Aug. 25, 2017
After a morning full of coffee and laughs, our team was excited and focused for our guided trip around the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi and Waitangi Treaty Grounds. At 9:30AM we arrived at the facilities, and immediately walked ourselves around the museum portion while we waited for the tour to begin at 10:00. I was immediately struck by how impressive the museum was set up, a mesh between technology that creates an interactive component to the exhibits with breathtaking artifacts that together paint a vivid picture of the Māori people’s history between them and the English navigators in this Bay of Islands area of New Zealand.
When 10:00 hit, our team assembled back outside the museum where we each got a handheld radio with an earpiece. The moment I put in my earpiece, I hear “they call me the creeper” followed by a spooky ghost noise which echoed around my brain, this was the first of many top shelf jokes from our guide. The museum was surround by trees which completely blocked the back half of the grounds, so when our tour guide took us through to an expansive outdoor area I was blown away. He told us about how where we were marked the first interactions between the Māori and the English, as we approached a wooden ship that topped 75 feet in length. In between classic wise-cracks our guide taught us about how the Māori went about attempting to figure out what intentions were of these English men on enormous ships despite language gaps and obvious cultural differences. Up a short hill sat a flagpole with three different flags basking in the sun of the beautiful day we were given. Each flag was used at some point for New Zealand through its early years, including the United Tribes flag which to this day holds high importance especially to the northern Maori tribes. We were told an awesome story of a Maori chief who cut down the same Crown flagpole three times in a row, as tensions were rising he promised not to do it anymore, so he returned to that flagpole and ordered one of his men to cut it down on his behalf for a fourth time.
The Flagpole at Waitangi treaty Grounds
Then, it was our turn first hand to see what an interaction would look like between an English group and the natives of Aotearoa. This experience was located in the Waitangi Marae, which was located right next to the flagpole. As we approached the building a Māori woman greeted us outside with instructions for us so we could follow the traditional code of contact for a meeting between two tribes that have yet to meet each other yet. I volunteered myself for the role of ‘chief’ for our group, without really knowing what I was getting myself into, and ended up having so much fun being a part of what felt like a very real ceremony of our two groups. After an impressive warrior display of skill and power, a Māori solider offered a four leafed plant to us as a sign that they come in peace. He placed the leaf on the ground and to accept their offering, and indicate that our group came in peace, I approached the offering, bent down and picked it up. We were then led inside where I was given an opportunity to acknowledge their ancestors and thank them for the glimpse that they gave us into their history. This was followed by an unbelievable performance of art and war, woven in with descriptions of the history behind each of the tools they put on display for us. Participating in that ceremony was an incredible experience, if you get a chance to take on the chief role at this fantastic Marae I highly recommend you do!
Myself and the Maori warrior who offered me the symbol of peace in the form of the leaf in my hand. His eyes and tongue are representative of intimidation and letting the opposite tribe know the strength and fearlessness of their own iwi.
The entire experience from the Museum, to the tour, and then to the performance was top notch and one I will not be forgetting. I have to say a huge thank you to all of the people involved for being not only informative but extremely kind and fun the full time of our tour there. The only thing hard to believe was that all of the things we got to do their only took up about half of our day! We then departed for lunch as we had to prepare for our stay in the Roma Marae that same evening. 10/10, amazing day.