Maoris from the Polynesian Cultural Center and surrounding community welcomed a special group of visitors with a traditional powhiri welcoming ceremony on August 30, 2013 — just two days before the PCC begins its eight-day 50th Anniversary celebration from September 1-8:
The visitors included several surviving members of Tearohanui Maori Company, the group of approximately 150 New Zealanders who came to the Polynesian Cultural Center to help put finishing touches on the then brand-new visitor attraction, open the PCC’s Maori Village and “star” at the dedication ceremony and activities on October 12, 1963 — 50 years ago.
Tearohanui Maori Company and others wait to be traditionally invited
to enter the Polynesian Cultural Center Maori Village
Before returning to New Zealand, the group performed in California, on the nationally televised Danny Kaye Show, and in Utah.
Other visitors included kapa haka or traditional Maori arts performing groups from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Utah, some of them Polynesian Cultural Center alumni. All of the above plan to participate in the PCC’s Te Manahua Maori kapa haka festival on August 31, which was deliberately planned to begin the day before the Center’s Golden Jubilee alumni reunion so as many of them as possible could attend both events.
More specifically, the groups participating in the 2013 Te Manahua festival include:
- Te Hokioi of Laie, comprised of Maori and friends at the PCC, from the surrounding communities and their children (group exhibition and Haka Hard!) Te Hokioi has previously won the competition several times.
- Te Awhiorangi, a high school kapa haka group from Taupo, New Zealand (group competition, Haka Hard! and Poi-e)
- Te Rerearangi from Sydney, Australia (group exhibition and Poi-e)
- The BYU-Hawaii Kiwi Club (Haka Hard! Poi-e)
- Te Tini a Maui from Vancouver, B.C., Canada (group competition)
- Kahurangi, a mixed group from New Zealand (Poi-e)
- Nga Uri o te Whanoa from New Zealand (group exhibition, Haka Hard! and Poi-e)
- Te Arohanui Māori Company from New Zealand (group exhibition)
- Te Whanau o Tuhikaramea from New Zealand (Haka Hard! Poi-e)
- C.O.B. — College Old Boys (alumni) from Church College of New Zealand near Hamilton (Haka Hard!)
- Ngati Hiona from Salt Lake City, Utah (group exhibition)
[Left: “Uncle” George Kaka, an original member of Tearohanui Maori Company who later returned to Hawaii and worked at the PCC for many years. He recently retired and moved back to New Zealand, but came back for the PCC’s 50th anniversary celebration.]
PCC Islands of Aotearoa manager Seamus Fitzgerald added the following additional information on several of the groups:
“Nga Uri o te Whanoa, is a national qualifying competition team from Aotearoa that has become a prominent contender in our biannual national event, Te Matatini,” he said. “They placed in the top five in the Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regional Competition in 2008, 2010, and 2012, qualifying them for a spot in the national competition held the following years. In Te Matatini earlier this year they placed in the top three in two categories.”
“Te Tini a Maui, which means ‘the many descendants of Maui,’ is entering Te Manahua for the first time,” Fitzgerald continued. “They started up in 2008 with many members from Aotearoa who have come and gone through Vancouver, British Columbia, as part of their overseas travel and experience. They are also proudly associated with the Squamish Nation — the First Nation people of the Vancouver area.”
[Right: “Aunty” Valetta Nepia Jeremiah, a Tearohanui alumna who soon returned to the PCC to work in the Maori Village and only recently retired.]
“Keepa and Sophronia Smith, who lead Te Rerearangi, are both PCC alumni who brought their group of about 24 for both Te Manahua and the Polynesian Cultural Center’s golden anniversary celebration. They’ll be doing a tribute for Tommy Taurima, one of the PCC’s early Maori performers as well as an important cultural leader and creative director here.”
Fitzgerald noted that Kahurangi is a small group “of people from Nga Uri o te Whanoa and Hātea, which won Te Manahua last year, so those people are coming back, but it’s the first time for the others.”
“Tuhikaramea, led by Aunty Lil Kershaw, are all PCC alumni from Hamilton, New Zealand,” Fitzgerald said.
“Ngati Hiona from Utah came in 2006,” he continued, “but their leader just passed away, so this is a special time for them. Nephi Prime, another of our alumni, is bringing this small group.”
But Fitzgerald reserved special remarks for the returning members of Te Arohanui Maori Company: Many of the original group were former Latter-day Saint labor missionaries who helped build the New Zealand Temple and the Church College of New Zealand in the years before they came to Laie at their own expense.
“They were our trail blazers. They were one of the first groups to bring Maori culture to America,” he said, “and it’s a blessing to have them here for both Te Manahua and the 50th anniversary celebration.”
Tearohanui Maori Company alumni, family and friends share
some of the same talent that helped open the PCC 50 years ago.
Fitzgerald noted that of the original group, about 50 came back for BYU-Hawaii’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2005, and of the 37 who are still alive, 24 of them will be at the PCC’s 50th event. “It’s awesome for us to welcome them back to where they were 50 years ago, to where they started this great tradition in Laie.”
“I always feel very grateful that we celebrate our Maori culture here in Hawaii,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m grateful to the Polynesian Cultural Center that brings us together as Maori.”