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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

February 22, 2017

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Jeni Bennett, C Watch, Whitman College

S-271 posing with Maori performers, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Ship's Log

Current Position
35°16’ S x 174° 7’ E

Russell, NZ

Calm winds, mild and sunny

Souls on Board

Today the class visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the site of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document. The Treaty Grounds sits atop a hill, providing a panoramic view of the Bay of Islands region. Our guide, a Maori man named Owen, walked us through the grounds and we gathered around Ngaatokimatawhaorua, a 35-meter-long canoe requiring at least 76 paddlers that the Maori builders first launched in 1940. Just up the hill we arrived at a flagpole marking the spot where the treaty was signed on 6 February 1840. The treaty was not without controversy: the Maori-language version of the treaty stated that all land would be under British governance while the land remained owned by the Maori. This differed with the British version of the treaty that ceded all lands to the British. The document remains a source of tension for many New Zealanders.

Next came a visit to the marae, or Maori ceremonial house. As we waited outside to enter, Maori performers staged a traditional visitor greeting called a powhiri. Once inside the marae, loud forceful slapping and stomping echoed through the building as we took in the performance, outside visitors to a display of traditional and contemporary song and dance critical to expressing Maori cultural identity across generations. A powerful, ear tingling performance!

Finally, it was time for lunch. We dined local style, with food cooked in a hangi, a traditional earth oven used by the Maori. First a pit is dug into the ground, then large stones are placed in a fire to heat to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Next our chefs place baskets of food on top of the hot stones. Finally the area is covered with soil and bark and the meat or vegetables, often yam and taro, are cooked. It was a privilege to experience a modern version of this cultural tradition where a metal cage holds the food in a cement walled cube dug into the ground. The hot volcanic rocks make steam off of the wet sacks full of meat/vegetables, and once the trapdoor on the hangi is closed the space acts as a pressure cooker, containing the heat underground. This is a sacred or tapu area to the Maori, so it was even more special for us outsiders to get to experience excellent food in a historically important place to both the Maori and New Zealand in general.

- Jeni

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,The Global Ocean: New Zealand, • Topics: s271  port stops  new zealand  culture • (3) Comments
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Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Aunt Hydie on March 01, 2017

Jeni, what an amazing adventure you are having! I hope it is fun and challenging every day!
Hugs, from Aunt Hydie, Uncle Michael, Laura, who just started working on Montgomery Ave, Victoria in daycare and Dave, busy as ever! (Your Miller cheering squad)!

#2. Posted by Andrea and Ian on March 02, 2017


Great blog and photo! We’re enjoying all of the posts and photos.
We’re sending you love from Seattle and NYC,
Mom, Dad and Sophie

#3. Posted by Sue Bennett on March 04, 2017

#3 Posted by Grandma Sue on March 4, 2017.

Hi Jeni!

I’m delighted that your mom shared this wonderfully descriptive account of your adventure on Feb 22. I could easily visualize what you were seeing, “hear” the sounds of the dancing, and “smell” the aroma of the cooking meal. My only previous introduction to Maori culture was during our family’s time at a cultural center in Hawaii many years ago.
I envy you your adventure and look forward to reading more blog entries as your trip progresses.

Grandma Sue



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