COVID-19

Maori tribe urges anti-vaccine protesters not to use haka

The Maori tribe that owns the intellectual property rights to the haka made famous by the All Blacks on Monday, November 15, asked anti-vaccine protesters to stop performing the famous ritual during their rallies.

New Zealand law recognizes the Ngati Toa tribe as the cultural guardian of the Haka Ka Mate, widely reproduced during recent protests against coronavirus restrictions. “The Ngati Toa condemn the use of the Haka Ka Mate to highlight and promote anti-Covid-19 vaccination messages,” the tribe based near Wellington said in a statement. “We insist that the protesters immediately stop using our taonga (cultural treasure),” they insist.

The Maori haka comes in many forms, but the Ka Mate, performed by the All Blacks before every game for over a century, is by far the most famous. This ritual in which the feet hit the ground and the eyes rolled is deeply ingrained in the culture of the country and is used on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. The Ka Mate was composed by the Ngati Toa tribe’s warlord Te Rauparaha around 1820 after escaping from an enemy tribe in pursuit.

In 2014, the New Zealand Parliament passed a law recognizing the Ngati Toa as the guardian of the haka, but the text does not provide penalties for misuse. The tribe has previously denounced commercial uses of the ritual and satirical or disrespectful versions. Ngati Toa CEO Helmut Modlik clearly posted a line in favor of the vaccine: “The Covid-19 vaccine is the best protection we have.” “Many of our tupunas (ancestors) have lost their lives in previous pandemics,” he recalled.

New Zealand has responded radically to Covid-19, with strict containment and border closures, resulting in just 33 deaths for a population of five million. However, thousands of people demonstrated against the “no punch, no work” policy. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lamented that indigenous youth are particularly exposed to misinformation about Covid-19. “We are struggling to reach out to some of our young Maori,” he lamented on TVNZ television.

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