Saturday, February 14, 2009

Waitangi Day- A Historic Day

Paihia (Te Tii Beach)
After leaving The Coromandel, I decided to head further up north, to the Bay of Islands. The day before I left, I met someone who recommended I go to Paihia since Waitangi Day would occur that weekend. I had heard about Waitangi Day. It's a huge deal in New Zealand. So, I immediately decided to go there.

A little background on Waitangi Day:

On February 6, 1840, Maori leaders of different Iwis (tribes) signed a treaty with the British Crown about the distribution of the land and to whom it belonged etc...

And I will stop there. Out of respect for Kiwis (Maori and Pakeha alike), I will refrain from explaining political dealings in relation to New Zealand, because I am aware that people can get upset. I have gotten different accounts of the history behind the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent issues that have been brought forth since that day. I do not wish to upset anyone and therefore have chosen to stay on a less controversial platform and tell you of my experiences on that day and leave it at that.

If you are interested in learning about the treaty, I recommend that you read up on it yourselves. Here is a website you can check out:

Preparing the canoes (wakas) for the sea

Canoes going out on the water on Waitangi Day
So, back to my story...After spending the night in Auckland and saying goodbye to Yuka, I took a bus up to Paihia. This was on a Wednesday and Waitangi Day was that Friday. The Backpackers was okay (Mayfair Lodge Backpackers) and the owners nice. Plus side: it was very clean. You can't say that for all backpackers. The owner took care of everything himself; he was diligent.
It seemed like it would just be a regular 5 night stay.
But something really special happened to me there.
One night, sitting on the veranda and having a glass of wine, I met Pauline and everything changed. A Maori elder, we befriended each other and within 10 minutes she'd invited me to go up to Northland and stay at her friend's house. Moana later came to sit down with us, the owner of the house I'd been offered to stay at. She reiterated the offer. It was very appealing. I said I would think about it.
Greeting the day and preparing for the ceremonial outing on the water
On Friday, I woke up at 4:30am and went to the 5:00am dawn service (dawn wasn't even close to coming!). There were hundreds of people. The church was full, so most of the people took a seat on the grass and listened to the prayers. The service was attended by many dignitaries, including New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, the King of Tonga and the King and Queen of the Maori people. Most of the service was in Te Reo Maori, so I didn't understand, but a few people did speak in English.

The church minister announced, when he first started the service, that it was too early to talk politics and to refrain from doing so. When John Key went to the podium, he spoke of the courage and hope that the Treaty signified and how it was such an important part of the history and modernity of New Zealand.

Another man, one who I can't name because I didn't know what he looked like and the names got confusing after a while, went up to the podium and said "The Treaty of Waitangi was signed at 8:30am on February 6, 1840 and it died that same night". So much for the non-politics of the pre-dawn! It was a speech rife with passion and frustration. There are still many Maori that resent the implications of the treaty and would like to see it ammended.

View of Te Ti Bay from the Treaty Grounds

After the service, light was just starting to paint the sky. There wouldn't be anything going on until 8:30am, so I went back to the Backpackers and then met up with Pauline and Moana. We chatted for a while over tea before we headed back out.

At 8:30, the wakas were to go out onto the water. This was called the Waka Karakia. Karakia means prayer. I was really excited to see strong (and hot!...I'm still a woman) Maori men represent their people with the wakas, symbols of the time the Maoris first came here from Hawaiki (legendary homeland encompassing much of the South Pacific). Pauline hung out with me along the water, my own personal guide! I was lucky because I had been afraid of seeing much of the day without really knowing the significance. They didn't start until 9:30am (island time!), but I got a chance to get lots of questions answered.

Below: Man doing the haka as a preamble to the wakas going out.

Oooh! Very random pic! I got a chance to photograph a Mongrel Mob member, the biggest gang in New Zealand! It was a sneaky picture.
Holding back the crowds.
Look how huge this canoe is!
Below: Carrying the canoe out to the water

Below: Commentary on the significance of this prayer

Below: Finally going out on the water!

I found the day absolutely fascinating. There was so much to see and I’m sure I only saw part of it, but it was still plenty!

There were tons of food stalls. I was encouraged to try tuatua fritters, which are basically like a savory pancake made with clams. It was pretty good! I had a mirimiri, a Maori traditional form of healing through massage and bodytalk. Pauline did the massage and then I had a healing session with her and Marina. Pauline placed her hands on my smelly feet (I felt really bad for her!) and Marina put one hand on my forehead and another on my chest. I just tried to breathe through it. Afterwards Marina told me what she felt from my body when doing the healing. She was right on and I again realized that all the people here have been spot on, whenever healing was a factor. More so in the past 6 months than in years prior. It's a good sign, I'm on the right path.

I walked over the bridge separating Paihia from Waitangi and there were kids jumping off the bridge. What was hilarious is that there were big signs telling the kids not to jump as well as a police officer not far from the sign, but the kids blatantly jumped off and the cop did nothing. I guess because it’s a tradition to jump off on Waitangi Day that made the police officer turn a blind eye.

Kids jumping from the bridge

In the past, Waitangi Day has sometimes been a bit aggressive with unruly protests. This year there were protests, but they were peaceful and quite interesting. They were a two dozen or so meters from the NZ Marines and their marching band.

Protester with full Ta Moko (facial tattoos);can't see well because of bad lighting, it's the best I could do for now

Another protester: sign says Support it or F*!k Off; in support of sovereignty

One of the groups of protesters' slogan

Leader of that protest group with the female ta moko on her chin, holding a traditional wooden staff with Paua (abalone) shells decorating it

Fellow protester almost completely tattooed.

Below: The song the protesters sang about love in Te Reo Maori

As you can see, the flags the protesters were holding are not the same as the current New Zealand flag. This white flag represents the supporters of the sovereignty, that is to say, the agreement Maori leaders had made amongst their people a few years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. They are protesting the current state of affairs in New Zealand and wish for a reconnection with the orignal treaty amongst Maori peoples.

So as the protesters were doing their thing, so was NZ's Marine Corp. It was quite a funny contrast actually. There they were, all lined up, stoic. And as if that weren't enough, there was a marching band and their accompanying cheesy cruise boat music. Made me smile!

Standing stoically

Below: The Marching Band!

At noon, the big fighter ship (frigate? destroyer? I don't know what they're called!) shot off 21 guns blasts that sounded more like canons than a gun salute.

Maybe it was just a general term?

After the salute, I walked down to the stage area where little boys and girls were performing the kappa haka. I’ve shown you different variations of the haka; at a Maori Village in Rotorua (and therefore touristic), in Tauranga by a local young man (and apparently a very blatant sexual advance which I didn’t know about until Shani so kindly told me of the lyrics he used... weeks later!) and now the haka done by the future of this country. They were awesome.

Below: The Boys

Below: The Girls

In addition to the haka, there was a Scottish Pipe band from Whangarei that played. And that brings me to the next Mystery Article. If you can guess where this song comes from, you will receive a souvenir from New Zealand (it won’t be for a while though, because I’m broke and haven’t found a job yet).

Below: Whangarei Pipe Band

The show continued, but I decided to keep wandering and went over to a war waka (war canoe). The video below shows you how incredibly big this canoe actually is. It’s amazing!

Below: War Waka Video: each carving represents an ancestor

I slowly wandered back to Pauline and Moana and on the way I saw the men bringing the wakas back on land.

Below: Their combined efforts in carrying such a heavy piece of wood!

When I got back to the mirimiri tent, I sat next to Moana, watching the ladies at work and Moana again asked me to go up with them. I had paid for my bed at the backpackers until that Sunday. The women were leaving that Friday. I decided to forget about the money and go with the ladies. They had adopted me. I was to go on a new and exciting adventure, under the wings of my lovely Maori hosts.

Next time, I'll tell you what happened with them! I have a few families in New Zealand now. I'm blessed.


jadiknight said...

Ahh, Braveheart... Highlander... Dances with Wolves...... Driving Miss Daisy?

L said...


jadiknight said...

Bugs life... YES!!! I knew it!! I'm just gonna work on the assumption that I know it, and you will confirm. So the right answer is...... ? EXACTLY!

L said...

Nope! It's from a very famous American movie. Or at least I think it was famous because I loved it! Think...Red People (non- pc term)

jadiknight said...

OK, how do you say 'I give up' in New Zealand? I can't google a sound track from a blogger's video :( So why don't you just tell me the answer, and then I'll expect the souvenir anyway, because you didn't specify where I'm gonna get the right answer.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the stage performances...the little girls and boys...the bagpipes...more so than the band. The work canoes are unbelievable!!!! ou pap jwen sa Ayiti...LOL...
Waiting to read more.
LOVE you to pieces...
you still have the same cell?
Shoot me a text let me know when we should set up our next chat..

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Sorry for offtopic

L said...

Thank you for your comments!