The Royal Treatment by the Rangitane Tribe of New Zealand


New Zealand friends John and Jenny Hornblow have been great hosts and friends to our family during our stay here in Palmerston North. Last week they took our family out of town to the marae of the Rangitane Tribe. In Māori society, the marae is a place where culture is celebrated, where the Māori language  is spoken, where intertribal obligations are met, where customs are explored and debated, where family celebrations are held, and where important ceremonies such as welcoming visitors or farewelling the dead (tangihanga), can be performed.

We were invited by the Rangitane tribal chief, Wiremu Te Awe Awe, and his wife, Trieste, who treated us to a traditional welcoming ceremony. The Te Awe Awes visited Missoula in 2010, along with the Hornblows, and they have fond memories of their time in Big Sky Country.  (A great photo of Wiremu and Trieste on the campus at The University of Montana can be seen here.)

The welcoming ceremony is called the Powhiri and includes the calling of the visitors to the sacred space or courtyard in front of the meeting house. It signifies that two groups are coming together, negotiating the terms of their engagement and joining together as one in a spiritual way.

Following the traditional Powhiri in full Maori language, Wiremu gave us a tour of the marae and shared his family’s history as the original inhabitants of the Manawatu valley. He told stories of his grandfather and his ancestors, of the women and their roles, of war and peace, and of acclimation to the Christian settlers.

A few days earlier, we attended a dinner celebration as guests of John and Jenny Hornblow. It was a Saturday night fundraiser to help the tribe close out the expenses associated with relocating and building a new dining hall on grounds of the marae, which is one of the oldest in the country. The six-course Polynesian dinner was prepared by the staff at Bethany’s Restaurant, and there were close to 80 people in attendance. The food and the company were exceptional, but the entertainment was even better. Everyone attending this event, including us, was required to sing. The highlight was Wiremu singing the old Louis Armstrong tune, “What a Wonderful World”.

Hongi with Tom

Hongi with Tom and Rangitane tribal chief, Wiremu Te Awe Awe.

The closing of the traditional welcoming ceremony includes shaking hands and the hongi or the pressing of the noses. Its intent is to bring all the senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste – into close contact and to signal the closing of the formal welcome. Hongi indicates we are no longer visitors, but friends of this great land.

The traditions of the indigenous Maori people are very interesting, colorful and spiritual, and the native people of Palmerston North value and respect the Maori and their culture. Our family has been very fortunate to experience some of these traditions, and they are memories that will last a lifetime.




Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: