News: New Zealanders welcome U.S. Marines with Maori warrior ceremony
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
WAIOURU, New Zealand—The concho shell sounded the warning, and a Maori warrior with a wooden spear appeared at the entrance of the marae. The sacred tribal house was adorned with red, wooden statues of Polynesian gods.
Dressed in army camouflage fatigues and barefoot, Gunner Jordan M. Dunn, 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Army, howled, flexed, stuck his tongue out, and groaned loudly as he rolled his eyeballs up into his head. He exposed only the whites of his eyes to the startled group of visitors who stood at the front gate of the courtyard. They waited as he presented his fierce challenge. After confronting the guests, he led them into the house.
Dunn’s elaborate war dance was part of the powhiri, or formal welcome ceremony, for U.S. Marines here, June 10. A platoon-sized detachment of Marines from the 11th Marine Regiment recently arrived in New Zealand to strengthen military relations between the two nations. They are currently scheduled to perform in ceremonies in Wellington on June 14, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Marines in New Zealand during World War II.
The Maori are the warrior natives of New Zealand, who comprise a sizeable portion of the New Zealand population and army, said Steve T. Bethell, the Maori Education Cultural Advisor for the Army. In 1995, the New Zealand Army adopted Maori customs and traditions more closely, educating new recruits to the culture and giving them a powhiri upon enlistment.
Dunn performed the dance on behalf of his army, which is recognized as an official tribe by Maori leadership. It is the Ngati Tumatauenga, or the “Tribe of the God of War.” According to Maori culture, all military guests must be welcomed with a powhiri and taken into the marae. Inside, Bethell educates the guests on Maori culture and folklore. The marae is a sort of museum and gathering house for a tribe, containing statues of gods and ancestors, elaborate weavings, and weapons, explained Bethell.
Aside from a tour, the Marines received a haka, or war cry, from a platoon of New Zealand soldiers. In harmony, the group chanted loudly and danced to build teamwork and energy. Formal speeches and songs followed, and Marines and New Zealanders lined up to embrace each other with a honge, touching noses and foreheads as a sign of friendship.
Sgt. Steven A. Bouquet, a fire direction control man with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, created a haka for the Marines, who shouted it loudly for their guests.
“It was motivating to see us learn of their culture and participate in something so meaningful,” said 1st Sgt. David M. McKinley, a Cincinnati native and the Alpha Battery first sergeant with 1st Bn., 11th Marines. “The Marines brought a lot of intensity and emotion, depicting our warrior ethos.
“I think it is important as Marines, as a martial culture, to outreach and see what other martial cultures do,” McKinley said. “They’ve been a martial culture for centuries and still hold onto their traditions. They don’t lose who they are.”