack of intimate knowledge of Maori protocol. I have to say, most Maori have little intimacy with their own culture. My own daughter is Te Aupouri, her great, great … grandfather signed the Treaty of Waitangi (our founding document). She pronounces Maori words well, but other than that…

There is an arrogant separatism emerging amongst media savvy Maori. They seem to want everything their own way. Most of New Zealand society accepts Maori culture as something to be shared. When it is (and on the world stage) they nit pick over the minutae… and in doing so alienate themselves from their most important constituents…New Zealanders.


  1. Anonymous3:33 pm

    As an individual and being of Maori descent, I personally don't take offence to what Samantha did. But as part of a larger body of people I do feel offended. I couldn't help but cringe when I saw her do a man's haka stance. For me that was worse than just the sticking out of the tongue that people seem to be concentrated on. Being brought up in Maori culture and learning what is appropriate for men and women, and the reasons why, it was honestly embarrassing to watch her blatantly show her ignorance of the indigenous culture of the country she is meant to be representing.

    I'm also incredulous; I can't understand how someone could feel confident enough to try and pull off a haka in front of cameras on an international stage without seeking some proper teaching. Because she clearly didn't.

    Do I want to go overseas and be asked to do the haka 'like that model Samantha Powell' because I'm Maori and I'm from New Zealand? No.
    Do I want people to think that how she did it is the proper way of doing a haka for women? No.

    I don't find any pleasure in saying this but in my opinion the criticisms of the 'media savvy Maori' are justified in this case.

    Good on her for wanting to do it, but shame on her for seemingly not showing an interest beyond using it as an advantage over her competitors.

    - Mariana

  2. Anonymous7:32 pm

    I find your post about as informed as Sam was on Maori protocol (I know Samantha) I guess as a Maori i'm not among "Most" of the Maori who have "little intimacy with their own culture" that you have referred to, neither are most of the Maori I know.

    All that was required, was for Samantha to consult a Kaumatua, as to the appropriate protocol. You would hardly try to speak Vietnamese in front of half the world without consulting a fluent Vietnamese speaker, its the same thing.

    As for the separatism in the media - read the last UN report on New Zealand and you will find the inspector condemns New Zealands media as irresponsible and biased against Maori. As Mariana has said the "media savvy Maori" are justified. I'm sure you'll find "they" don't want everything their own way and don't get everything "their" own way.

    And yes "most" of New Zealand do see Te Ao Maori as something to be shared by society. The world is fascinated by Maori culture, art and tradition why present an inaccurate and ill-informed view of the culture to the world then.

    Just a note: Maori did have rooms if you call the internal space inside a wharenui a room. Women can sit at the front during a powhiri if they are a distinguished guest.

  3. I appreciate the time these two anonymous visitors have taken to write thoughtful responses.

    Under normal circumstances I don't accept anonymous comments. The protocol I observe on the web is that, whilst it is easy to mask your identity it invalidates what you say. One of the binding rules of the web is that you own your own words.

    As for a UN report on media and Maori in New Zealand I am afraid I prefer to rely on my own sampling than a litmus test by a foreign visitor who, quite probably has an agenda about the 'injury' indigenous people may have endured as a result of colonialism. I think Maori in particular seem well served and represented in media in New Zealand. Not only is their a well funded broadcast channel but there is time devoted to Maori issues in Marai and a number of shows aimed at youth.

    Don't imagine for a second that I am a bigot - like everyone I am partisan with preference radiating from myself, my children, wider family, colleagues and community etc. Race or ethnicity comes a distant way behind.

    Finally, I am not sure the world is nearly as fascinated by Maori culture any more than they were when they were gawping at preseved heads in museums or portraying Maori as noble savages. There is a peculiar aspect to the New Zealand psyche that imagines our little slice of paradise as the centre of attention on the world stage.

    It simply isn't true. Most people don't know we exist.

  4. David, thank you for an intelligent post. I have not heard from anyone of Māori blood myself over the issue and have been surfing to find a representative viewpoint. It does confirm to me that when issue is taken over Samantha’s haka that Māori will put their mana first. To the two commenters, I say, ‘Thank you,’ for providing more educated comments than I have been able to attract.
       I believe the issue has been blown out of proportion. Where were the complaints about cultural insensitivity when these photographs (including one of the pukana) were published in June by the Fairfax Press? It took an Irish–Australian-owned newspaper with a headline bordering on racist by poking fun at the pukana and a few misreported “facts” (Val Lott certainly did not hang up the phone on the journalist but the opposite is true, I am told) to get people upset. It was tabloid journalism, printed on broadsheet pages, without the dignity this issue actually deserved.
       I agree with the second commenter that, with hindsight, consultation with a kaumatua would have been an idea, but knowing Samantha Powell (who is very passionate, rightly minded and, yes, impulsive), I would believe she came up with the idea while in Vietnam—certainly we had no forewarning—where kaumatua are rather thin on the ground. She was mostly in communicado during this time, only having email a couple of times a week.
       Her ignorance may well be the fault of our entire nation for not doing enough, which was the view of the costume designer. And that we can remedy.
       But was it any less appropriate than Kiwi athletes failing to salute by dipping the flag during the parade as the leader passes the Royal? (This is not rhetorical questions: I actually do not know. But it seems to be forgiven by all but staunch monarchists.)
       Overall, the article that raised the issue originally served to separate rather than bind the two cultures supposedly sharing this land and I agree with you there, David. Being neither white nor Māori, I see Māori culture as evolving, and the two commenters here do not suggest to me that the divisiveness was as critical or sensational as the Irish newspaper made out. We are still speaking, after all.

  5. Anonymous1:40 pm

    Nga Mihi kia Koutou

    I am of Maori Decent and whakapapa to the most Northern Tribe Nga Puhi also known as the biggest Tribe of Aotearoa. I don't disagree with any views that have been said on this post however I would like to say as a Maori yes I would agree that I am a bit ashamed to hear that such a Taonga been performed in such away that all Tikanga was not upheld by Samantha, yes I agree that Samantha should have approached a Kaumatua or Kuia to seek guidance in what is appropriate when performing the Haka, I would have been proud to see Samantha do the Haka on the world stage but done correctly she could have won the world including the Maori Nation. However we can go on about what she could or couldn't do, but for every human walking on this earth regardless of ethnicity or culture mistakes are done and then I would hope that you can learn from those mistakes. Just a example Maori did not learn the Haka straight away errors were made, protocols were broken however with directions and guidance of the Kaiako (teachers) eventually all errors are corrected.

    Kia Kaha Samantha I acknowledge your intentions, I also acknowledge the hurt the Maori Nation felt when the saw the Haka being performed, however this is a learning curve for all of us.

    Morgan Mahanga


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