So you’ve never been to a pōwhiri before? Or perhaps you’ve been to one before, but not for a while, or not outside of a marae, or not away from home.

Pou in Victoria Square

Haneta Pierce, who is the manager of Māori Services at Christchurch City Libraries and heads the Bicultural portfolio for LIANZA 2009 Conference, has helpfully put together an explanation of what a pōwhiri is, what you can expect and where to meet.

Why have a pōwhiri? The primary purpose of the pōwhiri is to bring together two groups of people – the hosts (mana whenua) and the visitors (manuhiri). This is a step-by-step process, observing Māori tikanga, that allows the two groups to become sufficiently comfortable with one another, so that they can then mingle with each another and together undertake the business of the meeting, which, in this case, is the annual LIANZA Conference.

Where is it being held? The pōwhiri for this year’s conference will take place in Victoria Square, which is a very short stroll to the conference venue.

What to wear? Tidy dress, just as you would wear to work, or to a conference. There is no specific requirement for skirts for women. It may be cool, or it may be hot, so we suggest you dress in layers to adapt to the weather conditions.

When and where to gather. The pōwhiri is scheduled to begin at 8.30am, on Monday 12th October, so please start to gather near the bridge in Victoria Square from 8.15am. There will be folks around to guide you about where to stand before the pōwhiri begins, and where to move after the wero (formal challenge) and karanga (ceremonial call) have happened. The seating on the manuhiri side is intended for pōwhiri speakers and overseas guests.

Information for the day. As mentioned above, there will be folks on hand to guide you. You will also receive a pōwhiri booklet when you register to explain the process (so if you can register before 8.15am, that would be useful!).  Mana whenua will speak first, then the manuhiri will reply. There will be various waiata (songs), including the LIANZA waiata, Ko nga kete wananga e rapuhia e Tane. To familarise yourself with this waiata, have a listen to the tune and learn the words here.

After the formal proceedings. Once the harirū (pressing of noses) between the mana whenua and seated guests is completed, we will enter the Town Hall and make our way to the air bridge upstairs to cross to the Convention Centre for morning tea.

What if it rains? In the event that the weather on the morning of Monday 12th October isn’t favourable, a decision will be made to engage our “change of venue” plans by 7.30am. The process remains the same, but the venue changes to the main hall of the Convention Centre. There’ll be folks on hand to make sure you know where to go.

Some of the challenges to holding the pōwhiri in Victoria Square. In holding the pōwhiri outside of a marae setting, there are some challenges posed as it acquires an additional purpose, that of making a symbolic statement about the identity of the local, regional or national community and the part Māori have within that, as well as an introduction between two groups. It also acquires a different audience, one whose members in most cases do not understand or speak te Reo Māori. This can present the presiding kaumātua (elders) with a dilemma, as speaking in only te Reo Māori may mean that many of those present do not understand the speeches, miss out on the information contained therein, and, instead of enjoying, endure the ceremony. However, through discussions with Te Rōpū Whakahau and tangata whenua representatives, in this case Ngāi Tahu, and structure and guidance from the LIANZA Conference Handbook, we’ve worked together to ensure that the pōwhiri achieves the goal of bringing the two groups together, observing tikanga and welcoming our overseas manuhiri appropriately.

Sometimes in life you get more than you bargained for – a free game of pinball, an extra-large scoop of ice-cream, a double-yolker egg.  This week sees an exciting two-for-one keynote speaker announcement.

In what is probably a conference first, this year will see a father-daughter keynote speaker combo on the stage with Tā Tīpene O’Regan and his daughter Hana presenting a joint session.

Hana O'ReganHana O’Regan was raised in Wellington in a family immersed in Māori Treaty and identity politics. She received her secondary schooling at Queen Victoria Māori Girls Boarding School in Auckland before becoming an American Field Scholar in Thailand for one year. Hana returned to pursue an undergraduate degree with a double major in Māori Studies and Political Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington.

Upon graduating, Hana took up a lecturing position at University of Otago where she lectured for four years in the areas of Māori language, creative writing and the Treaty. During this time Hana undertook post-graduate study and graduated with her Master of Arts in 1997. The topic of her thesis, Māori tribal identity development, became the basis of her book, Ko Tahu Ko Au – Kāi Tahu Tribal Identity which was published in 2000.

Hana left Otago in 1997 to take up a position at CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) where she headed the Māori language programme before taking up the position of Head of School in 2000. After four years at CPIT Hana took up the position of Manager of the Māori Language Unit of the Ngāi Tahu tribal organisation where she helped develop and lead the tribal language strategy for a further four years. She returned to CPIT as Dean of Te Puna Wānaka, the new Faculty of Māori Studies, in 2006.

Hana has been a member of The Māori Language Commission – Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori – since 2003. The bulk of Hana’s recent publications has been centred on Kāi Tahu tribal stories and histories for rakatahi, and most recently published an anthology of Māori poetry, Kupu with co-author Charisma Rangipunga.

She is the proud mum of two beautiful children.

Tīpene O'ReganSir Tipene O’Regan is Assistant-Vice-Chancellor Maori at the University of Canterbury, Chairman of Ngā Pae o Te Maramatanga, the Centre for Maori Research Excellence at the University of Auckland  and Upoko of the Awarua Runanga of Ngai Tahu. He has published and lectured extensively over many years  on Ngai Tahu traditional history, Polynesian migration, Treaty issues and the evolution of biculturalism and the wider politics of Māoridom. (more…)