I thought it would be a great idea to explain the Māori culture, language, living out in New Zealand and where the indigenous people originate from. Let's dive into a few things that we have learnt from Harbour sport that was new for us when we arrived.

When we first arrived at our work, we had a whakatau which is where we get welcomed into the place of work. I first learn that men of the group are always in front of women when songs or greeting happen which occurs out of a sign of respect.

This is from a recent whakatau to welcome a new event assist, receptionist and AUT student.

We had to introduce ourselves separately and then go around all the staff members present on the day and do a hongi which is a Māori greeting where you press your nose and forehead together with the nose and forehead of the person you are greeting. Through this exchange one is no longer considered manuhiri (a visitor) but rather tangata whenua (one of the people of the land).

Māori people are the indigenous people of New Zealand also known as the polynesian Indigenous tribes. The tribes in New Zealand are defined by what Waka (outrigger) canoe they arrived in on the shores of Aotearoa (the long white cloud) New Zealand.

Cultural significance for New Zealand

Pepeha - is a way of introducing yourself in Māori. It tells people who you are by sharing your connections with people and places that are important to you. We all had to do our own Pepeha in the first 3 weeks of being at Harbour Sport. For us they included where you live, where you grew up and where you call home. It can change but for a more traditional pepeha it would include the mountain you live nearest, the river/body of water you live by and your family name.

Waiata - Māori song, dance and music were important ways of celebrating, retaining and transmitting the life and history of Māori. Traditionally there is a song for every occasion. Some of the ones we have learnt are Tutira mai nga iwi, Toro mai to ringa and whakataka te hau.

Kai – Food is literally life for Māori. Māori Kai (food) traditions go back 3000 years. kai is a very important part of culture because gathering, preparing and sharing kai shows hospitality and respect for visitors. Food and the culture and customs around it create a sense of community.

Tā moko - Māori tattoos which they believe is a person's mana, their spiritual power of life force, which is displayed through their tattoo.

Haka - it varies with every tribal region, telling the story of significant events in an iwi's (tribes) history. Haka is used as a sign of respect and is performed at sports events, weddings, funerals and powhiri (a traditional welcome)

Pounamu Jewellery or greenstone - carved into traditional Maori symbols. It represents ancestors, connection with the natural world or attributes such as strength, prosperity, love and harmony. When an employee leaves the company, a greenstone is given to them as you shouldnt buy or carve one for yourself and it should be instead a gift between two people.

Matariki - A star cluster that appears in New Zealand sky during the mid- winter months. It is one of the brightest clusters in the sky, containing hundreds of member stars. In New Zealand it is known the Māori New Year in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view). Bringing the year to a close and welcoming a new one.

Mātauranga Māori (ancestral knowledge and wisdom) is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday and it will be a time for;

Remembrance – Honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki

Celebrating the present – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have

Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a new year

Language - Living in a different country you hear loads of different sayings and slang and a completely different language which we aren't used to in the UK. I'll let you know of the most used phrases.

Kia Ora – hello, goodbye, thank you

Karakia – it's used to talk about the songs/chants that we do in our morning meetings

Tamariki – children

Rangatahi – teenages and young adults

Hui – meeting or conference

Kai – food

Morena – morning

Mahi – work

Hongi - Māori greeting

Yarn – friendly chat

Far out – wow

Chur – thank you

Mean – awesome

Sweet as - Thank you/ no worries/ that's cool

Bach – holiday house

Hard out – agreeing with someone

Yeah na – no

Togs - swimsuit

Maori games - Māori have traditionally played a wide range of sports and games some aimed at teaching skills and others practiced as part of ritual and others used as forms of pure entertainment. Poi dances – physical objects used by the dancers, the choreography itself, or the accompanying music to make a cinchonized dance. Hakariki and kilikiti which we included in our school events that we planned.

This is Hakariki from the international sports day we run in November 2023.

Living in a different culture allows you to slowly integrate into the new world which is presented to you and not be rushed to learn everything as you would be on a two-week holiday. I have greatly appreciated Harbour sport being open to teaching us the waiatas and answer any questions that we have.

Posted in: Department for Health, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


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