The history of the Māori people was only recorded orally for many generations until Europeans came to New Zealand and began writing down everything they learned. The first encounter by Europeans with the Māori was not pleasant and friendly. More than likely it was a misunderstanding of the Pōwhiri.
The Pōwhiri is a welcoming ritual and part of it involves three warriors advancing and showing off their skills before making an offering to the newcomers. If the offering is picked up, then the strangers are considered peaceful. If it is not, then the strangers become hostile or untrustworthy to the Māori. Four sailors and only one Māori were killed in that encounter. Apparently the story that was told to the rest of the world was frightening enough that no explorers returned for decades.
Despite many of the Māori now living a more modern lifestyle in cities, they never lost their culture or traditions. The Haka has become one of the most popular pieces of Māori tradition. One of the reasons more people have become aware of the Haka is because the New Zealand Rugby team, performs a Haka before each game. Youtube it, there are dozens of videos.
You’ll notice often during a Haka that the chanters are bulging out their eyes and sticking out their tongues. Some people might even laugh and think they are just making funny faces, but anyone who battled the Māori would tell you that those are threats and they are for real.
There are tales of cannibalism being practiced by the Māori as well. I was unable to verify that in my research as anything more than tales, but I’m guessing the tongue sticking out symbolizes that concept whether it was followed through with or not, I am in the dark. Maybe the Māori wanted others to believe they were cannibals to spread fear towards their enemies in the same manner the Zande warriors of Africa did. Or maybe they might have eaten their enemies.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.