Maori Culture within Havelock North High School

As the Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, many of the schools are/have been trying to become bi-cultural in the sense that both the English and Maori cultures are represented. My focus for this blog post is on the Maori cultural influence at H.N.H.S.

At H.N.H.S., all of the signs on the buildings are in both Maori and English. During assemblies which happen about every two weeks, all the students stand when the principal enters and leave the room which is a Maori tradition.  At the prize-giving for seniors a couple of days ago,  prizes were awarded to students from each year (usually for being top of a class or receiving a certain number of excellence markings in their subjects.   All of the seniors did a haka and the national anthem was sung in Maori and English.  There was also a special ceremony for a teacher that was retiring after this year (38 years in a school).  Many of the awards were carved out of wood (in Maori symbols), but some were just certificates or metal trophy cups. It really was a neat ceremony to attend.

Another event I attended that was influenced by Maori culture is the “Sleeping Giant” Senior Showcase for Musicianship.  The “Sleeping Giant” is a Maori legend that refers to the odd shape of a mountain in the area of Havelock North.  This is a picture of it from a postcard I bought here:


There were no individual artists at this showcase, but pairs singing or bands of 3, 4, or 5 members.  One of the bands, in particular, (The Super Cone Destroyers) seemed like they fell right out of the 80s with their guitar solos and rock music selection. They gave each other time to show their talents within the songs and it was completely evident that they were enjoying themselves the entire time they were on the stage. I could have easily listened to them play all day.


The unique thing about everything we heard at this concert was that it was all one hundred percent original work by the students: music, lyrics, and everything.

Finally, for special events the Maori language and culture class puts on, they will celebrate at school with a “hangi” or a Maori cookout.  As a visitor to the school, and in a way an international student, I was invited to attend.  Here is what I learned/how it all happened:

Hangis are typically only held for special occasions like birthdays or other big events.  A hole is dug in the ground and fire is built over the top of it.At 7 o’clock in the morning, they lit the fire with volcanic rocks in it. Volcanic rocks must be used because they can maintain extreme temperatures without cracking from the heat.Image

After the fire had been burning for two hours they removed the logs and the fire itself, separating the volcanic rocks from the logs/ashes and tossing the rocks into the hole dug earlier.


Once they have filled the hole with rocks, they put the meat, vegetables, and spices on top of the rocks in baskets. The edges of the basket are surrounded by greens/vegetation and water is poured over the top.


This food is then covered by several layers of a burlap sort of fabric and then everything is covered by the dirt that was dug out of the hole.  The food cooks in here for about three hours and then it is removed.



In the actual feast, visitors eat first. There was fresh bread, chicken and beef served with pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes.


After the meal, there were speeches done by the year 10 students in Maori. In their speeches, they all started with a prayer and then gave thanks for different people. Later some teachers and family members gave speeches; I even gave one.  Dessert consisted of a slice of chocolate cake covered in custard and whipped cream. It was delicious.After dessert, both the male and female students sang a traditional song in Maori and then the male students demonstrated a “haka” which is a tribal dance used to say “don’t mess with me” or “beware.”   The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performs a “haka” before the start of every game.


  Overall, New Zealand is rich in Maori culture if you choose to be knowledgeable and be a part of it.  Unfortunately though, many Maori people no longer even know the language…that is why they are trying so hard to preserve it in school by teaching it as a language class.


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