The Maori were a fierce people and it shows in the performances we saw today. We spent most of the day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds which abut Paihia where we are staying. They are beautiful grounds with deep forests and vegetation as well as a fine overlook of the Bay. The early afternoon we took a tour that introduced us to a bit of history. The Maori discovered and eventually settled in the Bay of Islands some 700 years ago. Assuredly they came from Polynesia but perhaps even earlier from Taiwan. At some point they developed a warrior culture which was, of course, predominantly male dominant. When Captain Cook came in 1769 and later in the 18 century the whalers, relations were amicable. But by 1840 the British pretty much controlled things and coerced a treaty that to this day is contentious. There was an English treaty and a translated Maori treaty that was interpreted differently. Unclear to the Maori were trade and land sale restrictions that led to social upheaval and war. By the beginning of the 20th century the Maori began to recover from decades of conflict and disease. Today they are the sole proprietors of Waitangi. It was a moving experience to watch the performances and hear them speak. We were not allowed video in the meeting house where 4 women and 4 men performed dance, sang and played games.
The Hangi Pit
That evening we enjoyed another performance and a Hangi dinner. Hangi is a traditional New Zealand method of cooking food in a pit over with lava rock. The demonstration and revealing of our meal in the pit reminded me of the New England tradition of a clam bake. We dined outside and chatted up with a couple from Australia who gave us tips on Sydney.
PS Many of the whalers who landed in Russell were from Nantucket. See pictures and video at flickr.