Waitangi Day

Today was Waitangi Day, and I decided to stay in the Bay of Islands for this event since Waitangi is in the next bay from Paihia. It was quite a show. People poured in and there were food stalls and cheap vendors everywhere.

Bronson and I started off inside the treaty grounds, walking through the morae or meeting-house. It was beautifully maintained. Then we walked through the very English grounds and into the courtyard of the treaty house. It was most interesting to see how the house had been renovated over the years to become a quaint seaside residence where for a little while the government of New Zealand had its power.

We headed down through the grounds and across the bridge to the beach where several waka or war canoes from all over the country had come to celebrate. There were several rounds of hakas, lots of bare-chested men and boys calling upon their ancestors for the races that afternoon. Wandering through the stalls, Bronson caught a whiff of pauas and cream so we stopped for lunch. It was surprisingly good, just a thick soup with a chunk of bread to sponge up the last bits. I also had a steak, cheese and onion sandwich from another stall.

Back inside the treaty grounds there was a stage with performances throughout the afternoon. We caught two different groups who had put together a series of folk songs, traditional hakas, as well as original songs and hakas. We also heard a young boy perform several show tunes. He had just returned from performing at a theater in London. The best act was a local comedy group. While I didn’t understand the political jokes (I laughed once I heard the back story) the two men and three ladies ingeniously danced around in tutus and were hysterically in-sync with their audience. It was such a pleasure to see a bit of Kiwi culture.

What I have found interesting is the way that the New Zealand government and people truly try to integrate native Maori culture in with the impeding European settlers. In many ways, the majorly British influences have taken over, but there is an extremely active struggle to make sure the Maori people are not forgotten. Native Americans back home do not have the government spending so much time interested in them, and I would be astonished to see a Native American political party like there is a Maori Party in New Zealand. It was definitely worth postponing my travel plans to celebrate this day in its birthplace.

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