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Visiting Tieke Kainga: the authenticity of a Maori welcome.

New Zealand tourism markets the country as an outdoors paradise, particularly known for its 'great walks'. There are officially eight great walks in New Zealand one of which, the Whanganui River Journey, is mostly done sitting down. Here is part of the description of the Whanganui journey provided to visitors to the National Park by the Department of Conservation (Government 2009).
 The Whanganui River winds its way from the mountains to the Tasman
 Sea through countless hills and valleys. Lowland forest surrounds
 the river in its middle and lower reaches, forming the heart of
 Whanganui National Park. The 145km journey from Taumarunui to
 Pipiriki takes an average of five days to complete by canoe. A
 shorter, three day journey from Whakahoro to Pipiriki (87km) is
 also possible. Although a river journey, the Whanganui is part of
 New Zealand's "Great Walks" network ... Tieke was one of many old
 pa on the Whanganui River. The facilities are jointly managed by Te
 Whanau O Tieke and the Department of Conservation. There may be
 occasions when the Tieke people are not in attendance to welcome
 visitors onto the marae. Visitors are most welcome on these
 occasions to use the dining room, bunkrooms and camping area.
 People are asked to respect the facilities, with no camping or
 alcohol in the area in front of the dining room, meeting house
 (whare puni) or the gateway (waharoa). Accommodation is on a
 first-come, first-served basis.

The purpose of the pamphlet is to set out the rules and regulations of the journey along with useful data about making a safe and enjoyable trip downriver. The paragraph that mentions Tieke Kainga appears on page 3. It's a fairly minimal description of what is in fact a very complicated situation. Te Whanau o Tieke (the Tieke family also referred to as Tamahaki--the name of their common ancestor) has been occupying the site since 1993 as part of a protest against the alienation of 267 acres included in the National Park. Although relations with the Department are currently cordial, Te Whanau o Tieke has made it very clear that they expect to regain their ownership of Tieke.

When canoeing the river in 2008 I found the encounter between tourists, an indigenous protest group and a bureaucratic government department, intriguing. (1) Having lived most of my life in New Zealand it was, nonetheless, difficult to make sense of the pamphlet's mention that tourists would be welcomed onto a marae (a ceremonial meeting space with associated buildings) inside the park if the hosts are in residence, and that we should show respect to the place in ways additional to those normally demanded by the guardians of the country's conservation estate. Touristy marae welcomes in New Zealand are as unauthentic as lae greetings at the airport in Honolulu. In more usual contexts, when the tangata whenua (indigenous people of the land, hosts) are in their home place a marae welcome provides genuine recognition that one has been received by a Maori group. The etiquette may seem elaborate in both cases but a real welcome is provided by people who are not acting or paid to perform for transients. The Department of Conservation's (DoC's) literature does not make it clear whether canoeists can expect to receive a genuine reception or something staged, or who might be doing the staging, and why. One way to appreciate the intricacies of what is happening at Tieke Marae is to examine encountering it through a conceptual prism, the notion of authenticity. How do the various participants, Te Whanau o Tieke who built the marae and provide the ceremony, the tourists' receiving the welcome, (along with the author who moved from tourist to a researcher participating with the tangata whenua in the ceremony) and the bureaucracy make sense of the meaning of their marae experience?


The Crown's alleged ownership of Tieke relies on the government's position that it was included in a large block of land bordering the river, the Waimarino Purchase of 1886. Waimarino is a large block of land in the central North Island that was bought by the government to sell to settlers with the assistance of Te Rangihuatau who lived at Tieke. In an historical study of the purchase that includes a section on Tieke, Marr notes that this man (a chief and the ancestor mentioned below by the woman who first welcomed us to Tieke) 'appears to have believed it was protected from the purchase. He lived at Tieke when he made the application for investigation, assisted with the purchase and supported the Crown case for partition. He continued to live at Tieke with his community well after the Waimarino purchase was completed and while he disagreed over the boundaries of the land, he showed no concern that he had a complete right to remain there.' (Marr 2004):588.

Maori typically excluded areas of land from sale that contained cemeteries (urupa), or habitations. (In fact, all the campgrounds in the Whanganui National Park, situated as they are on areas of flat land accessible to the river from its gorge, were villages that contained burials.) Marr says that it is likely that the purchase agent told Maori one thing and the government something else about whether Tieke was included in Waimarino. Despite the fact that the Crown treated Tieke as part of the purchase they left Te Rangihuatau and his people alone in this isolated place as long as they didn't interfere with the occasional surveyor. After the chief died of pneumonia in Wellington in 1908, when pursuing a land claim, his body was brought home for burial. The area was abandoned soon after and came to be incorporated into scenic reserves that later became part of the national park. Although the entire Whanganui area has been subject to long-standing protest and court cases, my informants note that the introduction of the Facilities Use Pass in the mid 1990s (a ticket that must be purchased and displayed by people to use DoC facilities in the park) constituted the spark that ignited the occupation of Tieke. One of the original leaders of Tamahaki wrote to the government that if the Department of Conservation can charge people to use the facilities it built on their land, 'the rangatiratanga (sovereignty) of Te Whanau o Tieke is clearly meaningless' (Bristol 1993).

Maori from all along the river particularly objected to the fact that the Department of Conservation introduced their pass (ostensibly to control and regulate the impact of campers on the river and its environs) at a sensitive time, when the Waitangi Tribunal (3) was evaluating claims against the Crown by a number of local iwi (tribes). The Tribunal was established in 1976 to hear claims by Maori that their rights under the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 were violated by the Crown. Although Te Whanau o Tieke are Whanganui Maori they have distanced themselves from other local groups, and repeatedly declared their own identity by opposing the placement of their claim to Tieke within the umbrella of actions by the wider Whanganui tribes. They particularly objected to the fact that the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board, established by the Crown in 1988 to represent Maori interests in the river, and the Waitangi Tribunal both define indigenous ownership of the Whanganui in terms of descent from three ancestors, Hinengaku, Tamaupoko, and Tupoho. Te Whanau o Tieke say that neither body accords them proper recognition as tangata whenua through descendence from Tamahaki, the mother's sister's son (mzs) of the officially recognized tipuna awa (river ancestors).

Joris de Bres, who is currently New Zealand's Race Relations Conciliator, was employed as a trouble-shooter (Public Awareness Manager) by the Department and sent to Tieke to deal with the takeover. He wrote an unpublished paper 'Flashpoint at Tieke' (Debres:nd) that details how the Department dealt with the situation. He also mentioned that the Facilities Use Pass stimulated the occupation but there were a number of other reasons for it. Local Maori had expectations that Whanganui National Park would bring substantial benefits to them. They thought that they would be involved in its development, management and day to day activities to a much greater extent than they have been. They looked forward to the development of the small township of Pipriki, a few hours paddle south of Tieke that was once a thriving tourist centre, and hoped that the Tribunal case would see the entire area returned to them.

Mr. de Bres says that when he met with members of Te Whanau in Raetihi, he saw that 'these are not people using a particular dispute to further a wider political agenda. They were strongly focused on a particular piece of land, and their vision was not in conflict with the general mission of the Department, which was to provide opportunities for people to enjoy the natural and cultural values presented by the river and its surroundings.' He notes that the government recognized that there were real questions about the legality of the acquisition of this particular piece of land. However, the Crown did not want to negotiate without an end of the occupation because they felt this would provide an incentive for other groups to take over areas of disputed land. De Bres helped negotiate a settlement whereby the occupation officially ceased and was replaced by a number of people from the group recognised as guardians. They continued to welcome visitors to the site in line with Maori protocol and the legal requirements of the National Parks Act. It was made clear that whanau remaining at Tieke would be accorded the same rights as hut wardens but that their status would be kaitiaki or guardians of the area rather than DoC employees. A milestone in the development of cooperation came when the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the document that acknowledges the joint management of the site contained in the information pamphlet quoted above.


Authenticity is a term that has attracted considerable reflection and debate in the literature of anthropology and tourism. Generally speaking the word has been used in three ways (Reisinger and Steiner 2006). In a modernist paradigm, authentic means that something is genuine, original, truthful etc. To postmodernists, authenticity is a chimera since there are no true or genuine phenomena that we can reliably identify. The best we can do is to deconstruct the dominant notion of a supposedly authentic experience to show in whose interests it is to consider something real. A constructivist approach to authenticity emphasizes the subjective nature of the concept. The perception of an experience as genuine varies according to the social and personal situations of those witnessing the events. This paper does not aim to critique or defend any of these positions. Rather, it takes the slipperiness of the notion as a resource, an opportunity to see how being welcomed onto the marae becomes an authentic experience despite the variety of ways such welcomes proceed. This approach to authenticity may itself come close to or constitute a constructivist position, but, the stance taken here is not about its ontology. Rather, in this paper authenticity is treated as a device that helps structure visitors' experiences in a way that furthers Tamahaki's goals.

Anthropologists often view everything touched by organized tourism as inauthentic a priori. People are interacting for money with tourists, so what tourists get is a series of commoditified performances. Commoditization especially makes cultural things meaningless e.g. the comment above equating touristy marae visits with landing in Honolulu. The hollowness of staged performance (and of staged authenticity MacCannell 1976:91-107) (4) not only annoys anthropologists, it alienates natives from their culture, and the fakery becomes obvious to tourists as well (Cohen 1988). Cohen says that intellectuals, especially ethnographers and curators who take such a position, have overly rigorous ideas about tourism's unauthenticity because of their own alienation from modernity. Rank-and-file tourists on the other hand don't particularly care whether they've been presented with something real or contrived. For 'the natives' it is even possible that the chance to perform in front of tourists can have positive benefits. They may relish the opportunity to practise something they will do more seriously and appropriately later on. Cohen says that there is no reason to characterize automatically tourism's products as inauthentic or alienating.

When I first arrived at Tieke, wet and tired after a day of canoeing, beaching the boat and hauling our gear up the slope to the marae all I wanted to do was to find a bunk, clean up, dry off, eat and relax. A teenage girl politely stopped us as we walked towards the bunkhouse, showed us to the portal and asked us to wait there until her mother called us on. After a short time a woman stood in the middle of the meeting grounds and called out to us in Maori. Her daughter explained that we were to sit down and hear a speech by her father that we should reply to in any way we thought appropriate. After the speeches we hongied (pressed noses in greeting) and then the couple showed us the facilities and explained what was going on at Tieke. They said that their ancestors lived in the area until an important chief died there. After his death the settlement was abandoned and the government wound up seizing it and including their settlement in the national park. The Department of Conservation erected buildings, toilets, and camping facilities on the land. The settlement included an urupa (cemetery) that was being desecrated by the toilet blocks, thoughtless campers and 'archaeologists' (5) who fossicked for artefacts among the graves. Outraged at this turn of events a group of her relatives returned to Tieke and occupied the site. At first they lived in tents, but then began to build the structures and the elaborately carved pou whenua (boundary pole that has carvings of the group's genealogy contained on it) that sit alongside the DoC facilities. The couple pointedly mentioned that we did not have to show them the Facilities Use Pass we were required to purchase from the Department of Conservation at the beginning of our trip because they were not hut wardens and did not recognize government ownership of this land. We spent an enjoyable evening in this beautiful and idyllic spot. A few times an hour until it got dark, while we talked to the couple and had tea and toast with them, they would excuse themselves to welcome groups of tourists. It seemed like a great deal of effort. We'd be talking, the daughter would be gazing up river and call out when she noticed canoes arriving. Although the new arrivals would sometimes be asked to wait until more craft landed everyone got the same kind and patient treatment and explanations that we did. Later on in the evening, I made a point of talking to the other tourists. All were from overseas since we made our trip during Christmas when New Zealanders are usually at home with their families. A few seemed

nervous initially, afraid that they might inadvertently insult their hosts by doing something wrong during the greeting but were reassured (by myself and my wife who helped group them) and soon became comfortable with the situation. Some knew from their guidebooks that the area was contested land but others just seemed to take things in their stride, happy to meet such a friendly and welcoming Maori family. We set off early the next morning for the final leg of our trip determined to find out more about Tieke Marae.

Since the Whanganui River has been the subject of many claims brought before the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal it was easy to obtain the background information about Tieke summarized above. The Tribunal website, kindly made available to researchers, allowed me to find the names of the principal members of Te Whanau o Tieke. I called the primary claimant and asked if he would allow me to do anthropological research there. He proved to be extremely cooperative, even putting me in touch with his lawyer who is a colleague at Victoria University of Wellington, and allowed me to have full access to all the documents used to prepare his group's case. After reading through the large corpus of legal and evidentiary material I visited this informant at his home and arranged to make further trips to the site with a research assistant. (6) During these visits we stayed in the wharepuni itself and worked with Te Whanau.


I made two further trips to Tieke. On the second I brought along my research assistant and met a group of Maori students in Pipiriki from an area high school. They were going up river with a kaitiaki for some practical cultural enrichment. All eight had been suspended from the ordinary academic school program for misbehaviour. The kaitiaki who accompanyied them is well known locally as a rustic back woodsman. He had them in the back of his pickup truck with an outboard engine, hunting dog and rifles as well as a large supply of food. When they didn't promptly unload everything without being asked he proceeded to use a few choice epithets to describe the teenagers just as I arrived with my rather innocent looking University student assistant. We introduced ourselves and got in the jet boat with the students and proceeded to Tieke. Although I had told my key informant of my plans it was impossible to tell whether he had communicated them to this man. The mention of his name was sufficient, however, to gain a rather guarded acceptance of our presence.

On this occasion the students did the welcoming ceremony. The three girls, who delighted in teasing us with tales of their exploits as gang members were told to put on skirts when welcoming canoeists and had to practise the Maori songs used in the ceremony. They scouted the river and let us know when canoes arrived and directed the visitors to the portal. They also worked in the kitchen and prepared the food. The boys did a bit of heavy work tidying up the site and played their role in welcoming guests. They seemed to have a lot of free time which they spent playing rugby (sometimes the girls joined in) looking for animals and swimming. Research assistant Shona joined the girls during the welcome and I sat with the kaitiaki and boys then stood in the receiving line. I hongied the guests as a host but did not give a speech. We all slept in the wharepuni.

Although the welcome basically followed the same formal protocol, rather standard throughout the country, the ambience during the ceremony and later on was considerably different from my first visit. The students did more singing and the kaitiaki spoke longer in Maori and English. There was a much firmer insistence that the canoeists were visitors on the land of Tamahaki and were expected to enjoy themselves but do as they were told. Their counter speech was a more serious matter and a few groups practised before hand, typically singing songs from their countries. At the evening meal the kaitiaki gathered everyone together, sat them down and said a prayer in Maori. He introduced himself, gave the background to the situation and then had all of the students, Shona and I introduce ourselves. After those introductions each canoeist got up and said something about where they came from and what they thought about their trip.

The timing of the school group's trip to Tieke was meant to precede by a few days the arrival of some government auditors and members of the Department of Conservation, so they could tidy the site as well as do some practice to welcome the officials. The government party came to Tieke in the course of an assessment of expenditure by the Department in the Whanganui National Park. The officials duly arrived by helicopter. Maori elders were on board and my key informants arrived by jet boat at about the same time. One of the elders is a particularly esteemed tohunga (expert) in speechmaking and divination. During the welcome for the government party he was accorded the role of major speaker. He delivered his speech entirely in Maori. As were the canoeists, my research assistant and I were with the hosts but I did not speak. During the meal after the ceremony the kaitiaki gave a speech to all of us. He recounted how one couple of the whanau resided at Tieke for a period of eight years living under blue tarpaulins that they bought from a local New Zealand chain -store that sells bargain merchandise. They struggled with the weather in primitive conditions all that time. The husband died of pneumonia during an event similar to the one we were having now and he lies buried in the urupa near the wharepuni. The buildings were painted blue to remember those conditions. In a friendly but pointed way the officials were reminded that Tamahaki are willing to go back to living that way at Tieke. When the leader of the Department of Conservation group piped up that they should reserve a spot for him if that eventuated he was told that his would be on the floodplain. The banter was all very good-natured and accompanied by a great deal of laughter on both sides but the underlying message was extremely serious. This land belongs to Tamahaki and being welcomed onto the marae as guests signified that the officials had conceded this.

They had a welcome that seemed very much like the one given to the canoeists. Like the others it also included a subsequent explanation of the ancestry of the place instantiated on the pou whenua and the history of the occupation. However, this event was more serious and elaborate than the others I had been involved with. The presence of the tohunga, in his role as speaker complete with walking stick and accompanying gesticulations gave this welcome a particular air of authenticity. It's possible to say, in line with what was mentioned above, that the earlier welcomes the tourists got were practice trials seen as quite useful by Tamahaki. Everyone who receives a welcome is recruited to the cause. For one thing going through it is a public acceptance of one's position as manuhiri (guest) of the tangata whenua (hosts) who are owners of the land. The initial tension of the experience (being gathered together, told to listen to a speech in a foreign language, and given the order to make a return speech, makes people nervous) and its relaxation after, (the good wishes for a nice trip, advice about the next big rapid, food sharing etc.) creates a bond with the tangata whenua.

The young semi--dropouts also learned something. Despite their somewhat marginal status in New Zealand society they have a place here. They can see that there is something they, as Maori on their own land, can learn and aspire to that brings mana to them. This seems to be a rather different message than that received by young Maori similarly involved in a marae based program analogous to this one studied by another anthropologist (van Meij1 2006). He found the youth in the training program he observed came away alienated. Unable to speak the language and perform adequately they got the message that they aren't good enough to be real Maori. Maori identity to them just meant being poor and brown skinned. Van Meijl agrees with Poata--Smith (Poata-Smith 1996) that the emphasis on culture in the Maori renaissance is wrongheaded because it steers youth away from confronting their situation in the socioeconomic structure of New Zealand society. Perhaps the more positive message that seemed communicated at Tieke has to do with the fact that these young people were accepted as family from the start and the program was administered by people they knew involved in a struggle to obtain control over land taken from their ancestors. The purpose of teaching them the ceremony was for them to contribute to a claim to that land rather than to make them 'proper'. The particular kind of Maori identity they were encouraged to enact at Tieke Kainga was active and positive rather than alienating. Their presence was due to their alienation from school, and they could connect that with the marginalisation their people were confronting at Tieke.

Our third field trip to Tieke coincided with the annual Whanganui tribes canoe journey down the river, the Tira Hoe Waka 'coming together to paddle' (Sinclair 2003:179). This annual event started in 1989. Sinclair, who studied the Maramatanga, a prophetic movement centered near the headwaters of the Whanganui River, notes that the journey emphasizes passing down the oral traditions to young people in a way that merges the traditions of the movement and the Whanganui tribes with Catholicism. She notes that the reception she received on her 1995 trip, as a pakeha and an anthropologist was variable, but she clearly understood that she was to say nothing specific about the traditions that were being explained to the younger paddlers along the way. The Tira is a serious event and the Department of Conservation is supposed to instruct the various tour operators and providers of canoes and material to discourage people from canoeing down the river at this time. Tamahaki prepared not only their marae but also helped provision the other stopping points along the way.

My informants seemed glad to have us at Tieke then because of the great deal of work to be done catering for the party's various stops along the river. One woman from Tamahaki, accompanied by two children was left in charge there to cut the grass, store the food, unpack dishes, tents and other accoutrements and clean the facilities for the hundreds of guests. The presence of three additional adults was therefore appreciated. Since I was the only man there, in addition to doing the heavy lifting I was also given the job of kaumatua (elder) for the welcomes that took place for canoeists arriving before the tribes' vessels.

A Maori National Park ranger, himself a member of a local group, had jokingly said to me after he dropped off my research assistant (who came on his jetboat) and delivered some supplies that he wouldn't be surprised to see me next time 'sitting on the pae' (orator's bench). We had a good laugh about it before he left but to my disquiet our host requested exactly that. For the first few occasions I spoke in English. My wife took me aside later and said that this wasn't good enough, that I should make an attempt to welcome the guests in Maori. It was the least I could do to show respect. I decided to use a few words that I could say over and over again to make my speech appear much longer than the actual content merited. I wound up saying "Hello. Hello to all you guests. Come forward, come forward guests. Welcome to this marae, welcome to the marae of Tamahaki. Welcome to the Marae that belongs to the native people of this area. Tamahaki the native people of this area welcome you here. Come forward guests". I think this satisfied the foreign tourists and the pakeha New Zealanders who came down the river. My worry was that Maori people would show up from other parts of the country and be offended at the simplistic performance I was giving in their language. And indeed it happened that a couple of Maori canoeists came by. They didn't seem insulted however, although they smiled in a way that made it clear that they knew that I was anything but an authentic Maori or someone who could speak the language. The impression I got was that the two young men appreciated me giving it a try because they could see that I was acting in accordance with the wishes of the tangata whenua and that the only indigenous adult present was a hard working woman in charge of the place with two children who she was trying to keep focused on the ceremony.

After the formalities, our host took over and explained the meanings contained on the pou whenua, the history of the occupation etc. When mingling with the guests I let everyone know that I was an anthropologist from Victoria University who somewhat reluctantly took on the role of a Maori elder welcoming them because the real Maori men who could've done the job properly were all very busy upstream hosting the tira hoe waka. On the morning of the tira's arrival at Tieke we moved out of the wharepuni, into tents, so that the elders could sleep comfortably inside. The welcome for this group appeared most traditional, with much singing and long speeches in Maori by hosts and guests. We greeted the guests as part of Tamahaki. Some of the visitors were curious about us, mostly friendly, but a couple of the elders made a point of letting us know that we should not record what they were doing. (7)


On the three trips I made to Tieke Kainga the site was visited by foreign and domestic tourists, Department of Conservation officials who co manage the place with the tangam whenua, government auditors and other Whanganui Maori. All received welcomes which, as detailed above, varied depending on who was in charge of Tieke at the time and the nature of the guests.

The overseas tourists were overwhelmingly young adults from Australia, Germany, the United States, Canada, Austria, Israel and other countries. Although some said they had a description of the occupation of Tieke from their guidebook, most seemed bemused by this situation. On numerous occasions Tamahaki people said that they particularly like the canoeists. They said there's something about the type of person who goes on this journey that makes them open to the experience they provide regardless of their country of origin. Certainly most of the tourists are very happy to have come there and met the tangata whenua. From the discussions we had with them it seems that they have made this trip for the outdoor adventure and the scenery. They are ecotourists, however, unlike their compatriots discussed by West and Carrier (2004), and Bruner and Kirchenblatt- Gimlett (1994) (who come specifically to see the natives in their natural state); the authenticity of the Whanganui journeys came from canoeing the river and camping for days in the New Zealand wilderness. Seeing Maori people in their own place; talking, eating, and playing touch rugby with the children, added an extra dimension to the trip that was unanticipated except for those who read about the occupation. The tourists had no particular expectations concerning the welcome. Having a bit of performance anxiety heightened the salience of it to them. No one seemed to question the propriety or authenticity of what went on. Since all of them had been students they had a least a vague understanding of anthropological research and that led them to accept our role in their welcome. A few wanted to make sure that we had permission to study Tieke and our place in the ceremony provided proof of that.

The people from the Department of Conservation have a job to do at Tieke. They seemed glad that things are running smoothly and are careful to maintain a professional, detached approach to the ultimate resolution of the issue. Whatever happens, status quo, return to Tamahaki or something else, this place will always be totally surrounded by a large and very popular national park. They want to see the environment protected and the people who come through it receiving a safe and pleasant journey. They have to maintain the kitchens, hygienic toilet facilities etc. If Tamahaki want to cast them in the role of visitors when they come there that's ok with the present staff because it helps the river and the park to run in ways that fit with their mandate. When a previous area coordinator took a more confrontational approach, asking the police to evict Tamahaki no one benefited from the resulting tension.

The auditors seemed a lot like the overseas tourists except that they were getting a lot more attention from the park staff and Tamahaki. Canoeing parts of the river, having helicopter rides etc. is a great improvement over a typical day spent in the accounting office. The extra care taken with this group and the more elaborate welcome and subsequent information conveyed to them was not provided to convince these officials that they were seeing a true Maori event. The hosts (Tamahaki and the Department) wanted to establish the fact that both the co managers were spending money wisely in the park and deserved to keep their funding. The Facilities Use Pass, the initial spark of the occupation itself, covers a very limited proportion of the expenses of running the park.

Te Whanau doesn't seem overly concerned about the specific performance of the welcome to tourists. They do what they can with the people they have available to them. To quote an anonymous reviewer of this paper 'we have an example of how people enact "culture" to differing degrees based on the formality of the situation.' What is crucial to the authenticity of the welcome is that it demonstrates their rangatiratanga over the place, something that is done in Maori culture via the welcome itself. The actuality of the welcome, and the demonstration of its acceptance by the guests, is much more important in this regard than its precise form. (8) Given these considerations it was ok to enlist anthropologists to take roles that would otherwise be given to people from the group if they were not otherwise engaged. It is also important to teach the children how to do a welcome and again, what matters most is getting them to stand on the marae and do what is appropriate for their age and gender. The aim is to educate them and show that they have a stake in this place, rather than to create authentically cultured Maori. Tamahaki never seemed to question anyone's identity in the sense that van Miejl (cited above) critiqued. The guests are important too. Maori culture reserves a special place for guests and hosts are under an obligation to provide for them (Merge 1976). My informants took this seriously and went out of their way to accommodate people. They were extraordinarily tolerant and positive about any reply to their welcome. Even some frankly appalling skits and performances put on by children whose parents apologized for letting them go on exceedingly were tolerated with a goodwill and appreciation that I found astonishing.


In a paper about 'welcome to country' speeches performed by Aboriginal people in Australia (Everett 2009) the author talks about a group who claim ownership of a large part of Sydney. In many ways the situation she discusses is similar to what I have described on the Whanganui River. The group concerned has been unsuccessful in the courts, their claim has not been well received by other Aboriginals, their particular identity, Darug, has been called into question. Nevertheless, these people are often asked by national and local authorities to perform in 'welcome to country' ceremonies for visitors at events like the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Everett says that the importance of the ceremonies to these people lay in the fact that the performance itself allows them to make symbolic claims publicly and make their position as custodians of the land known to people in the absence of success in the legal sphere. She says (2009:58) 'welcome to country ceremonies are Darug land claims'. The participation and acceptance of these claims by officials and members of the public are something she characterizes as tokenism. Australians are able to convince themselves that they inhabit an inclusive society while they can meet Aboriginal people in a way that gives them participation in, and an ability to appropriate, Aboriginality.

In New Zealand the government also uses indigenous welcomes as part of official state occasions like those Everett describes in Sydney. Even in the very different environment of Tieke an element of the feel-good appropriation by pakeha is evident. Tourists, international and domestic, and bureaucrats can pride themselves as progressive by literally rubbing noses with the friendly (yet also clearly challenging) tangata whenua. However, the differences between the two situations are most instructive. Firstly, Tamahaki make it clear that they're not making merely symbolic statements during their welcomes. They state facts that are backed up by physical occupation of the site, building on and landscaping it, requiring visitors to submit to the welcome, encouraging group exchanges, and enforcing rules about not drinking alcohol. They're setting out to gain allies for their cause and achieving a repeated recognition of their tangata whenua status by government officials while the Waitangi Tribunal case, which they expect to win, winds on. A further point of contrast concerns the language and culture used during the Sydney and Tieke ceremonies. Everett notes that Darug is a made up aboriginal idiom that doesn't seem to bear any particular relation to languages spoken in pre-contact times. Tamahaki, on the other hand, uses Maori, accompanied by a protocol and etiquette that, although changed, is clearly much more continuous with the past and procedures of other Maori groups. But, to the audiences in Australia, the use of the Darug language is taken to be authentic 'living proof of ongoing cultural and linguistic continuity in ways which insist upon aboriginal presence and identity as "real'" (2009:61). I'm not sure that anyone in the audience to my short Maori speech found that performance itself genuine, but I think a case can be made that even that was part of an authentic Maori welcome, because when enacted in a relatively informal situation it was backed and elaborated upon by the tangata whenua.

When Reisinger, Cohen and other scholars comment on tourist experiences, and emphasize that they can be genuine despite commodification they seem to be saying that judging authenticity by the purity of content is misplaced. One needs to consider how the audience and performers evaluate what happened. The material presented here leads me to suggest that the medium (in this case the specific Tamahaki welcome) is the message irrespective of its manifest content. The fact that Tamahaki defines a welcome as genuine, even when the role of Maori elder is played by a pakeha anthropologist, suffices to make it so. In a show in Rotorua, sitting in the audience and seeing something on stage, the medium is clearly a performance, not real, despite the fact that the quality of the Maori oratory, costumes, dancing etc. may be far superior. This idea about the importance of the medium comes, of course from Understanding Media (McLuhan 1995). One of the points he made was that some media require more work from their audience than others. A show that is performed on stage to an audience that mostly sits and watches is quite different from the situation at Tieke where guests are spoken to directly, obligated to reply, and hongi. They get to speak to a Tamahaki person and interact with members of the group the entire time they stay there. That engagement rather than the specific content of their welcome is what makes the experience of being at Tieke Kainga authentic, and advances Te Whanau's claim to this place.


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Hal Levine

Victoria University of Wellington.


(1.) Tieke is occupied by a rota of Tamahaki For brief periods often arranged at short notice. I first camped at the area in January of 2008. Two further visits, in November 2009 and January 2010 (also accompanied by Marlene Levine), lasted five days each. I attended a two day Tribunal hearing in Wellington in 2009 and my research assistent spent a few days in Wanganui to interview Department of Conservation staff.

(2.) The background material in this paper is an amended version of the background to Levine (2011).

(3.) A large literature exists by legal scholars and historians about the Treaty of Waitangi. Palmer (2008) discusses legal and constitutional issues while Orange (1987) and Ward (1999) provide historical background. Discussion of the meaning given to the Treaty's articles, discordant translations, and their implications appear in these sources. Levine (1997) provides an anthropological context.

(4.) "It is always possible that what is taken to be entry into a back region is really entry into the front region that has been totally set up in advance for touristic visitation'" (1976:101).

(5.) I assured her that no professional archaeologist would do such a thing in New Zealand and that these people were likely to be illegal artefact collectors.

(6.) Shona Jowett who was awarded a summer studentship for the project, funded by Victoria University of Wellington.

(7.) Sinclair. who has been doing fieldwork with some of these people for 30 years, wrote a short account of the Tira she participated in. She made a point of only using sources already in the public domain having received a similar message about the intellectual property rights of the event.

(8.) West and Carrier (2004:485) say that ecotourism's frame of authenticity is "nature and the frontier'. Tamahaki and the Department of Conservation have other concerns. The former is concerned to make allies for its cause while the latter is caught in the grip of a neo--liberal government funding regime. Since they make the tourists happy DoC's accommodating Tamahaki makes good business sense.
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Author:Levine, Hal
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Date:Jul 1, 2011
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